New to antkeeping?
Welcome to the world of Ant-Keeping. Before we get started on the basics of what you need to have to keep ants we must first warn you. Ant-Keeping is an addictive hobby and you will never end with just 1 species.
Step by step lets get you started!
Choose your Species
Based on your skill level and preference you need to select a species that interests you if you want to start. You can do this by visiting and browsing through our site and finding your perfect queen.
Depending on your skill level and how much experience you have you first need to decide a species you like. If you have never kept ants before we would recommend a UK Native species, these ants do not require and additional heat and are easy to hibernate. Being exotic (imported species) is not always better, many keepers will tell you how their Lasius Nigers (Black Garden Ants) are their favorite species.
Consider the type of ant you want to keep;
The Type of Species -
Carpenters (Camponotus) like to nest in wood and depending on the species this could be dead, moist or rotten logs. Most Carpenters are scavengers and slow growing with exception to a few like Camponotus Nicobarensis. In all cases Carpenters are polymorphic which means they have different size workers for different roles from small quick minors to large majors which have powerful bites.
Wood Ants (Formica) can nest under stones but are most famous for the large high mounds they make using twigs and forest floor debris. Formica species are fast, agile and great to watch. They range hugely from small Fusca colonies of a few thousand workers to Rufa colonies which span over thousands of mounds and tens of millions of ants. Formica also spray formic acid, ventilation to your nest is needed.
- Harvesters are some of the most interesting ants, they harvest grains and seeds to chew into ant-bread which can provide up to 90% of a colonies diet. They are polymorphic and suitable for beginners (if you are not afraid of providing a little heat) They are a real delight to own.
These ants pack a punch, a single sting is like a stinging nettle, but these ants can sting up to 5 times a second... definitely a species for the thrill seekers. Popular species include Manica Rubida, Myrmica Rubra and the tiny Solenopsis Fugax "Thief Ant"
These we recommend for advanced keepers because they are hard to come by and if things go wrong they are difficult to replace.
We also offer a selection of other species which we have not categorised with main categories, like pavement ants (Tetramorium), check them out.
Also consider the price you are happy to pay.
Whichever species you decide on we have you covered at Ant Antics, we can provide Queens from around the world, from garden ants to meadow ants, harvester ants to carpenter ants.... we always have a great selection.
But once you have found your perfect queen the fun begins. You should now research your species and learn about them before they arrive.
Factors to study are:
- Skill Level - Beginner, Intermediate or Advanced
The Size of the species - Big ants use more space and take longer to grow, how important is the size of ant to you?
The Cost of the Species - What is your budget?
Colony Size - Some species grow to a few hundred, others a few thousand and some a few million. Consider this in your choices, an easy to manage colony will grow (in our opinion) anywhere between 2,000 and 10,000 workers.
Special Care Requirements - Read through the ants product page and check you can provide the care they need before purchase.
Need help? Drop us a message on our help page or on Instagram / Facebook
Also check out the friendly community at Ant Keepers Wales
Pick a nest
Until your colony reaches around 30 workers a nest really is not required for your pets. Test tubes are fantastic for imitating the moist dark and small queens chamber that she would have dug herself. So if you are buying a lasius niger queen then you have around 3 months to worry about a nest. Even longer with larger, slower growing species who may not need one until after their first hibernation.
When you are reading your species description you will see us referring to different kinds of nests suitable for the species, this gives you a basic guide of what we are referring too.
There are nests on the market for founding queens which make it easier to feed them, however these are only an expense you need to pay if you want too.
Nesting can be cheap, it can be expensive. It depends purely on what you like and what you are happy to pay, Below are some nest examples,
Low Cost DIY Option
This option is for people new to the hobby or on a budget. Nice and east you can place test tubes into a tub, your ants can spread out over the tubes and with escape prevention they will not escape. Clean, Cheap, Simple.
Test tubes are cheap too, see our store to buy some
Efficient but usually lack quality
The low cost of 3d printers has seen a rise in start-up companies printing nests and selling them to the public.
These nests can be made to suit species requirements and can be extremely efficient.
They are expensive to print and usually seem overpriced.
Not all are good quality, some sellers use low print quality to speed up the process and it shows. Zoom in on the product picture to see if you are happy with the finish.
They do not handle prolonged humidity very well, The plastic can become brittle over time and nests with plaster inside are a hotbed for mold.
Natural and optimal setup
Having your own eco friendly and self managing terrarium is no easy task. It takes planning, study and knowledge to get it right but it is by far the best method of housing ants.
By using a drainage layer, charcoal to filter water, soil/sand filled with loam, moss, coconut husk and even plants you can make a custom environment for your species. You can even add springtails to eat the waste and keep it clean.
The downside to providing a natural setup is that you may never see the queen again, just surface activity.
Efficient and affordable
Acrylic is one of our most praised designs and is widely popular in the community. With quality laser printers a prevision nest can be made quickly and affordably.
These nests are custom with hydration zones and acrylic is a strong durable material that will last well. They look great too.
Make sure your nest has a cover, they can be very bright.
Acrylic can warp so leave it on a flat surface if heating.
Allows for natural behaviour
Sandwich nests are fantastic for people who wish to view their ants and still allow for some natural behaviours.
Most species love to dig and this nest will never be too big as they dig the size chambers they require themselves.
NOTE: Always cover the nest when not viewing, Red Acetate is a great option and buy your sand from an antstore to ensure it is a sand clay mix and avoid tunnel collapse.
You can even find sandwich nests and outworlds ALL-IN-ONE too.
Great for maintaining humidit
Ytong is a building material which with the help of CNC machines can be precision cut into fantastic ant nests. They are great at retaining both heat and humidity which makes them very forgiving places to raise colonies.
Brittle, dont drop them.
Hard to clean
Some species can chew through the ytong
There are plenty more types too like cork and plaster which are suited to particular species, but whichever you decide to buy you will need an outworld, a space where your ants can patrol, forrage and collect food and water.
These are great because you can readily expand if needed. They can be sited away from the nest and connected by tube too.
AIO's are efficient, great designs and neat for showing your species. They do however have a limitation, it is hard to expand when your ants outgrow the setup.
Great for Beginners
Homes to Avoid
As well as to tell you what is good, it is only fitting we tell you what is not, 2 such examples are the ever popular nests below.
These nests are designed for people who do not wish to have a Queen ant. They are for worker ants who are stolen from their colonies and placed into the nest. The sad this here is a colony is a single unit, all working together and if you remove a worker from their queen they will go crazy as the loose her pheromone, they will dig and try to find her, they spend 3 to 6 months (if you are lucky) doing this then they will die.
GEL NESTS: For Gel nests the marketing will tell you they are super, the gel is even food. This is not true, it is a moist environment which is too light, mold outbreaks happen quickly, brood dies and the stress the colony undergoes is terrible. Please avoid their use and if you have already purchased one then you can remove the gel and use a suitable sand-loam or earth to make it useable.
Relax & Repeat
Now you have got to grips with the basics its time to enjoy your species and watch them grow.
Its also time to get back on Ant Antics and start planning your next colony.