Archive for the ‘BackStory’ Category


Moving Day

February 13, 2010

After their 15 (more like 20) minutes in the fridge, I was ready to transfer the lady ants into their new home.

Most of them were quite lethargic from the cold, but one was raring to go and I barely got the tube over the habitat in time.  It was actually quite difficult to pull open the cap to the tube and I think I warmed them up a bit with my hands.

Here’s the first shot of the ant farm with ants.  They’re all in kind of a pile in the middle.

Welcome Home, Ants

The water droplets are there because one of the preliminary steps to setting up the ant farm is watering down the “tunneling sand” (I’m pretty sure the tunneling sand is actually just broken down perlite).  The ants are pretty dazed and confused.

For the first hour or so, most of the ants tried to find a way out of the habitat.  They can climb the farm structures pretty well, but have some trouble on the clear plastic sides.  They fell a lot.  One or two did make it to the top before falling though, so I will be wary of always replacing the caps at the top very carefully.

Aside from looking for escape, they went right for the water droplets.  Some spent what seemed to me to be alarming amounts of time with their heads stuck right into the droplets.  I was starting to think that perhaps they preferred suicide to a life of confinement, but what I am coming to realize is that ants are strange creatures, and I can’t judge their behavior by mammalian standards.

I suppose with ant life must invariably come ant death.  The AWM (Ant Watcher’s Manual) points out that they ship more than enough ants, so if one or two die in transit, or of old age, there will still be enough.  Apparently each individual ant will be busier if there are less ants overall to do the work.  There was one clearly dead ant in the tube and a couple more that seemed unwell compared to the others (not moving, or barely moving).  The only way to tell for sure, though, is when they are curled up completely into a ball.  My limited ant watching experience seems to be that the living ants actually curl the dead ants into ball shapes.  This particular behavior is not discussed in the AWM.


Ants Arrive!

February 13, 2010

I got home from work today and found this on my doorstep – finally! The ants have arrived!

Ant Farm "Club Kit"

It does kind of look like the postal carrier hurled the package onto the doorstep (our door is up one flight of stairs).  Yes, they send this via first class mail.  No second day air for these little guys – err, girls, actually.  I’ve learned from the “Ant Watcher’s Manual” that the ants will all be girls.  No queens, either.  Apparently its the ladies who take care of all the day to day business of running an ant colony.

Opening the “Club Kit”, here’s whats inside:

There is an ant themed “Fun Book”, a magnifying glass,  a poster with an ant anatomy chart and extreme ant close up pictures, and most importantly near the top of the frame, you can see the tube of ants.  The ant tube is clearly marked with a bright yellow sticker that says “Caution: Ants can bite”.  These are big ants too.  I am definitely going to make sure that there is no opportunity for them to bite me.

Possibly the best item in the package (besides the ants, of course) is the membership card:

The “Ant Watcher’s Manual” was also full of language praising the ants for their teamwork, altruism, and industriousness.  We shall see.

And what of the ants?  They’re in the refrigerator for 15 minutes, per the instructions.  Apparently this slows them down a bit for that moment when you have to take the cap off the tube and shake them down into the habitat.


A Holiday Gift

February 13, 2010

My thoughtful and creative husband Andy gave me an ant farm for Christmas.  You know, like many of us might have had, or known someone who had one, back when you were a kid.  I believe Andy thought the gift was a gamble, but he didn’t have to worry as I thought it was a very cool idea and I was excited about the photographic possibilities.

Here’s what the box looks like.  It comes with “Ant Watcher’s Manual”, water dropper, food packet, and tunneling sand.

Package and Contents of the box

The Ant Watcher’s Manual is on the left.  Its full of ant trivia and and guidelines all appropriate for their target audience which seems to be 8 year old boys from the 1950s.  There is a coupon inside to mail away for the ants, as well as the option to pay a little bit more to join the “Club” which comes with some extras, including a membership card, poster, and magnifying glass.  Of course I opted for the club.

The materials inside do tell you that it may take 4-6 weeks for the ants to arrive.  They don’t like to ship them in bad weather.  But when they cashed my check in early January I started to get exited and began making sure to check the mail every day.

And then I waited.

And waited.

While waiting, I figured out where I would keep the ants and how to best get consistent photos of the ant farm.  I plan to do a time-lapse kind of thing where I will take a picture daily (or maybe twice daily) to track their progress in developing their little habitat.

Here’s the ant farm all ready to go, just add ants:

Empty Habitat - Just Add Ants