Q: I am a newbie and want to know how to get started in the ant keeping hobby. Please help!
A: Welcome to the world of ant keeping! First, read our Starting Your Ant Colony’ and Ant Care sections of our website. Then, watch our very helpful ant video tutorials. Finally, we highly recommend that you pick up our Ultimate Ant Keeping Handbook Ebook. Learning the basics of ant keeping can be easy and fun!
Q: What is the best ant species to keep for beginners in my area? When can I catch those queens?
A: Watch this video for a list of commonly kept, easy-to-care-for ant species per region:
Q: What ant setup is best for beginners?
A: Most of our formicariums are easy-to-use and suitable for beginners. We do however recommend either our Omni All You Need Starter Gear Pack or any of our Hybrid All You Need Gear Packs. They contain all the basic equipment you need for every stage of ant keeping.
Q: What species is my queen ant? How can I tell if she is a queen?
A: We at AntsCanada are not taxonomists and may not be able to help with identifying ant species because there are thousands of species in the world. Try posting in our very helpful forum for help with identifying the species of your ant, and for verification on whether your ant is a queen. Remember to include clear, up close photos with good lighting, body length in mm, and date and location of capture. Also, watch this tutorial on how to identify queen ants:
Q: I caught a queen. What do I do next? Do I have to feed her?
A: When you have finally caught your queen ant, you need to place her into a test tube setup (we have AC Test Tubes for rearing queen ants) so that she can raise her first set of workers. You don’t have to feed her (if she is a full-claustral species, and most are) at this stage until 5-10 days after her workers arrive. She will fast during this period while raising her first set of workers and will feed them using her self-made nutritious soup. Feeding her and disturbing her may stress her out and she may eat her eggs, so it’s best to place her away in the dark in a warm place. The less you disturb her, the better. Big vibrations, light, and disturbance at this stage should be avoided. If you must check on her, do so once a week. In most species, workers arrive between 4-6 weeks after your queen lays eggs.
Watch this tutorial on how to make a test tuber setup:
Watch this tutorial on caring for newly caught queens:
Q: How do I know if my queen is fertilized?
A: Actually, there is no sure fire way to tell if a queen has been fertilized. There are certain signs that may be evidence that a queen ant is fertilized, like if her gaster is physogastric, meaning it has blown up like a balloon full of eggs, or if she lays eggs and seems to care for them and bunch them together. Signs that your queen ant may be unfertilized are if she lays a few eggs sporadically and leaves them scattered around not seeming to care for them, or if the eggs end up all turning into males.
If a queen ant breaks off her wings it does not mean she is necessarily fertilized, because some queens will break them off even if they haven’t mated due to instinct. Conversely, if a queen keeps her wings it doesn’t mean she has not been fertilized because sometimes queen ants keep their wings after mating, as is seen in this video.
So, what we usually advise is to simply place all queens into their own test tube setup (see our test tube setup video tutorial) and just wait and see if she gives you workers. Also, keep them undisturbed and in the dark as much as possible, because this will affect the success of her raising her nanitics (her first set of workers).
Q: How long before my queen lays eggs? How long after egg laying will I have workers?
A: For most species, a queen ant will start to lay eggs within a few hours or a few days after you place your queen ant in a test tube setup. Some queen ants wait until after hibernation in the Spring to lay eggs, so if your queen ant doesn’t lay eggs right away, don’t lose hope. She may still be fertilized. Just keep her in peace, in a warm place, and in the dark. For most ant species, it takes 4-6 weeks for an egg to mature into a worker. If you keep your test tube setup in a warm and dark place with less disturbance, this will speed up the process.
Q: Yay! My queen ants has workers now! How and what do I feed the colony.
A: Great! Most young colonies will not start eating until 5-10 days after the first workers (known as ‘nanitics) arrive. Try feeding them directly into the test tube by inserting a cricket leg or some other smashed insect or a tiny drop of honey water or sugar water (1 mm diameter drop) administered by a toothpick. Be careful and watch the nanitics. The nanitics and brood can drown in a small drop of liquid or they may show signs of not being ready to feed. Be sure to clean this up if the colony does not show interest or after feeding. As the colony grows larger, and more workers arrive, you can try attaching the test tube colony to our AC Test Tube Portal and feed them in there. Only until they reach 20-50 workers should you consider moving your colony into a formicarium. If you move them too early, the colony may die.
Q: When can I move my new ant colony in a test tube setup into their first formicarium?
A: We advise that you wait until you have at least 20-50 workers before moving the colony into their first formicarium. In fact, if you are able to wait longer until they have more, this is even better and ensures the greatest amount of success. If you move the colony into a formicarium too early, they will die because there isn’t enough worker power to ensure the brood are properly cared for and placed when in a formicarium which can fluctuate in humidity much more. Ant eggs, larvae, and pupae are very humidity-sensitive.
