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Top 10 Types of Ants for Ant Keepers Ever - Best Ants UK


messor barbarus harvester ants care
Messor barbarus ants eat protein jelly

Antkeeping, also known as myrmecology, is a fascinating hobby that involves observing and caring for ant colonies. To get started, it's essential to research and choose the right ant species based on their unique characteristics, behaviours, and your level of experience. Before diving deep, you must gain the knowledge and ability to. Some popular choices for beginners 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. If you succeed for a year or so in keeping any of these species, you can move on to more advanced ants.


Our list of the most rewarding Top 10 Types of Ants for Ant Keepers.


1. Green Asian Weaver Ant - Oecophylla smaragdina

The Asian Weaver Ant, scientifically known as Oecophylla smaragdina, is a fascinating species native to tropical regions of Asia, from southern Asia through southeastern Asia to northern Australia including countries such as China, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. These ants are known for their unique nest-building behaviour, where workers construct nests by weaving together leaves using larval silk, and that is the reason put them in the very top, first position. The colony structure of Oecophylla smaragdina is monogynous but in nature, lots of colonies have multiple queens living in a perfect symbiosis. Workers of this species come in three sizes: minors (5-8 mm long), media (8-10 mm), and majors (10-15 mm). They are mostly coloured orange but can vary between reddish to yellowish brown. The life cycle of Oecophylla smaragdina consists of four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Egg to adult ant is around 5-6 weeks. Weaver ants are known for their aggressive and defensive behaviour, spraying formic acid when threatened. They prefer a diet of sugars and proteins, with suitable food including insects. Colonies of Oecophylla smaragdina can be purchased from reputable sources such as Best Ants UK. Proper care for these ants includes:

  • Gradual introduction into larger formicaria, starting with small chambers

  • Temperature: 21-35°C (arena), 24-28°C (nest)

  • Humidity: 50-70% (arena), 60-80% (nest)

  • A varied diet including organic honey and insects, syrups, fruits and Protein jelly.


2. Polyrhachis Dives Weaver Ants

Polyrhachis dives weaver ants care

We also recommend the fascinating Polyrhachis dives, a species of exotic ants, similar to Oecophylla smaragdina, P. Dives is a weaver ant gaining popularity among ant keepers. Polyrhachis dives also known as Exotic Spiny Ants belong to the diverse Polyrhachis genus, known for their incredible silk-spinning abilities used in nest construction.

The reason we gave them the second place is that this species is also weaver ants and they are suitable for beginner antkeepers with little experience. They are calm in manner and easy to control, making them an ideal choice for those just starting their journey with exotic ants. They exhibit rapid development, especially once the colony has around 30-40 workers. Being native to tropical climates, these ants remain active year-round, eliminating the need for hibernation. And now the best part is you can start with multi-queen colonies as they are polygenous. Super fast and aggressive ants. Give them a bunch of wingless fruit flies and enjoy the show. You have no clue how accurate they are while spraying the formic acid out of their abdomen.


3. Trap Jaw Ants Odontomachus monticola

Odontomachus monticola, commonly known as Trap Jaw Ants, is a fascinating species native to South and Southeast Asia. These ants are characterized by their powerful mandibles, which they use to capture prey and defend their colonies. With a moderate keeping difficulty, Trap Jaw Ants can make an exciting addition to any ant enthusiast's collection. We gave them third place due to research we did among young antkeepers, it turns out the trap jaws are their dream ants, super active and equipped with powerful jaws and venomous stings. It's a tremendous pleasure to put a twig in front of their jaws and watch them fling 2 inches back once their mandibles snap.

Key characteristics of Trap Jaw Ants:

  • Monogyne colony form

  • Queen size: 13mm, brown/black

  • Worker size: 10-13mm, brown/black

  • Diet: Honey and insects

  • Temperature: 24-28°C

  • Humidity: 60-80%

  • Founding: Semi-claustral (with feeding, once a week)

  • Colony size: Up to 200 workers

  • No hibernation required

For optimum growth and development in captivity, they require high humidity (60-80%) and temperatures between 24-28°C. Keeping them in natural setups with coconut peat and sand loam as a substrate is recommended.

Providing a diverse food selection is pivotal for the health of Trap Jaw Ants. In their natural habitat, they consume sweet substances and largely rely on protein-rich feeds such as live insects like crickets or roaches. Chop in half any live insects (crickets, locusts, mealworms etc.) you give to small colonies, with up to 30-40 workers.



