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Technically, this category is for ants as pets. I feel some information on ants in general is fair enough under this heading - but I am going to do something very unusual for a pet review and add few a natural ways to eliminate them as well
Ants in general:
Ants belong to family formicadae, order Hymenoptera. There are over 11,000 different kinds of ants. All ant species have queens, drones and workers. Many have a fourth class, warriors. The stages of their life cycle are egg, larva, pupa and adult.
A single ant on its own isn't exactly the brightest of creatures. Separated from the colony, without access to her scent trail, an ant is truly lost. It can take them days to figure out a simple task, like climbing through a tube to reach food. But ants something called swarm intelligence. When in a group they are capable of for advanced problem solving techniques. They can build living boats, shelters and bridges by linking together. When linked like this, each ants knows exactly how much force he can use to clamp onto his neighbour without doing him any injury and lets go if the force is exceeded. As a group, they can act as single intelligent entity with a single goal - preservation of the colony. This is something scientists are trying to mimic in nanotechnology, and apparently they are getting close. personally- I am not so sure I like the idea.
Ants have been around a very long time. They developed sometime in the Cretaceous period, when dinosaurs still ruled the earth. A living fossil, martialis heureka, has existed unchanged from that period and was discovered 13 years ago in Brazil
Ants were the worlds first farmers, way before humans existed ant were deliberately growing fungi as a food source. Ants have even developed pesticides and antibiotics which treat their crops. In addition to growing fungus, many ant species keep aphids as livestock, milking them for a sweet substance produced by the aphids. They can construct traps to capture other insects as food. Some ants also enslave other ants. they can even have wars with other groups of ants behaving with great viciousness at these times. they rip the legs off other ants, stab and sting each other, even spray acid on their enemies. Sounds kind of like us - doesn't it?
Ants can be turned into a mindless zombie type creature that will seek out a site which has the ideal circumstances for the fungi which causes it's state. Zombie ants have convulsions. stagger, and when they reach an ideal place for the fungus to breed, they die and the fungus burst through their head.
The lifespan of the worker ant is very short, a few weeks to a few months. Queens however may live for years. Males live a short time and die after there first mating in a rather gruesome fashion. Their reproductive parts explode.
Some odd species:
Flesh eating ants. This one shouldn't be hard to figure out. they eat flesh or meat? What kind ? I don't think they care, bugs birds, small animals, they have even attacked and starting munching on weakened humans, but there have been no fatal attacks.
Siafu or Driver Ant or Army ant: this has eaten people the odd time. They don't really eat you alive though. They swarm over your face climbing into any orifice, and you suffocate as they fill your lungs.
Fire ant, along with the Siafu, this ant is the most likely to kill a human. Still roughly 30 people a year are killed by ants worldwide. On the other hand mosquitoes may kill as many as 3 million in the same time period.
The Bullet ant is meant to have the most painful sting of any animal leaving the victim with pain equivalent to a gun shot would for 24 hours. Remarkably I read some fellow searching the forums to buy these ( I don't think you can). he wanted to see if it really hurt. One can't help wonder how anyone so stupid manages to survive.
Weaver ants build really interesting nests of living leaves. Google a few pictures and have a look.
Camponotus saundersi have a built in biological bomb. If the nest is under threat they can literally blow themselves up spraying deadly acid on intruders as they do.
And the winner for weirdest ant is :Adetomyrma a very strange pale orange to white ant with no eyes. This ant stuns but does not kill it's prey. It brings it home to be eaten alive by the larvae, but then it drinks the blood of the larvae. This doesn't kill the larvae, but adult Adetomyrma or Dracula ants only consume the blood of their own kind.
Ants as Pets
Depending n how many ants you plant to keep, they can be kept in anything from a jar with a mesh lid or small ant farm to very fancy custom designed farms. We have three antospheres connected. Be wary of gel farms. These are not recommended by experienced ant keepers and most ants can not tunnel through them well. Many of the suppliers will refuse to sell to you if they know you have a gel farm.
We've had our ants a few weeks now, and while they are a fascinating species, I really regret getting a set of worker ants only. Without a queen they are busy for awhile, build tunnels and store food. After that they go in the tunnels and stay there most of the time, only coming out for the off bit of water or new food. I've researched extensively and understand a colony with a queen will be better organised and far more active + you may get to see the eggs and babies. You can keep a colony with a queen going indefinitely. A colony with only workers is destined to an early death.
