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Types of Ants You Can Keep as Pets in the UK

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Ants are fascinating creatures that can make for unique and low-maintenance pets. In the UK, several species of ants are suitable for keeping as pets. Each species has its own characteristics and behaviours, providing ant enthusiasts with a variety of options. In this article, we will explore some of the most common types of ants that can be kept as pets in the UK, their characteristics, and how to care for them.

What Ants You Can Keep as Pets 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.

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.

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 own 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

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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.

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.

What are the most interesting ant species to look after and whether we recommend them or not?

The Best Ant Species to Keep in the UK 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.

Important questions every ant keeper should ask before diving into ant-keeping:

1. What are the most common species for a beginner ant keeper?

3. What are the most dangerous ant species?

4. What are the most difficult ant species to keep?

5. What are the fastest-growing ant species?

6. What are the most beautiful ant species?

7. What are the most expensive ant species?

Find all the answers in our article: My Living Ant World


Keeping ants as pets can be a rewarding and educational experience. In the UK, several species of ants are suitable for keeping in captivity. From the common black garden ant (Lasius niger) to the wood ant (Formica rufa), each species offers unique characteristics and behaviours that can captivate ant enthusiasts.

When keeping ants as pets, it is important to provide them with a suitable habitat, consider their dietary needs, and regularly monitor their well-being. By creating a conducive environment for ants to thrive, ant keepers can gain a deeper understanding of these fascinating insects and enjoy the wonders of their intricate societies.

So, whether you choose to keep Lasius niger ants scuttling through their tunnels or observe the impressive mounds of Formica rufa, keeping ants as pets in the UK can provide a glimpse into the fascinating world of these tiny but remarkable creatures.

An article we recommend you: 11 Mind-Blowing Facts about Live Queen Ants


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