4. Leafcutter Ants Atta Cephalotes

Leafcutter ants care

Leafcutter ants, which are part of the Atta, Acromyrmex, and Trachymyrmex genera, exhibit an unusual behaviour of snipping off leaves and carrying them back to their colonies to grow fungus. These ants flourish in conditions where the temperature is around 23-26°C and need a particular environment for their best growth and development. For the fungus nurtured by leafcutters, the favourable temperature is 25°C.

A proper leafcutter ant setup includes:

  1. The foundation should be constructed from absorbent substances such as Plaster of Paris.

  2. A larger habitat, known as an outworld, should be established when the colony's size exceeds the initial nest.

  3. Their diet should be diverse, including fresh foliage (like blackberry, elder, Ricinus communis, and both wild and domestic roses), tree resin, organic honey, and fruits such as bananas, apples or grapes. Be cautious with the leaves you provide, ensuring they're free from chemical treatments. The safest option would be to opt for wild flora.

  4. Maintain a high humidity level of approximately 90-99%, alongside limited ventilation, to aid in the fungus growth.


It's advisable to familiarise yourself with regular ants and Acromyrmex before you delve into maintaining Atta species (Atta Cephalotes, Atta Mexicana etc.) when exploring the world of leafcutter ants. For novices or those constrained by space, Acromyrmex octospinosus is a sensible starting point because it's easier to handle. On the other hand, Atta cephalotes and Atta mexicana pose more of a challenge as they can generate millions of worker ants and necessitate ample space and expertise. Procuring colonies from trustworthy providers guarantees continuous guidance and help in establishing a viable environment.



5. Harpegnathos Venator Primitive Jumping Ant

Harpegnathos Venator, also known as Jumping Ants, are a fascinating genus of ants found in Asia. These primitive ants belong to the Ponerinae subfamily and exhibit unique characteristics that set them apart from other ant species. With their curved mandibles, prominent eyes, elongated thorax, and a painful sting, Harpegnathos Venator is a sight to behold and they deserve the fairly fifth place.

One of the most striking features of Jumping Ants is their ability to leap high and far, with jumps reaching up to 2 cm in height and 10 cm in distance. They employ three types of jumps: escape jumps, hunting jumps, and group jumps. Give them wingless flies and watch the action show.

Before jumping, they engage in a behaviour called vibrating gaster, assessing the load distribution across their legs.

The secret behind their remarkable jumping prowess lies in their powerful legs. Their legs are specially adapted for jumping, with elongated femurs and tibias that provide the necessary leverage and strength. Additionally, Harpegnathos venator possess adhesive pads on their feet, enabling them to grip onto surfaces and generate the force required for their impressive jumps.

Harpegnathos Venator queens and workers can reproduce sexually, but only Queens can disperse and establish new colonies. The life cycle from egg to adult takes around 3 months days at 25°C, with adult workers living up to 1 year, gamergates 1-2 years, and Queens 3-5 years.

Maintaining the optimum temperature and humidity levels within the ant enclosure is also crucial. Harpegnathos venator thrives in temperatures ranging from 24-28 degrees Celsius and requires an air humidity level of around 60%-80% in the nest and 21-30 degrees Celsius along with 60%-70% air humidity in the outworld. Regular monitoring and adjustments are necessary to ensure optimal conditions for their well-being. We've kept them in higher nest temperatures during the day hours, around 30°C and achieved fasted brood development, egg to worker in 78 days.


6. Carebara Diversa Marauder Ants

carebara diversa marauder ants care

Carebara diversa, are a fascinating species native to Southeast Asia. The reason these incredible creatures found a place in our Top 10 is they are called: the "Queens of the Ant World". Fascinating species that captivates the imagination of entomologists and nature enthusiasts alike. Not suitable for beginners due to their higher requirements to climate.

Carebara Diversa's scientific name is Pheidologeton diversus.

They have a really painful bite but do not sting. I did test that with a relatively small major, about 12mm one, and ended up with a cut and blood dripping off my finger so do not try this yourself!

Do not get fooled by most ant resellers who sell you the Carebara Affinis instead of Carebara Diversa. The queen's size difference is obvious and can be used as a distinguishing factor as Carebara Diversa queens are around 2.5 cm in size, while the Carebara Affinis are smaller, around 1.7 cm.

