Introduction to ants

Ants have been found on almost every continent, with the exception of Antarctica and a couple of small islands. They show an incredible range of variation and have adapted to one extreme climate after another. The rainforest is the region with the most amount of native species.
9904 +
ant species in the world

All workers in the ant colony are female

introduction to ants origins

Ants have existed for more than 100 million years

The origin of ants was long a mystery to us. Today, they are incredibly successful and keeps dominating the regions which they settle in. But when did ants become ants? Myrmecologists believe that they evolved from solitary wasps more than 100 million years ago. With time, the offspring of the female lingered with their mother longer and longer, and eventually a family structure was established. For millions of years this behaviour transformed the ant family into what we know them as today, a superorganism. Their families can now house several million members centered around one or more queens. The ants are believed to have arisen in the middle of the Cretaceous period, alongside the flowering plants – giving them an enormous boost to their evolutionary trajectory.

Keeping ants

The term pet might not be the first thing that comes to mind when presented with the concept of ants. But they are actually quite extraordinary, and can be kept at home to observe whilst simulating an outdoor environment in a formicarium. The activity and growth of an ant colony can be very interesting, from the first egg to the thousand worker.
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keeping ants formicarium
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Fish live in aquariums whilst reptile have their terrariums.. so what do you call the home of pet ants? A formicarium, of course! The origin of the word is from the French word for ants – fourmi. A formicarium can have many different looks. Some keep their ants in a glass jar, others have a large glass tank specially made to fit the needs of their small kingdom.

One can easily order a prebuilt formicarium from one of the many ant shops of the world, or simply create one at home. There are some things all formicarium should have in common: keep the ants from escaping (lids, lids, lids!), provide oxygen (air holes, please) and some way of opening it up to feed and provide moisture (might come in handy!). 

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ants need water

What Do Ants Eat?

The colony needs a constant supply of protein and carbohydrates. The protein is for feeding the larvae and queen, since the larvae is growing into an adult ant and the queen has a constant egg laying quest going on. The adult workers are more interested in carbohydrates. They are already fully grown and instead needs energy to be able to work day and night. Protein is found in insects, meat and eggs. Carbohydrates are fed through honey or sugarwater, combining the need of energy and water. Honey, syrup or a wet lump of sugar is also appreciated by the ants.

What Do Ants Drink?

Ants always run a great risk of dehydration. They have a constant need of moisture in form of a water source. In nature, ants get their moisture from the ground, rain, dew and condensed water or though other water sources. Therefore, ants in captivity need to be waited on when it comes to water. One way of providing this is by filling a test tube with water (or sugar water) and put a ball of cotton at the end of it. This way the ants can drink from it without drowning.

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Catch ants


Dig them up

How to obtain ants?

Just as with the formicarium, there is a lot that can be done at home when obtaining ants. For example, it is possible to catch a queen of your own during the annual nuptial flights of the ants (learn more about winged ants). This is an exciting chance to see an ant society grow from a single ant, caught by you! Observe the hatching of the first worker and how the colony grows stronger. Watch how complex behaviour develops when more and more ants are born. If you missed the nuptial flights you can try capturing an already established colony. This is not recommended and needs to be executed with care – please don’t kill innocent ants or destroy our precious environments. A great and practical way of going about it is by turning over hot and flat rocks. The queens are known to like heat, and might be up in one of the warm chambers. Digging up an anthill is not recommended. You will probably not find the queen anyways. If you have the means, you can always buy a colony from the ant shops of the world and wait for the delivery.

Observe your ants!

Ants have an incredible way of working together. When observing them, one can easily get a sense of their communication between one another, from smell to touch. Just sitting by and watching an ant colony can be very exciting!
Formicarium tank


Spanning all categories of age – ants seem to be interesting to so many of us. If you, after this short introduction, want to learn more about them we welcome you to our site. Have a look at our articles and images and be inspired by these amazing little insects.

And hey, why not join our Facebook group? We’d love to have you!

Learn all about the fascinating world of ants.

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