Ant Jar

Watching the behavior of an ant colony can be fascinating. And you can make your own ant home to see how they build an intricate maze of tunnels and rooms in the soil and how they busily go about collecting food. It is amazing to see the large pieces of food that a single ant can carry. Did you know that there are queen ants (there are no king ants), soldier ants, worker ants, and that the female ants do all the work? There are many things you can learn about ants by observing them in an ant jar.

You will need: 2 clear glass jars (one slightly smaller than the other), loose or sandy soil, sugar, and water.

Put the smaller jar, without its lid, upside down into the center of the larger jar; and completely fill the space between the two jars with loose or sandy soil. Don’t pack the soil too tightly, or the ants will have a hard time digging.

To locate some ants, look in your backyard or in the park. Next, make an ant trap by mixing a little sugar and water in a small jar or can and then laying it down on its side near an anthill. Cap the jar or cover with a piece of plastic when you have about twenty ants inside. It is very important that all ants come from the same colony, or they will probably fight and kill each other. When you remove the lid to feed the ants, plenty of fresh air will enter for them to breathe.

Don’t crowd too many ants into the jar—the fewer ants you have, the more activity there will be. In a day or two the ants will begin to build tunnels and rooms. Once a week feed the ants a few drops of sugar water, and maybe a few grains of bird or grass seed. Put the food directly on the soil. Don’t overfeed the ants or they might die. Keep the ant jar at normal room temperature and away from radiators, air conditioners, or direct sunlight. If you don’t disturb the ant jar, the ants will build a complete underground ant city.

[illustration] Illustrated by Kurt Knudsen

[illustrations] Illustrated by Pat Hoggan