Egg to worker takes about 26-30 days keeping those ants at 30°C daily temperature. For the majors, it takes more time, around 45-60 days, depending on the major size, the bigger the major ant the longer. The queen will lay hundreds of eggs daily.

As the queen lays eggs, the workers are responsible for caring for the brood. They feed and protect the growing larvae, ensuring their healthy development. As the colony grows, it becomes a thriving community, with specialized roles and a highly organized social structure.

In captivity, Carebara Diversa colony prefers temperatures between 24(overnight) to 30°C(daily) and humidity levels of 80-90%


7. Dracula Ant Mystrium camillae

The Dracula Ant, scientifically known as Mystrium camillae, is a fascinating monogynous ant species with a single queen per colony. These incredible ants are renowned for their lightning-fast speeds and their intriguing feeding behaviour of consuming the hemolymph, also known as 'blood', of their own larvae, which made us put them in the seventh place on our list. These ants have an orange-brown colouration and can have up to 500 workers, with the queen ranging in size from 8-10 mm and workers from 3-6 mm. To keep Dracula Ants thriving, maintain the following conditions:

With their adaptability to hot and humid climates, Dracula ants construct nests both in trees and underground, often utilizing dead or decaying wood. These nesting sites provide the dark and humid conditions that they prefer.

Their nests maintain a humidity level of 60-80% and a temperature range of 24-28 °C and in the outworld - a humidity level of 60-80% and a temperature range of 21 °C (overnight) to 30 °C (daily), as these conditions are vital for the ants' well-being and the growth of their larvae. These conditions are crucial for the ants' survival and the growth of their colonies. The correct habitat conditions are similar to the most exotic species, the same as those for Harpegnathos Venator and Trap-jaw ants.

Dracula ants exhibit the swiftest animal movement on record, as their mandibles close with remarkable speed, reaching velocities of up to 90 meters per second (equivalent to over 200 mph). This rapid motion is made possible through a unique mechanism, wherein the ants bring the tips of their mandibles into contact, generating internal tension. Upon release, this tension launches the mandibles with extraordinary force and velocity.


Read more about Mystrium camillae in our scientific article: Dracula Ants: The Fastest Animal on Earth


8. Camponotus singularis

Camponotus singularis care

Camponotus singularis is a fascinating monogynous ant species with a single queen per colony, capable of raising a few hundred workers. We put them in number eight because of their lovely appearance and impressive size. These ants are easily recognizable by their striking appearance:

  • Queens measure an impressive 18-20 mm, while workers range from 9-13 mm and majors can reach 14-19 mm, almost the size of a queen.

  • This ant species boasts a unique bicoloured appearance with a redhead and black/grey body that is simply mesmerizing.

To ensure the well-being and productivity of a Camponotus singularis colony, it is crucial to provide the right environment.

Climate requirements:

Humidity: outworld: 60 - 70%; nest: 60 - 70%.

Temperature: outworld: 23 - 32°C; nest: 24- 28°C.

Recommended food: Organic honey and insects (fruit flies, locusts etc.)

Camponotus singularis does not hibernate, making them active all year round.


9. Big-Headed Ants Pheidole Noda

The Pheidole Noda (aka Big Headed Ants) is a fascinating species of ant from Asia that is sure to turn heads with its unique appearance. Known for their powerful mandibles and massive heads, these soldiers play a vital role in guarding the nest and protecting their colony.

They are specialists in escaping so you will need good escape prevention such as our PTFE Fluon. Feed them organic honey, insects (small fruit flies, houseflies and small crickets) and occasionally sesame, chia or millet seeds. We have upgraded our Protein Jelly formula so it's the perfect substitution for live food. These ants do not need a hibernation. The queen ant is claustral. 

Suitable for beginners with experience of at least one year as these ant species show higher requirements for climate.

In captivity, Pheidole Noda colonies can have up to 5,000 worker ants and survive for 8-10 years. To ensure their well-being, it is crucial to maintain the following conditions:

Air humidity:   Arena: 50 - 60%; Nestpart: 60 - 70%;

Temperature: Arena: 21 - 30°C;  Nestpart: 25 - 28°C - you will need a heating mat here in the UK!


