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What Are The Easiest Live Queen Ants and Ant Colonies For a Beginner Ant Keeper?

Beginner-friendly species are Lasius Niger - Black Garden Ants, Lasius Flavus - Yellow Meadow Ants, Myrmica Rubra - Red Fire Ants and Messor Barbarus - Common Black Harvester Ants. Lasius species are native to the UK.

Antkeeping Guide, Ants Care 

How to look after a Lasius Niger (Black Ants Care), Lasius Flavus (Yellow Meadow Ants Care), Myrmica Rubra (Red Ants Care) or Messor Barbarus (Harvester Ants Care)? What are the most dangerous ant species? What are the fastest-growing ant species? What are the most difficult ant species to keep? Find everything you need to know about the common ants for beginners or the rarest and most expensive ant species on the planet. Our blog also features fascinating ant behaviour, anatomy and ecology articles, offering a deeper understanding of these amazing creatures.

What Ants You Can Keep in the UK?

Lasius niger - The Common Black Garden Ant

One of the most well-known species of ants in the UK is the Lasius niger, also known as the common black garden ant. These ants are often found in gardens and can easily adapt to living in captivity. They are small in size, with workers measuring around 3-5mm in length. Lasius niger ants are known for their tendency to enter houses, making them a familiar sight for many people. They build nests under pavements, in soil, and along the edges of lawns. These ants are quick, robust, and prolific, with colonies consisting of thousands of workers. In terms of behaviour, Lasius niger ants use formic acid and their jaws for attack and defence. They feed on insects, nectar, and even the bodies of their own dead or ants from other colonies. These ants have a particular fondness for sugary substances. Keeping Lasius niger ants in captivity is relatively easy. They are harmless and do not possess a sting, making them suitable for beginners and children. A simple ant farm or a specially designed formicarium can serve as their habitat. Lasius niger ants are active and interesting to observe, making them a popular choice for ant-keeping enthusiasts. How to look after a Lasius Niger (Black Garden Ant Care at home)?

 

Lasius flavus - The Yellow Meadow Ant

Another species of ant commonly found in gardens is the Lasius flavus, also known as the yellow meadow ant. These ants build small mounds in lawns and are often mistaken for red ants due to their yellow-orange colour. However, they are no more harmful than their black counterparts, Lasius niger. Lasius flavus ants are skilled nest builders and can be found in fields and meadows where they construct larger mounds. Unlike Lasius niger, they primarily forage below ground and are not frequently seen unless their nests are disturbed or during the annual mating flights. Similar to Lasius niger, Lasius flavus ants feed on small insects and mites that stray into their tunnels. Their diet consists of a variety of insects, including flies, beetles, larvae, fruit, and honeydew. Keeping Lasius flavus ants as pets requires providing them with a suitable habitat, such as an ant farm or formicarium. These ants are relatively easy to care for and can provide ant enthusiasts with a unique insight into their underground world. How to look after a Lasius Flavus (Yellow Meadow Ant Farm at home)?

 

 

Myrmica rubra - The Red Ant

The Myrmica rubra, commonly known as the red ant (fire ant), is a species found in the UK. These ants are known for their deep red colour and can deliver a mildly irritant sting. Myrmica rubra ants live in small colonies with around 100-300 members, but they can have multiple egg-laying queens in one colony. Unlike Lasius ants, Myrmica rubra ants are more aggressive and tend to attack rather than run away. They are insect feeders and also show a particular fondness for spiders. These ants can be fascinating to observe due to their behaviour and interactions within the colony. How to look after Myrmica rubra ants? Care sheet for Fire Ant Colony.

 

Formica rufa - The Wood Ant

Formica rufa, also known as the wood ant, is another common species found in the UK. These ants are large, aggressive, and known for their biting and formic acid-spraying defence mechanisms. They build extensive mounds using pine needles and woodland litter on the edges of forest clearings. Formica rufa ants are impressive in terms of colony size, with some colonies numbering over 100,000 members. Knowing they are polygenus (multiple queen colony) and a single large colony might have up to 100 queen ants the workers could reach up to 400,000 in just a few years. They have a diverse diet, primarily consisting of insects and insect larvae. A large Formica rufa colony can forage for up to 100,000 insects per day. Keeping Formica rufa ants as pets requires a spacious and suitable habitat due to their colony size and active nature. These ants can provide ant enthusiasts with a captivating display of their complex social structure and foraging behaviours. Not suitable for antkeeping unless a properly ventilated ant farm is provided.

