Since childhood, you must have heard about ant farms. What could be more fascinating than to watch the hustle and bustle of your very own ant metropolis? 

Ants have the amazing ability to function as a team. This is something which will inspire you to build something out of nothing. Those who consider themselves as insect enthusiasts would love to own an ant colony. The fact that everyone needs to consider is – nothing worth doing is easy.

 You need to work for it and you need to overcome some challenges. When it comes to ant colony – the same saying holds true. However, the experience you will be worth the trouble and effort.

 

Ants – An Introduction

 Ant introduction might seem funny to many of you. After all, everyone has some ant encounters in their lives since the childhood. However, there are a lot people don’t know the definition of ants. Taxonomic group Hymenoptera is the group which the ants belong to. Ants are social thus you would never find solitary ants living anywhere. Those who have had the experience of watching ant colony to grow will tell you that the ants are disciplined. Inside their colony tasks are strictly divided and each ant follows the given task.

Queen ant is there to lay eggs while the workers are there to perform the task of food collecting and nest building. The worker ants are always females. Some species of ants have a different task assigned for them. These workers look different for the sake of performing a task better. The worker ants are known as caste. They are usually specialized to defend the colony.

The most common example of ant caste would be the soldiers. These ants are larger in size and look different than the other worker ants. We share the planet with more than 22,000 ants species!

 

Ants - The Genetics Decoded 

Ants like other Hymenoptera have got haplodiploid sex determination system. In a layman's term, this refers to the fact that the X Y chromosome does not determine ants' gender. Rather the ant gender is determined by the number of chromosomes in their bodies. The females have more chromosomes than the male. This happens because the male ants grow from the unfertilized eggs while the females grow from the fertilized eggs.

 

Eusocial 

The ant colony is very social and the system is known as a eusocial system. Now, the question will arise what this system is? The system refers to the queen ant laying eggs and there would be sterile workers who serve the colony. These workers don’t reproduce. The system has puzzled the biologists for a long time.

It has been astonishing to see ants sacrifice so much for the sake of the colony. If you look at it from the perspective of evolution, you will surely find faults in the system as it does not appear to be stable.

However, in the ant social system, eusociality works pretty well. If you look carefully, you'll understand that the queens and most of the workers are sisters. Therefore, some workers do carry the same gene as the queen. When the workers help in raising the queen’s offspring they are actually spreading their own genes.

 

The Looks and the Species 

What does an ant look like? This is common knowledge for many from a distance view. However, if you take a closer look, you might be astonished that ants do have variation in their appearance. 

Some of the ants have wings. These are the queen ants which lay eggs for the colony. Ants have different colors as well including red, black and brown. Black is the most common color in ants. 

 

Keeping an Ant Colony

This can be tricky as there are different ways of keeping ants. To begin with, you can opt for a glass test tube. This will serve the purpose until the colony grows big. Once the colony increases in size, it can be shifted to a formicarium. You need to fill out the test tube with sugar water and cap the tube with a wad of cotton. The queen along with the offspring will be behind the cotton wad. You can use another cotton wad to seal the mouth of the test tube. This will prevent the ants from escaping.

This might not look attractive, yet for the sake of efficiency, you can use this type of colony. A beautiful house makes the ant feel good and allow the ant owner to watch the colony from outside.

 

Ant Food

Ant food depends on the species. Ants usually eat inspects along with sugar water. Some of the ant species use seeds as their food. Fruit or piece of meat can be fed to the ants as well. You can mix water and sugar or honey for the ants. Fill out a soda bottle and place it near the ant colony. The water needs to be changed frequently. Additionally, you need to feed live insects or freshly dead insects to the ants.

 

Temperature and humidity 

This too depends on the ant species. Some are in need of a dry place while some other needs a moist area to survive. In confusion, you can ask the ants by offering them different moisture areas. The ants would move to the area which is best for them.

 

Development of Ant Colony 

The development time depends on a number of factors including the ant species, the temperature and the development time of ant eggs. Most of the species takes around two weeks to get developed. The number of eggs plays a significant role in the development time. 

 

Buying

Ant colonies are available online. You can buy a developed colony or a queen ant. Collecting one from nature is another method, however, it takes a lot of effort to find a queen ant. In confusion, it is better to do some research and gather information about an ant colony.