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How to look after a Messor Barbarus (Harvester Ants Care)?

harvester ants Messor barbarus ant care

How to look after a Messor Barbarus ant (Harvester Ants Care)?

First of all, begin your ant-keeping journey with genuine knowledge about Messor Barbarus care to experience the wonders of these fascinating creatures who lived on our planet millions of years before us.

The Messor Barbarus also known as the harvester ants, is a common and easy-to-keep species for ant enthusiasts. The Messor Barbarus ants do not sting, but the major workers are so big they can bite you, it's more like tickling and not so painful though depending on your skin type.

These tiny creatures play an important role in the ecosystem and are essential for maintaining a balanced environment. Scientists say that if the harvester ants disappear farming will be much more difficult and the land will become a jungle after every harvest. Also, the extinction of harvester ants would destabilize the plant's growth and destroy the symbiotic relationship between the plants and our ecosystem. This species is monogyne which means there is only one Queen ant in the colony. Messor Barbarus are probably the most interesting ant species suitable for a beginner ant keeper as the queen ant is way bigger, reaching 18 millimetres and is more interesting compared to other beginner-friendly ant species queens. The workers are very polymorphic and are of three main sizes. From just 3mm to up to 15mm.

Messor Barbarus Harvester Ants  care

1. Small (minor: 3-7mm) workers - they usually care for the brood and Queen ant's needs.

2. Normal-sized (media: 6-10mm) ones - care for the ants' bread-making and nest cleaning.

3. Majors - protecting the colony's nest and the queen. Sometimes cooperate with the media workers regarding seeds' chewing.

Messor ants prefer to nest in sand-soil and shrub areas. Their colonies can grow to about 10,000 workers and are a great choice for those looking to start their ant-keeping journey. Messor queen ant lifespan is up to 25 years. As the sole reproducer in the colony, the harvester queen ant will lay eggs in batches daily and provide a steady stream of workers. The workers will live up to 2 years and aid in the growth and success of your colony. The bigger the worker the longer the lifespan.

Ants' arrival

tired ant after being delivered from best Ants uk

First of all, keep in mind that we'll feed the ants before dispatch also once you receive your ant farm and ant colony, leave the parcel unopened for 4-5 hours at room temperature so your ants can get used to their new environment. Avoiding toxins built up in your ants due to abrupt temperature changes is essential.

Then check if your queen ant is safe and sound and leave your ants for 4-5 days to relax after their journey to you. Please keep them in a dark place with

no-vibrations, at a room temperature of 20-26 C (away from daily household activities).

Do not disturb and Do not feed your ant colony during this period. Checking them once 24 hours after arrival is enough.

If you disturb your queen ant, if you put her under stress lifting your setup lid a few times a day to check if everything is going well or if you put your ant setup near your TV or stereo so all that vibration will hit into the nest area etc., all that will lead to a tragic end of your first ant experience. Why is that?

Imagine living quietly in your house, in a dark room because the light makes you scared, and suddenly a giant lifts up the roof above your head a few times every single day and on top of all, a bright light blinds you at the same time. Apart from this, the nasty giant screams strange noises now and then, sometimes so loud that the whole house shakes, the same as an earthquake affecting a person's house. How long are you going to last? I will leave the answer to you.

You should leave your little friends alone. Check them once a week for a minute or two in the evening when the light coming from the night lamp is more soft and be as gentle as possible.

Messor Barbarus Harvester Ants care

Messor Barbarus feeding.

messor ants eat seeds

Feed them into the outworld only! Harvester ant's main food is seed mix.

How to feed them and how much?

So the golden rule is 1 seed per ant per month. Feed them every two weeks (half dosage, for instance: 30 ants = 15 seeds every two weeks).

The first feeding dose must be doubled. Keep an eye on their food storage so they have one nest’s chamber full of seeds all the time.

You should also feed them protein-rich food and sweets once every two weeks. Give them organic honey or fruit (half a grape, a similar amount of a banana etc.) How much? Well, for a small colony with a queen ant and about fifty workers, the amount of the protein jelly must be similar to the size of a single rice grain. Regarding the live food, feed them mealworms, locusts, crickets or similar and do not forget to kill any possible microbes or mites the live food might be contaminated with. How? Just put it in boiling water for ten to fifteen seconds maximum, then chop it in half and put it in the ants' outworld using a tiny piece of tinfoil as a tray.