 

Other Species of Ants Found in the UK

Aside from the aforementioned species, there are several other types of ants found in the UK that can be kept as pets. Some of these species include:

  • Lasius fuliginosus: Larger and faster than Lasius niger, with nests made from chewing up dead wood and mixing it with honeydew. They can take over nests of Lasius umbratus.

  • Formica fusca: Timid ants that prefer nesting under rotting logs. They have good eyesight but tend to run rather than fight. They feed on insects and have populations of usually less than 1000.

  • Formica sanguinea: The largest native British ant species, known as slave-makers. They raid colonies of Formica fusca and steal their brood to raise as their own.

  • Tetramorium caespitum: Small black stinging ants typically found along the coasts of Southern and Western England. They bury their food in mounds of soil.

Each of these species has its unique characteristics and behaviours, offering ant enthusiasts a diverse range of options when it comes to keeping ants as pets.

Caring for Ants as Pets

When keeping ants as pets, it is essential to provide them with a suitable habitat that mimics their natural environment. This includes the use of ant farms or formicaria, which provide a controlled space for the ants to live and thrive.

Ant farms should be spacious enough to accommodate the size of the ant colony, allowing room for foraging, nesting, and expansion. It is important to consider the specific needs of the ant species you are keeping, such as humidity levels, temperature, and substrate preferences.

 

An important article you must read: Ant Farm Kits Everything You Need to Know Before Making a Purchase

 

Feeding ants as pets requires providing them with a varied diet that matches their natural feeding habits. This can include insects, fruits, honeydew, and other food sources that are appropriate for the particular ant species or your best choice would be the Best Ants UK Protein Jelly - made from high-quality protein sources and vital vitamins and minerals, this jelly provides essential nutrients to keep your ants healthy and active. It is important to research the dietary requirements of the specific ant species you are keeping to ensure their nutritional needs are met.

Regular observation and monitoring of the ant colony are essential to ensure their well-being. This includes checking for signs of stress, disease, or overcrowding. Maintaining a clean and hygienic habitat is crucial to prevent the spread of diseases and maintain the overall health of the ant colony.

Factors That May Prevent Ants from Moving in Your Ant Farm

Lack of suitable environment

One of the primary reasons ants may not want to move into the ant farm is the lack of a suitable environment. Ants are instinctively drawn to specific conditions that mimic their natural habitat. The ant farm should provide a comfortable temperature, humidity levels, and substrate similar to what ants would find in the wild. If these conditions are not met, ants may not feel secure or comfortable enough to establish a new nest in the ant farm. There is no ant species which builds a nest in an open space where the queen ant and the colony brood are exposed to danger. Avoid ant farms with no red filter and black cover included on the nest part.

Inadequate food and water supply

Just like any living creature, ants require a steady supply of food and water to survive. If the ant farm does not offer an adequate food and water source, ants will be reluctant to move in. It is crucial to provide a variety of food options that cater to the specific dietary needs of the ant species you are trying to attract. Additionally, a consistent supply of clean water should be available within the ant farm. Without these essential resources, ants will have no incentive to leave their test tube nest in search of a new home.

Please read this article for complete feeding information and food requirements: From Sugar to Insects: What Do Ants Eat 

 

Queen Ant issues

The presence and condition of the Queen Ant played a vital role in the establishment of a new colony. In case you get a not fertile queen ant for less you can expect a long time frustrating period along with a waste of time plus empty expectations loss. Queen ants are responsible for producing offspring and maintaining the overall health and stability of the colony. Without a queen, the ants will not have a leader or a future generation to sustain their presence on the ant farm.

 

Incompatibility with existing ant colonies

If you already have an existing ant colony and are attempting to introduce new ants to the ant farm, incompatibility issues will arise. Ants are highly territorial creatures, and different ant colonies may engage in aggressive behaviours when they come into contact with each other.

It is not possible to “replace” the queen ant or add workers from another colony to the existing one or the ants will fight to the death.

How to move your ants faster in the Ant Farm?

Please, wrap the ant’s test tube with tinfoil and leave it there for the first 10-14 days and after that start to slide it out just 1mm every day. Your ant setup must be kept in a no-vibration place (away from daily household activity) at room temperature. Any temperature between 20 and 26 degrees is suitable for most ant species. The red acrylic filter must stay on top of the nest all the time, you can remove it once a week for 2-3 minutes to have a better look at your colony. The same rule applies to the black acrylic cover. Placed on top all the time. You can remove it for up to 5 minutes daily to enjoy your queen ant with the red filter on. If this doesn't help and you are struggling to get your ants to move many people will say to just wait and have them move in on their own. This doesn't work a lot of the time and the ants just sit there. What we have found to work is using harsh light. This will work on harvester ants for instance but not on the stubborn Lasius niger or Fire Ants. For the black garden or Myrmica Rubra, you must use a heat source (heating mat) to move them out of the test tube setup into the nest. Make sure the heating mat's temperature is set to not more than 30 degrees Celsius or you might cook the ants alive.