We have common black ants (lasius niger) , but will probably choose Yellow ants (lasius flavus) next time. Both are native to Britain, which I feel is a far safer option in case any escape and both are harmless. They can not sting. I'm sure you've seen plenty of black garden ants, but yellow ants stay underground more and are less common. They can be yellow, orange or red.
There are all sorts of exotic ants available online, including some highly aggressive species with very powerful stings, but I can't really see wanting to bring anything like that into my home. The exotics can be much more expensive as well. Leaf cutting ants seem to be the most difficult to find and the most expensive with prices easily exceeding £100 for a queen, eggs and workers.
If you collect wild ants and want to release them later please take them to the exact spot you collected them. They won't survive away from the colony and can not find their way home unless they are on one of their colonies scent trail. Ants recognise others from their own colony through genetic markers in scent released.
Ants are an easy pet to keep, and quite educational, but probably not the most exciting for many children. Still it's an inexpensive pet to start out with, and if you don't want to commit to a long term project you can just order workers and put the farm away when done. My children are still very interested and I think this may become a long term hobby in our home.
Ants are easy to care for. We have pods with plants. Once watered, the water will condense on the top and fall down as rain over and over, always providing droplets for thirst ants. If you can not do this cotton wool soaked in sugar water will work. As for food - ants seem to eat most things. Ours do show a preference for Tayto Cheese and Onion crisps.
Never, ever release and foreign species into the environment. If you find you no loner want them, and can not find them a home the only option is to kill them.
Getting rid of ants
OK so you think ants are cool - as long as they are not in your kitchen - or perhaps you simply can not stand them. There are all sorts of chemicals to kill them off, but simple methods may work just as well. If spot a scout ant in your kitchen you are probably best off to just kill it. If he goes home and tells his mates you have food - you have a problem. Of course he finds his way back by laying a scent trail. Eliminate it. Use bleach or vinegar diluted with water on counters, cabinets and floors and most importantly splash a bit outside around the doors. You need to cover their scent, but also ants are meant to hate the smell of vinegar.
Try to find where the ants are coming in. If you can seal it, but if you can't a wipe of Vicks around the area may help. First it is gooey and sticky and will trap ants, second the strong smell confuses them. Citrus oil repels them as well. You can also use barrier of cinnamon, turmeric, curry or chili powder where they enter. This must be an unbroken line at least 1/4" thick.
Ants in the garden are meant to be put off by coffee grounds, which are also good for the garden, but I think you would need quite a lot.
Finally if all else fails - buy an aardvark.
Ants as food:
Many animals eat ants and so do some humans. Ant eggs are a delicacy in Thailand and chocolate covered ants have been all over the world as novelty. All the same - I'll pass. I unintentionally have eaten small sugar ants as a child and I still remember the taste - absolutely horrid.
I think ants are really fascinating creatures to watch. They're so busy and organised I wonder how they communicate. Now I don't mind watching them in an ant farm or perhaps in the garden. Where I don't want to be watching them is in my kitchen.
I was cooking dinner the other nice when an ant rang across my worktop in front of the hobs I was cooking of. I quickly disposed of it and mentioned to my partner how ants in my kitchen is my biggest fear. It sounds silly but I'm quite a squeamish girl. I don't like bugs on me or even near me. When I was younger I could hold them in my hands and not care but something happened, I don't know what but something did and now they make me squirm.
You can imagine my delight then as I strolled into my kitchen the following morning to open a cupboard and see about 10 ants- some of them right near my hand crawling out the cupboard. My first reaction was to let out a little squeal and jump backwards.
I then remembered I was the only adult living in this house and if I didn't want this problem to get worse I was going to have to deal with it. This isn't to say that during my investigation there was no more screaming, jumping or running. Oh believe me, there was. But I had to find the extent of my problem. There was about 5 cupboards the critters were running around. One of these cupboards contained a bag of sugar. I thought no ants had got in the sugar but on second inspection I found one. Was pretty annoyed as it was almost full but into the bin it went. Everything else had to wait until Tyler's nana took him.
I'm not a mean animal killing machine. But I wasn't just going to let these ants waltz on back home inviting all their buddies. I couldn't get to the store until the next day so in the meantime I waged war. I sprayed every ant I saw with all purpose lemon cleaner. This had 2 effects- the first being it killed them, the second is that ants don't like the smell of lemon so will avoid areas smelling as such (or so the internet told me). I then removed everything out of the ant cupboards.
