How to make an ant farm - The Lily Foundation
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A chain of 4 ants creating a link between a leaf to a green berry A chain of 4 ants creating a link between a leaf to a green berry

How to make an ant farm

Ants are amazing! Build them a home and watch a colony take shape.

Ants are really smart. Just like people, they form communities and co-operate to get things done. Starting a home-made ant colony in a jar is quite easy to do, and a great way to watch nature at work without leaving the house.

What you’ll need

  • 1 large glass jar with a lid that you can poke holes in
  • 1 smaller glass jar (that fits inside the large one)
  • Ants from your garden
  • A container for ant collecting
  • Dirt (equal parts sand and soil is best). You’ll need enough to half-fill the large jar
  • A small amount of honey, sugar or breadcrumbs
  • A small piece of sponge (a kitchen sponge is fine)

How to build your ant farm

  1. Poke some holes in the lid of the larger jar, to allow the ants to breathe. The holes need to be tiny, so the ants can’t escape.
  2. Place the smaller jar upside down in the larger jar. This forms the ’inner wall’ of the ant farm, which keeps the ants near the sides of the larger jar where you can see them!
  3. Fill the space between the jars with dirt. Leave an inch or two of space at the top.
  4. Time to find your ants! Go out in the garden and check under rocks and dead tree branches for a nest. If you see one or two ants, a nest won’t be far away.
  5. Using your container, collect as many ants as you can. A good way to do this is to put some sugar or breadcrumbs in the container, place it next to the ant nest, and wait for the ants to collect. Around 100 is a good amount.
  6. Put your ants into the ant farm by tipping them gently into the jar. They might need a little coaxing!
  7. Your ants need food and water. Put some honey, sugar or breadcrumbs on the top of the jar. Wet the sponge and put that in too, then screw the lid on tight.
  8. Don’t forget to add more food once in a while, and keep the sponge damp. If the soil starts to get too dry, add a small amount of water. Only add a very small amount of water at a time – you don’t want to drown your ants.

Can you find the queen?

You can make an ant farm using just worker ants, but they’ll be happier, and your ant colony will last longer, if they have a queen to look after. The queen ant is about three times bigger than the worker ants. See if you can find her and add her to your DIY ant farm. If you’re lucky, she might even lay some eggs!

Please share your ant farm photos on social media – we’d love to see how you get on!

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