WARNING, this is a last resort if you are not patient enough to wait. This might harm your Queen Ant if not done properly. Do this at your own risk.

 

You will be thrilled by this article: The Ant Chronicles: 11 Mind-Blowing Facts about Live Queen Ants

Ant Farm Maintenance and Care

Regular maintenance and care are crucial for the well-being of your ant farm and its inhabitants. Here are some important aspects of ant farm maintenance:

  • Cleaning: Regularly clean the ant farm, removing any debris, mould, or waste. Maintain cleanliness to prevent the spread of diseases and ensure the ants' health.

  • Moisture Control: Monitor the moisture levels in the nest and foraging area. Provide access to water sources and ensure the nest remains adequately moist.

  • Temperature Regulation: Maintain a suitable temperature range for your ant farm, as different ant species have different temperature requirements. Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature and make adjustments if necessary.

  • Food Management: Monitor food consumption and remove any uneaten or spoiled food promptly. Provide fresh food regularly to meet the nutritional needs of the ants.

  • Nest Expansion: As the ant colony grows, consider expanding the nest to provide more space for the ants. Monitor the nest's capacity and make adjustments as needed.

By maintaining a clean and suitable environment, you can ensure the health and well-being of your ant colony.

Ant Farm Accessories and Equipment

Ant farm accessories and equipment can enhance the functionality and aesthetics of your ant farm. Here are some commonly used accessories:

  • Feeding Dishes: These small dishes are used to provide food to the ants. They can be filled with sugar water, fruits, or protein-rich foods.

  • Water Tubes: Water tubes allow easy access to water for the ants. They can be filled with water and placed in/attached to the foraging area.

  • Magnifying Glasses: Magnifying glasses can help you observe the ants up close and appreciate their intricate details and behaviours.

  • Tools: Various tools, such as tweezers and brushes, can be used for maintenance tasks, such as removing debris or adjusting the nest.

  • Decorative Elements: Some ant keepers like to add decorative elements, such as rocks, plants, or miniature structures, to enhance the visual appeal of the ant farm.

  • Heating mats: The Heating Mat with Thermostat is perfect for your ant farm and ants nest or if you are keeping exotic or non-native ants in the UK!

  • External Temperature and Humidity Meters: A Digital meter with an External Sensor is a must-have for any ant keeper. With its compact size, it is easy to place in any ant habitat or enclosure. The external sensor allows for accurate readings of both temperature and humidity levels, ensuring the perfect environment for your ants.

These accessories can be purchased separately or may come included in ant farm kits, depending on the specific product.

Ant Feeding: Providing the Right Nutrition

Proper nutrition is essential for the health and well-being of your ant colony. Ants require a balanced diet that includes both protein and sugars. Here are some tips for providing the right nutrition to your ants:

  • Protein Sources: Live insects, such as fruit flies, locusts and crickets, can be offered as a protein source. Alternatively, protein jellies can be used as a substitute.

  • Sugar Sources: Ants obtain sugars from various sources, including honeydew produced by aphids, fruits, or specially formulated Organic Ant Honey. These can be provided in small dishes or soaked into cotton balls.

  • Seed-Collecting Ants: If you have seed-collecting ants, such as Harvester ants, it's important to provide a variety of seeds for them to forage and collect. Our Harvester Ants Ant Food is a perfect blend of 17 different organic mite-free seeds that fulfil the dietary needs of your ants. Suitable for any Harvester Ants such as Messor Barbarus, Messor Capitatus, Messor Aciculatus and many more.

  • Varied Diet: Offer a diverse range of foods to ensure your ants receive a balanced diet. Experiment with different fruits (grapes or bananas), vegetables (all but cucumbers), and other food sources (cooked chicken, beef or tuna) to meet their nutritional needs.

It's important to monitor food consumption and remove any uneaten or spoiled food to maintain a clean and healthy environment for your ants. The best practice is to discard any remaining food after two days.

Ant Behaviour, Anatomy, and Ecology

Understanding ant behaviour, anatomy, and ecology can provide valuable insights into the fascinating world of ants. Here are some key aspects to explore:

  • Colony Structure: Ant colonies consist of various castes, including the queen, workers, soldiers, and sometimes reproductive individuals. Each caste has different roles and responsibilities within the colony.

