Beginner Ants

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Ants can be fun, industrious, zero-maintenance pets that you can leave home alone. And their patterns of behavior are just fascinating.

Playing with their little minds...Playing with their little minds...
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sentinelsentinelThe AntWorks gel farm was developed by NASA to survive Space Shuttle launches (sand would shift and crush the ants under many G’s).  They wanted to study tunnel formation in microgravity.  The gel does not collapse during launch, and it contains all the food and water the ants need.  It also has some antibiotics and anti-fungal agents.

These are harvester ants with powerful jaws.  In a strange coincidence, a harvester ant colony has a comparable number of neurons as a human brain (digression blog on the hive mind).

There are about 1.6 million ants for every person on earth.  The ants you see crawling around are all female.

Hive MindHive MindThe kit can be had for $19 online, and I strongly suggest the $3 tube of 25 harvester ants. The local California ants do not work.  They escape through the air holes and do not seem to have powerful enough jaws to chew the gel.  To see them in action, just leave the sugar jar out for a couple weeks…

Be careful not to mix batches of ants.  If they are not from the same colony, they will kill each other.  Well, actually, if you do that, have your camera ready.  =)

Speaking of which, once you get to know their patterns, it presents great opportunities for macro photography:
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One observation: they are keenly sensitive to air changes.  And this can be very helpful if you want to wake them up and make them all active.  Just blow into one of the tiny holes on top.  They instantly wake up and scurry about.  My son discovered this trick, and it works every time. Not sure if it’s the CO2 or bad breath…. 😉

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