Suitable housing options:

Feeding Pheidole Noda ants requires providing a balanced diet of sugars, carbohydrates, proteins, and seeds:

  • Sugars and carbohydrates: organic honey, fruits, and jellies.

  • Proteins: small insects such as fruit flies, baby crickets, and mealworms.

  • Chia seeds: offer with caution, as they might germinate in higher temperature and humidity conditions.

Feed the ants twice a week, and discard any remaining food after 2-3 days. Due to their size and aggressive nature, Pheidole Noda ants are not suitable for novice enthusiasts and require a dedicated and responsible approach to ant-keeping.


Do you want to know everything about Nodas? Read this article: Your Ultimate Guide to Pheidole Noda: The Famous Big-Headed Ants


10. Carpenter Ants Camponotus Nicobarensis

Carpenter ants camponotus nicobarensis care

Camponotus Ants are fascinating species that will captivate both beginners and enthusiasts. Nicos are renowned for their rapid growth, making them a popular choice among ant keepers. Found nesting in rotten wood trunks, these ants are known as carpenter ants. Camponotus Nicobarensis is a specific species of Carpenter Ants, which is a popular choice among ant enthusiasts due to its unique characteristics. One of our favourite carpenter ants due to a few basic factors, which put them on the tenth place:

  1. Very easy to look after so suitable for beginners.

  2. Exotic ant species so no hustle with the hibernation.

  3. Fast-growing ants (once they reach around 30 workers).

  4. Could be Monogyne, with a single queen per colony, or Polygyne, with multiple queens depending on their origin.

  5. Very active and aggressive all the time.

The queens, ranging from 15 to 16mm in size, have a robust thorax and can live up to an astonishing 25 years. The workers display polymorphism, with sizes ranging from 6 to 12mm. They share the same reddish-brown colour as the queen. You will be amazed by the major's muscular jaws.

Maintaining humidity levels of 50-60% in the outworld and 60-70% in the nest area ensures optimal conditions for these ants. Temperature-wise, keep the outworld between 21°C to 35°C and the nest area between 24°C to 28°C.



Conclusion

In summary, antkeeping is a fascinating hobby that allows enthusiasts to observe and care for a variety of ant species, each with their unique characteristics, behaviours, and colony structures. From the skilled weavers like Oecophylla smaragdina to the fierce hunters such as Harpegnathos Venator and the fungus-cultivating, leafcutters Atta Cephalotes, the world of ants is diverse and captivating. By providing the proper environment, diet, and care, antkeepers can create thriving colonies and witness the incredible social dynamics of these tiny creatures.

Whether you're a beginner or an experienced antkeeper, there's always something new to discover and appreciate in the realm of myrmecology. If you're interested in starting your own ant colony or expanding your collection, consider buying live ants and ant farms from reputable sources to ensure the health and well-being of these fascinating insects. It is always better to throw a few pennies more than waste your time and end up with not fertile queen ant.

We advise you to buy a Queen Ant or colony from a reputable Ant Seller in your country. Remember to always comply with local laws and regulations regarding ant keeping to avoid legal issues, as some species may require permits for ownership. We believe you enjoyed our Top 10 Types of Ants for Ant Keepers article.


An article you will be thrilled to read: 11 Mind-Blowing Facts about Live Queen Ants


FAQs

Q: Which ant species are recommended for beginners in the UK?

A: For those starting with antkeeping in the UK, Lasius Niger, Lasius Flavus, Myrmica Rubra, and Messor Barbarus are excellent choices. These ant species are known for their interesting behaviours, ease of care, and adaptability to captivity. Keeping them is a breeze!

Q: What types of ants are ideal for creating ant farms?

A: Harvester ants and carpenter ants are the most commonly used species in ant farms. These ants are easier to observe in the farm environment and are well-suited for the typical ant farm setup, which has evolved significantly since its inception in the 1950s.

Q: Which ant species is considered the most dominant?

A: The Argentine ant (Linepithema humile) is regarded as the most dominant ant species. Known for being an invasive species, Argentine ants have successfully adapted to a variety of environments, both urban and rural.

Q: Can you tell me about the golden ants found in the UK?

A: The golden ants in the UK are the yellow meadow ants, Lasius Flavus. These ants are recognized for constructing anthills in grasslands and downlands, as well as in gardens where the grass is left untrimmed. Their nests feature a soil dome that extends above ground, which can be up to a meter deep, to maintain a stable internal temperature and humidity.

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