Q: I have a gelfarm. Is this OK for my ant colony?
A: No, sadly gelfarms are not suitable homes for ant colonies even though they are reportedly made for ants. The gel is an unnatural setup and also eventually molds. It also does not contain all the nutrients needed to sustain ant colonies. Ant colonies placed in a gelfarm end up going into esthivation and die. We recommend not purchasing any formicariums that seem more like novelty products for children. Also, we strongly suggest you beware of setups from vendors selling home made or cheap ant products online, as we receive many complaints on a daily basis from dissatisfied ant keepers that have tried out such ant products. Beware when choosing your ant colony’s home when purchasing online. If you cannot afford a professional ant setup, we recommend you try building your own formicarium. Watch this video tutorial for ideas.
Q: Help! The cotton in my test tube setup is growing mold! How do I transfer my queen and/or ant colony into a new test tube setup.
A: Don’t panic. Ants are adapted to deal with mold and it exists in claustral chambers of queen ants in the wild, as well. Only when the mold is thick and caked on the cotton to the point that you no longer can see the cotton’s white surface should you consider moving the colony. Hopefully by then, your queen has some workers to help facilitate the move. The easiest way to get them to move into a new clean test tube setup is to attach the moldy test tube setup and a new test tube setup to an AC Test Tube Portal and allow the colony to move themselves. It may help to cover the new test tube setup so it is dark and cozy. Don’t worry if they don’t move in right away as most young colonies are attached to their test tube setups and take awhile to decide to move. It may be weeks so be patient. If you don’t have an AC Test Tube Portal you can try taping the new test tube to the moldy one and allow them to move on their own, but remember to let air in there daily or somehow use a cotton ball taped around the point where the two test tubes come together.
If your queen does not have workers and she absolutely needs to be moved to a new test tube setup, you can follow the above procedure but just be aware that doing this is much riskier without workers to help her. You can also try moving the queen and her brood manually to a new test tube setup using a q-tip but you must use absolute, surgeon-like care!
Q: How often do I need to feed my ant colony?
A: It depends on size and the species. It is largely experimental. Feed them as much as they will eat at a time. Most young colonies require food once or twice a week. Larger colonies require food daily.
Q: What should I feed them?
A: Ants require a protein source, i.e. freshly killed feeder insects like crickets/mealworms/superworms, some will accept cooked meats, etc. The protein helps the queen with egg-laying and helps maintain healthy growth of the larvae. Ants also require a sugary food, i.e. sugar water, honey water, or hummingbird nectar. This provides the ants with the energy they need.
Watch these tutorials on ant diet and nutrition:
Q: I hate and/or cannot keep crickets or other live feeder insects. Are there other alternatives for protein source?
A: You can try freeze-dried crickets or meal worms, aquarium fish food, or wet dog or cat food, but most ant species will not eat these. If they do, good for you! You’re lucky! For most ant species, freshly killed feeder insects are the best and most accepted protein source for ants. Mealworms are the easiest feeder insect to raise and keep.
Q: What do I do when my colony starts to produce alates (winged queen and male ants)? Will they mate in my setup?
A: First, ant mating in captivity is generally regarded as rare. The reason is most ants require an open space to fly, as well as the outdoor cues (weather, air pressure, pheromones from other colonies, etc) that are needed for ants to “get into the mood” so to speak. The alates often fly far from the nest to breed, which helps mix the genepool up and keeps the rate of sibling alates mating with each other low.
Some ant keepers have documented cases where a queen alate is placed with a few male alates into a petri dish and they ended up mating.
Watch this video on ant reproduction for a better idea of how nuptial flights work:
About what happens when your ant colony starts producing alates, they usually don’t end up flying. They wander around in the outworld and end up dying. Queen alates may end up breaking off their wings and acting like workers until they too die. If your ant is a native species (was caught outside and isn’t an invasive species) if you like you could take your ant setup outside and leave the outworld open so the alates can fly off to mate. It would be a great way to help your environment and the species.
Q: Can I control how big my colony grows somehow? I don’t want the colony to get super huge and out of control? What if I don’t want them anymore?
A: You can control the population of your colony by regulating their food intake and temperature at which they are at. If your colony starts to reach the desired size you like, continue feeding them the amount of food you are providing them and don’t increase the amount even if it seems they need more. Also, lower the temperature they are kept at by 2 degrees C, and this will slow down the queen’s egg-laying rate and the development rate of the brood (eggs, larvae, pupae).
If you no longer want your ants we recommend rehoming them by offering them up for adoption to someone in your area through our GAN Project, or if they were caught in your area, you can also let them go in your area.
Q: I have other questions about ant keeping that don’t appear here in this FAQ.
A: We recommend looking for your answers or posting all your great ant questions in our forum which is full of experienced and enthusiastic ant keepers around the world. You may even find ant keepers in your area! Good luck!
Q: What is the best setup for beginners?