I still don't know where the ants got in from there's several locations it could be and I swear I saw one crawl out of a hole with a screw in it. Because of this I couldn't draw chalk round a location or similar prevention methods.
I scrubbed the three cupboards the ants had raided with the lemon cleaner and did the same for all surfaces (a few little ants had made their way to my draining board, I didn't want any to go further). I continued the deep clean of my kitchen for the majority of the day and threw out any items the ants could have possibly got into (goodbye flours, icing sugars, open crackers, open biscuit packets etc).
The following day I went out and bought ant bait. The typical thing is that since my mass ant eradication they haven't come back. I found 3 in the morning, killed them and bam they are gone. I really REALLY hope they don't come back but I have the bait here incase they do and I'm not at all afraid to use it.
I'm afraid I cannot live in harmony with these ants and will be taking steps to ensure they don't return!
Golden heat shimmers in the air.
Side by side the Singers come.
Hear their words as
Summer's green blanket is spread before you.
Feast upon the Wisdom that they share!
"Together we achieve our dreams.
With teamwork all burdens are lightened
all cares are shared.
all possiblities become reality.
Nothing good comes easy!
Share the load of thy brother
and labor under the blessed Sun
for our lives are One.
yet never one alone.
Together we gather..
Together we roam and
Together we return to
to pay homage at the Mother's throne.
Fill your larder with
For these are the things that will feed your soul
when Winter comes and
only stars blanket the grassy knoll.
Great or small,
each has their place
at the banquet of life.
Share your burdens
and halve your strife!"
Who Sings Now?
"I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live." ~George Bernard Shaw
"While the spirit of neighborliness was important on the frontier because neighbors were so few, it is even more important now because our neighbors are so many. " ~Lady Bird Johnson
"We hope that, when the insects take over the world, they will remember with gratitude how we took them along on all our picnics." ~Bill Vaughan
I spent countless hours as a child following, observing and interacting with Ants. They are, without doubt, one of the most fascinating creatures one can observe just about anywhere. Their highly organized colonies are separated into ranks of Queens (ant colonies frequently have more than one queen), drones (fertile males) workers (sterile females), larvae and pupae.
Queen ants are winged and capable of flight until they have been fertilized in a mating flight. At that time, she removes her wings, like metaphorically rolling up her sleeves, and her real work begins. Birthing and ordering the colony will be her main concern for the rest of her life. This emphasizes the importance of self-sacrifice, not only as a Mother, but as a member of society at large.
"Everyone is kneaded out of the same dough but not baked in the same oven." ~Yiddish Proverb
"Once the game is over, the king and the pawn go back in the same box". ~Italian Proverb
"Before God we are all equally wise and equally foolish." ~Albert Einstein
There are different castes of workers, as so amusingly illustrated in the films Antz and The Ant Bully. "Soldiers" defend the colony from attack and invasion, reminding us that our homes are sacred space and need to be properly defended as well as tended. This care is exhibited even in the construction of the nest. The mound of an entrance to an ant colony protects the nest from being flooded by water during rains!
A new worker spends the first days of its adult life caring for the queen and young. After that it begins to dig and participate in other nest work, and finally graduates to foraging and defense of the nest. There are a lot of theories as to why these abrupt changes in a worker ant's life occur. A popular one at the moment is that as foraging has the highest mortality rate that ant's don't set out as foragers until they are already toward the end of their life. Other believe it is simply programmed into their being. Whatever the reason, it certainly seems to work for their society! Ant colonies can be incredibly long lived and ant queens have been known to live for 30 years!
Like Bees, Ants communicate a great deal through the use of pheromones. Foragers lay down a specific scent trail when they find food, which is how the other ants find their way to the food source so quickly. Antennae are used for touch, but also for communication through scent. A break in a scent trail can cause confusion in an ant, and they will begin "nosing" around for a familiar scent that will lead them in the right direction.
This reminds us that it is easy to loose our way, but with a little patience, effort, attention to our surroundings and perhaps a little help from family and friends, we can easily find ourselves back on a good path once more. Ants recognize others of the same colony by scent. They also have scents for danger, "propaganda" which causes enemy ants to become confused and fight among themselves, and many others that signal the needs of the colony.