How to feed your ants Organic Honey and Protein Jelly? Video instructions? Click HERE!

ant food serving in an ants farm best ants uk

Use a small cotton ball to pour a drop or two of the organic honey to prevent ants from getting stuck and drowning and again, put the honey cotton on a tinfoil tray to avoid contamination of the outworld’s substrate. Now, the most important part is always to discard any remaining food after 2 days or fungus may appear.

If you want to know more about ants' food, please read this article: From Sugar to Insects: What Do Ants Eat

What Ant Farm for Harvester Queen Ant with Workers?

antie ant farm best ants uk
a6 meter ant farm best ants uk

Once your colony is large enough you can consider moving it into an ant farm.

I would recommend the small-medium ant farm for a small colony of Messor ant species. The best options among our products are the A7 Plus, Antie or the A6 Ant Farm where you can enjoy watching them harvesting in the outworld.

If you'd like to monitor the temperature and humidity levels inside the nesting area, which is a must for a beginner, all three ant farms are equipped with a digital temperature and humidity meter.

All three ant habitats are designed to maintain air humidity of about 70% if your room temperature is about 22°C, pouring 1.5-2.5 ml of bottled (mineral or purified) water once a week ensures optimal conditions for your ant colony. With easy access to food and water into the outworld, your ants will be happy and healthy in their new home. Give your ants the best possible care and living space with our harvester ants' habitats.

Consider getting the Antie Ant Farm with the heating mat if your room temperature is lower than 22°C during the summer. Harvester ants need a higher temperature for their proper brood development so 25-26°C would be great. Temperature above 28°C will endanger the queen ant!

Maintaining the correct humidity in the nest area is crucial. Messor Barbarus loves low-humid areas so keep the moisture low to medium, between 60 and 70 persents on the meter. Do not get confused by some Messor Barbarus care sheets which state a moisture level as it's different than the humidity levels.

Ants' Escape Prevention.

Harvester ants are not the best climbers but if you do not want to deal with escaped ants, which is a common issue while you feed them, apply about an inch wide of our PTFE Fluon. It is a full-strength product and lasts for weeks, a non-stick material that creates an impenetrable barrier against crawling insects. The ants will not be able to crawl out due to the very slippery surface and will fall back into the outside world.

How to apply the PTFE Fluon Escape prevention. Video instructions? Click HERE!

Ant Colony's Hibernation.

A few words about the hibernation. To remain healthy, your queen and worker ants require proper hibernation during the winter months, but it's not a must during your ant colony's first year. The Messor Barbarus ants hibernate through the winter starting at the end of November and wake up around late February/early March. To hibernate, the temperature of the nest needs to be reduced to around 15 degrees Celsius, which is not too cold for the ants to survive. It is important to lower the temperature gradually, first when you put your ants in hibernation and afterwards when you take them out of hibernation. I recommend 0.2-0.3 degrees Celsius daily. The lower the better. If you decide to listen to some people and put your ant farm into your fridge make sure the temperature is not below 15 degrees Celsius so check it with an accurate thermometer first. If you do not have the necessary skills or equipment to hibernate your ants, just do your best and move your ant farm to a colder room at least. Bear in mind that they will hibernate in any scenario no matter the environment temperature. They will become more clumsy and not so active during this winter period so feed them once every month or so. Just make sure they have a freshwater supply all the time.

When to Change Ants' Water?

Once it is finished or looks contaminated (cloudy, change colour etc.). You must know that harvester ants get their supply of water from the seed bread. That's why they are keeping the seed for their bread in a nest's chamber with a higher moisture. Do not give them water feeders, they do not need them and will cover them with the substrate as the water feeder is considered as dangerous. Our water stations work just fine.

This species is not native to the UK. They live in warmer areas in Europe (Spain and Portugal) and North Africa (Marocco, Algeria and Tunisia). It is illegal to release this colony into the wild in the UK, if you can no longer care for your colony please contact us immediately.

Do's and Don'ts

Avoid direct sunlight on the setup.

The sun can heat the nest with up to 5 degrees Celsius for only 5 minutes so lots of toxins are being accumulated in the ants' bodies due to abrupt temperature changes. This can kill a worker ant for 1-3 days and a queen ant for 3-5 days if the sun does not boil the ants alive before that.

It is important to note that gel farms are not a suitable habitat for harvester ants, as they can quickly become mouldy and do not provide the necessary nutrition for the colony. To ensure the safety and well-being of these fascinating creatures, it is essential to provide them with a proper ant farm and diet.


After more than two decades in ant-keeping, I can admit that the most important part of successful ant-keeping is your patience and I mean it.

Enjoy the ant-keeping hobby!


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