Rise of the messor ants

Mar 10, 2024 • Yousef Amar • 2 min read • Parent project

A few days ago I turned 31. Birthdays are not something I look forward to. However, Veronica gifted me an ant farm kit, which is exciting. I have always been fascinated by ants and the emergent behaviour of ant colonies, but never had the chance to observe that IRL through glass panes. In our flat in Egypt, ants were very common, so I would sometimes intentionally leave a bit of bread out on the kitchen counter just to watch them slowly take it apart and carry crumbs in a line back into the walls from whence they came.

When I was little, I also remember seeing ant farms that use a special type of transparent gel rather than sand, so you could see everything the ants were doing. I think I saw it on ThinkGeek, a now defunct online store, and wishing I could have it.

Well, today is the day that I can say I have a proper ant farm right here in my room!

The kit was surprisingly compact.

The fledgling colony made the long trip from Spain in a little test tube. Her majesty, Queen Gina, and her children, had water soaking in through the cotton on the left, some seeds as snacks while travelling, and took care of the larvae in the back of their little temporary home.

Before they could move in to their new home, I first had to make it nice and cosy for them. I started off by slowly soaking the sand over the course of the day, then decorating the top of their home. I also added their little sugar water dispenser and seed bowl. Finally, I dug a hole for them in the centre as a starting point.

I then set them free on their new home, but they stayed in the test tube for a while to build up the courage. One little brave ant ventured out, but was bringing back blue pebbles and clogging up the test tube once more. She really loved her pebbles. I later read that this is normal behaviour in order to make the queen feel more comfortable.

The moment I stopped watching they very quickly moved into their new home. I came to find the test tube empty and removed it. They had started digging and also moving the sesame seeds that Veronica had left them.

And then they started digging a LOT. I can see the beginnings of little chambers, and I read that the one at the very bottom is for storing seeds, as it's the least humid area, and they take advantage of that to prevent seeds from sprouting.

I'm excited to see how this colony develops! It's already developing much faster than I expected. I'm awaiting a new set of mixed bird seeds in the mail today, as I don't think they like sesame seeds that much, and Veronica also left them a broken up spaghetti.