"The only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation." ~Betrand Russell
"Willingness to compromise with others' ways of living and cooperation in common tasks, these make living happy and fruitful." ~Sri Sathya Sai Baba
"The service we render other is the rent we pay for our room on Earth." Wilfred Grenfell
A most important Ant lesson that often gets overlooked is that of size. Ants are one of the smallest most humble creatures, yet they can lift 20 times their own weight and build complexes of staggering size and complexity. As of 2002, the largest ant colony covered a territory of about 5,760 kilometers with several Billion ants! No matter the size of the task before them, an Ant never gives it a second though, but steps right up and tries. If after a couple of attempts, the ant finds the task is beyond their abilities, they either a.) go for help or b.) break it down into portions that they can handle.Ant people are often much stronger and more capable than they appear...even to themselves!
The Ant Nation reminds us that when we meet with a situation too large or complex for us to handle alone, we would be wise to ask for help or break it down into smaller more manageable portions. Also, We have the ability to carry within us more than we, as individuals, need. Our best progress, as a society, is made when the majority of people realize this and begin to share what they have freely with those around them. Skilled forager ants teach their tricks to those less knowledgeable, we should do no less. Time, knowledge, resources, or simply ourselves, all are valuable and it is only by giving to society that we will achieve a harmonious and healthy society able to support individuals in the best possible way.
I still find it fascinating to watch a line of ants. They will pass along chunks of food, ant eggs, young, or building materials working together to ensure that what the colony needs to prosper...it has! An anthill is never built by a single ant, any more than one will witness only one ant at a picnic! If human society would learn and accept this vital lesson of Co-operation from Nature's architects, we might be truly amazed at what we could achieve! Ants reminds us that hard work alone will only get you so far. Together, in harmonious co-operation, we could achieve limitless dreams and build the most glorious future ever imagined. In an Ant colony there is no "higher" or "lower", everyone has their place and is valuable, nor does the size of the person sum up their capabilities and worth.
"Don't be afraid to give your best to what seemingly are small jobs. Every time you conquer one it makes you that much stronger. If you do the little jobs well, the big ones will tend to take care of themselves." ~Dale Carnegie
I was recently watching the film The Ant Bully with one of my girls. This is a wonderful example of Ant lessons and I highly recommend this beautifully animated film. Hard work is vital to a good life, not an obstacle to it. Not only is it important for individuals to give freely to their society, but it is just as important to give to self, and to be willing to ask for and receive the necessary aide and support from your society.
Whether you are an inch tall or a towering ten feet really makes no difference to your worth in society. The true measure of your value will be in the actions that you take. Lucas, the main character of The Ant Bully, is being targeted regularly by the local bully. "What are you gonna do about, huh?" the bully taunts, "Nothing, 'cause I'm big and you're small!"
Immediately, our dubious hero turns, yet again, from his latest altercation to taking out his anger, frustration, and humiliation on the innocent ant hill in his yard. This has become a regular occurrence and the ants, who know Lucas only by his actions and the nickname his mother uses, have dubbed him "Peanut the Destroyer." While an amusing moniker, it does have ominous undertones and serves to remind us that our destructive actions are not relative to our size and will affect those around us in ways we cannot foresee.
"We have no more right to consume happiness without producing it than to consume wealth without producing it." ~ George Bernard Shaw
"If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking." ~ Buddhist saying
Personally, I couldn't help the involuntary startle this scene gave me as I watched the boy turn the power of water against the unsuspecting colony. While understandable and, regretfully, none too rare, such behavior is the beginning of a sociopath's lifestyle. Cruelty to animals is an early warning sign that an individual is not understanding or respecting crucial societal behavior in an acceptable way. For more information on sociopathy I Most Highly recommend the book, The Sociopath Next Door by Dr. Martha Stout. Dr. Stout realigns our sensational view of what defines a true sociopath and warns us that the best definition is simply a person without a conscience who is incapable of feeling guilt or remorse. According to this work, one out of every four people in the U.S. is a sociopath.
She further explains that these numbers are dramatically less in countries whose culture promotes the welfare of the society over the desires of an individual. The United States is notorious for its self-centered rabidly individualistic views, and this promotes sociopathic behavior! While an extreme example, behaving, as a sociopath, in utterly remorseless selfishness is a prime example of unbalanced Ant energy. A far more common example, being a "workaholic" is a sure sign that you are out of harmony with y our inner Ant. "Idle hands are the Devil's playthings." is true enough as a proverb, but it is just as potentially destructive to focus on work to exclusion of all else.