A: Most of our formicariums are easy-to-use and suitable for beginners. We do however recommend either our Omni All You Need Starter Gear Pack or any of our Hybrid All You Need Gear Packs. They contain all you the basic equipment needed for every stage of ant keeping.
Q: What is the best setup for my species of ant?
A: If you hover your cursor over the SHOP Tab you will see a drop down menu. Hover it over the option ANT HABITATS and you will find a list of ant genera. If you know the genus of the ant species you are housing, select it and it will list all our products and gear packs suitable for your genus of ant. If you don’t know your genus of ant, try posting in our very helpful forum for help with identifying the genus/species of your ant,. We at AntsCanada are not taxonomists and cannot help with identifying ant species because there are thousands of species in the world. Remember to include clear, up close photos with good lighting, body length in mm, and date and location of capture. You can simply select GENERIC/FOR ALL ANTS and see what products we offer which are good for nearly all species of ants.
Q: Do you ship your products to my country?
A: Yes, we have been shipping all of our products worldwide for many years. We do not ship live ants in the mail. Note that we do not cover customs or duty fees that your country may incur on packages at the border. Live ants are sold only in select cities around the world and you must pick them up in person. See our GAN Project under QUEEN ANTS FOR SALE.
Q: What mode of payment does the AntsCanada Shop accept?
A: All purchases must be done via a secure PayPal payment. You can also pay by credit card if you do not have a PayPal account. Just select credit card payment via PayPal when checking out. We sadly do not accept direct wire transfers, money orders, nor check payment.
Q: What currency does the AntsCanada Shop use?
A: All prices listed in the AntsCanada Shop are in USD. If you are from a different country, not to worry as Paypal automatically converts the funds to your country’s currency when buying from us.
Q: How long will it take for my order to get to me/to ship?
A: The time it takes for your order to arrive after purchasing from us depends on the products chosen, the mode of shipment chosen, and whether or not we experiencing high season. The updated shipping times are usually listed somewhere on the product page of each product.
Q: Do you cover customs/duty fees?
A: No, we do not cover any customs or duty fees incurred at the border of your country.
Q: What is your return/refund policy?
A: We deal with returns/refund on a case to case basis. For damaged products we would be happy to send a replacement or offer a product refund. We will ask you for photos of the damage and may or may not ask you to mail your damaged product back to us. Sadly, we do not offer full replacements or refunds on damaged products.
Q: Help! I purchased your Ultimate Ant Keeping Handbook Ebook and am having problems downloading it. How can I get it?
A: No problem! Email us with your order number and we would be happy to send it to you via email ASAP!
Q: How many ants will fit in your formicariums?
A: Our smallest formicariums, i,e, the Hybrid Nests hold approximately 500-1000 medium to large ants which can take 1-2 years to achieve. The larger formicariums hold well into the thousands. Our largest formicarium, the Omni Nest Xtra Large can hold hundreds of thousands of ants and generally takes years to fill up.
Q: What do I do when my colony fills up a formicarium?
A: You must attach another formicarium using tubing.
Q: Where is the instructions manual for my AntsCanada product?
A: Our manuals are downloadable PDFs from links directly on the product pages. We do this to be more eco-friendly. If you do not have an instructions manual, you can also try looking up some of our or some of our customers’ helpful video instructional guides on Youtube. Finally, if you need help with your AntsCanada product contact us and we would be happy to help!
Q: I have a question regarding the AntsCanada Shop/products that I don’t see here in this FAQ.
Q: Where can I buy an ant colony with a queen for my formicarium?
A: We offer live ant colonies with a queen for sale in select cities around the world. They must be paid for in person (or paypal depending on the vendor’s preference) upon pickup. Visit our GAN Project in our QUEEN ANTS FOR SALE section.
Watch this video for more info:
Q: How can I sell my ant colony/colonies?
A: Sign up to be one of our GAN Farmers and we can help find buyers wanting your ants. Visit our GAN Project in our QUEEN ANTS FOR SALE section.
Watch this video for more info:
Q: Can you ship ants to my country?
A: No, we do not ship live ants in the mail. This is cruel, ecologically hazardous, and illegal in many areas of the world. See our QUEEN ANTS FOR SALE section for more details on how our GAN Project works.
Watch this video for more info:
Q: What if I don’t see a GAN Farmer/seller in my area?
A: Keep checking the GAN Project page as we sign new GAN Farmers all the time. Hopefully someone signs up as a GAN Farmer selling ants in your area.
Q: It says my IP has been banned from the forum? How do I get back in?
A: Sorry about that! You have done nothing wrong and your account must have unintentionally been swept up by our routine spambot clean up. Simply contact us and we will help you get back into our forum in no time.
Q: How do I apply to be a moderator for the forum?
A: Simply contact us and let us know of your desire to be a moderator for the AntsCanada Ant Forum along with any relevant experience.