  • Communication: Ants communicate through chemical signals called pheromones. They use these signals to coordinate tasks, mark trails, and recognize nestmates.

  • Foraging Behavior: Ants exhibit impressive foraging behaviour, often following scent trails to locate food sources. They can also engage in seed collecting, honeydew farming, or other specialized foraging activities.

  • Social Organization: Ants have complex social structures, with a division of labour and cooperation among colony members. They work together to ensure the survival and growth of the colony.

  • Ecological Interactions: Ants play vital roles in ecosystems, including seed dispersal, nutrient cycling, and pest control. Understanding their ecological interactions can provide a deeper appreciation for their importance in the natural world.

The Life Cycle of an Ant: from egg to adult

Like all insects, ants undergo a process known as metamorphosis, which consists of four distinct stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The journey begins when a queen ant mates with a male and lays her first eggs. The first worker ants are called nanitics. And then, more eggs, these tiny, oval-shaped eggs are carefully tended to by the nanitics in the colony. Within a few weeks, the eggs hatch into larvae, which are legless and resemble small grubs.

Let's have a closer look at the ant stages in the most common ant species in the UK - Lasius Niger (Black ants) ants: The eggs hatch in about 21 to 28 days into larvae. Within a further 30-35 days these larvae turn into adult ants. So from a just-laid egg to an adult worker. 6 - 8 weeks and more precisely - egg to larvae: approx. 10 -12 days, larvae to pupae: approx. 10 -14 days, pupae to worker: approx. 10 - 24 days (depending on temperature 20-26 degrees C, the warmer the faster).

During the larval stage, the ants undergo rapid growth, feeding on the food brought to them by the worker ants. As they consume this rich diet, the larvae moult several times, shedding their old skin and growing larger with each moult. Once they have reached their maximum size, the larvae enter the pupal stage, where they undergo a remarkable transformation. Inside the protective cocoon, the body of the ant undergoes a complete restructuring, eventually emerging as a fully formed adult ant.

The average lifespan of different ant species in the UK

In the United Kingdom, several ant species are commonly found. Each species has its unique lifespan, which can vary significantly. Let's take a closer look at some of the most popular ant species in the UK and their average lifespans:

  1. Black Ants (Lasius niger): These small, black ants are widespread in the UK and have an average queen lifespan of around 20-25 years. They are known for their ability to establish large colonies and can be found in gardens, lawns, and even inside homes. The longest-live record of a queen ant ever is the Lasius Niger queen ant in lab conditions - 28 years and 9 months. This is also the longest-lived insect so far.

  2. Yellow Meadow Ants (Lasius Flavus):  These ants are commonly found in Europe, Asia, and North Africa and are known for their yellow colouration. The queen measures 7-9mm in length, males measure 3-4mm, and workers measure 2-4mm. Bring home this fascinating species of ant today and experience the wonders of nature up close. Lasus Flavus queen ant lifespan is up to 20 years (usually about 15 years)

  3. Red Ants (Myrmica rubra): Red ants are also commonly found in the UK, particularly in grassy areas and woodlands. The average lifespan of a queen red ant is approximately 10 years, making them a relatively long-lived species. Myrmica rubra queen ant lifespan is up to 3 years (usually about 2 years in captivity). We've kept a 2 queen fire ants colony for 3 years without hibernating them at all so do not believe everything written on the web. Even in nature, Myrmica rubra does not hibernate like the other ants hibernate. Fire ants need to be supplied with protein-rich food sources all year round. Moving the rubra's ant farm to a colder room during the winter months is more than enough.

 

Other common beginner-friendly ants:

-Harvester Ants (Messor barbarus): Although not native to the UK, harvester ants have gained popularity among ant enthusiasts. These larger ants have an average queen lifespan of 25-30 years and are known for their impressive foraging abilities. They search for food up to 200 meters.

-Camponotus Ants: Camponotus ants, also known as carpenter ants, are recognized for their large size and ability to excavate wood. The average queen lifespan for these ants is around 10 years, with some species living even longer.

-Bullet Ants: These aggressive and often venomous ants are not native to the UK but are worthy of mention due to their fascinating characteristics. They have the distinction of delivering the most painful sting in the world of insects. Schmidt describes the pain as “pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like walking over flaming charcoal with a three-inch nail embedded in your heel”. And on top of all that awful pain lasts for 24 hours. Queen ants of these species can live for approximately 90 days only.

-Leafcutter ants (Atta and Acromyrmex): Atta cephalotes queens live more than 20 years in nature and about 10 years in captivity. Leafcutter workers live for 1-2 years if the ant farm's conditions are suitable.

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