What are we working so diligently for, if we aren't taking the time to appreciate and enjoy the good things in life? So, Ant may make an appearance in our lives carrying any number of important messages. "Think of others." "Put in that extra effort." "Get to work.", or simply "Enjoy the fruits of your labor!" are all potential Ant messages.
"A days work is a day's work, neither more nor less, and the man who does it needs a day's sustenance, a night's repose, and due leisure, whether he be painter or ploughman." ~George Bernard Shaw
"Heaven is blessed with perfect rest but the blessing of earth is toil." ~Henry van Dyke
"I have no more than twenty acres of ground," he replied, "the whole of which I cultivate myself with the help of my children; and our labor keeps off from us the three great evils - boredom, vice, and want." ~Voltaire
It is a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual necessity to work. Without a proper occupation to devote ourselves to, we would rot away in idleness and apathy. Labor keeps the body fit, the mind sharp, emotions in balance, and the spirit in harmony. A truly good work ethic finds a proper balance between work and play, diligence and rest. Finding satisfying employment is important, but it is also important that we have regular physical exercise.
Gardening and walking are excellent activities that will get you out where you can also observe Nature and the World around you. Swimming and swinging on swings are my personal favorites when it comes to physical activity. Swimming gives you a total work out without causing undue stress and you will use muscles you never knew that you had simply by swinging on a swing. Swings are a good reminder of both retaining youthfulness and the healthiness of looking at life from a variety of perspectives too!
"There's no labor a man can do that's undignified, if he does it right." ~ Bill Cosby
"How can a society that exists on instant mashed potatoes, packaged cake mixes, frozen dinners, and instant cameras teach patience to its young?" ~Paul Sweeney
"Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish." ~John Quincy Adams
If I were to list life's non-physical necessities in a priority list, first would come Awareness, as all things must begin there. Second, Balance is vital and perhaps even more difficult to maintain! Extremes are dangerous and should be avoided in all things. Even a good thing can become poisonous if we take it to an extreme. Thirdly, and no less vital, is Patience. Another fine Ant virtue, you never see an ant throw up its antennae in disgust and walk away from a tedious or difficult task. Having spent an afternoon or three watching ants, I've often wondered how the passage of time appears to them. To me it may have taken that single ant an hour to work his piece of found treasure back to his colony even though it was less than ten feet away, but time and distance seemed to have been no obstacle to the ant as he persistantly toiled with his prize.
If disaster strikes a colony, all ants pour forth in an effort to save and protect that which they hold most dear...each other. With unruffled Ant diligence and patience, the colony will be cleared, repaired, and rebuilt in short order. We meet with many kinds of destruction and distraction throughout our lives. It is easy to loose patience, most especially with ourselves, and fall away from living our lives in a good way. Ant reminds us not to fret or fight the adversities of Life. Respond with patience and diligence in all things and Harmony will flow into your life as freely as life-giving rain.
Perhaps it is because the Ant so often makes his home within the calm and nurturing environment of Earth that he so easily remains grounded and centered? With all six legs firmly on the ground and antennae receiving higher spiritual orders, the humble ant moves through life steadily and with great patience. Balanced ants are hard workers, loyal personalities who are community oriented. Such people often have an amazingly large supportive network made up of friends and family. Woe betide anyone who stirs up their nest as their personal Calvary is likely to pour forth out of cracks you didn't even see!
Ant says that the key to success is not individualism or community mind. Instead, a balanced Ant person strives diligently to love and care for themselves and the world around them in equal measures. Co-operation, equality, and hard work in their proper proportions as a society would make every day a picnic in a Garden of Delights! How do Ants appear in your life?
Earth teach me quiet ~ as the grasses are still with new light.
Earth teach me suffering ~ as old stones suffer with memory.
Earth teach me humility ~ as blossoms are humble with beginning.
Earth teach me caring ~ as mothers nurture their young.
Earth teach me courage ~ as the tree that stands alone.
Earth teach me limitation ~ as the ant that crawls on the ground.
Earth teach me freedom ~ as the eagle that soars in the sky.
Earth teach me acceptance ~ as the leaves that die each fall.
Earth teach me renewal ~ as the seed that rises in the spring.
Earth teach me to forget myself ~ as melted snow forgets its life.
Earth teach me to remember kindness ~ as dry fields weep with rain.
An Ute Prayer
"Many hands make light work." ~ John Heywood
"Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable." ~Kenyan proverb
Ants form colonies that range in size from a few dozen predatory individuals living in small natural cavities to highly organised colonies which may occupy large territories and consist of millions of individuals.