Ant Farm Woes

Not My Ant Farm
Not My Ant Farm
Photo by jurvetson
(Who has a lot of cool Science Flickr Sets)

Last year I finally bought myself an Ant Farm, one of those new, hip gel ant farms, this one from Uncle Milton Industries. I’ve always procrastinated about buying one of these because I’m an instant-gratification kind of person, and don’t like the idea of having to mail off for the ants. Until I realized I was prolonging being denied a functioning ant farm by not owning one in the first place.

So I got the Ant Farm. Cool. A clear plastic aquarium filled with smelly green gel. I mailed off for the ants, and then I waited.

…and waited.

…and waited.

I assume the company was waiting for good weather to mail the ants, like the companies I buy plants from, but I don’t know for sure. There was no response from Uncle Milton to my e-mail inquiries that were titled, “Ants Order Status Inquiry” at first, and turned into “Where the #$%@ are my %$#@ing Ants you #@$%ers!?!?” later on.

About 2 1/2 months later, I get the ants. Excited, I refrigerated the little scamps to make them sluggish, dumped them into the farm, and put the whole thing in a closet for the weekend to get them tunneling.

They didn’t tunnel, not for lack of trying. See, in the 2.5 months of waiting for my ants, the gel had dried out to a consistency of solid rock. My solution to this was to carefully add water with an eyedropper to the gel over several days to alleviate the problem.

This opened me for an unexpected attack, as one of the ants climbed up the dropper and onto my hand, where it managed to sting my ring finger a dozen times before I was able to flick him back into the farm. I decided to name that one “Stingy,” but could never extract my revenge because he struck quickly and blended into the crowd like a good little assassin.

While the stings hardly registered right then, within minutes the area was on fire, and pain was shooting through my hand, up my arm, and even into my armpit, where I expect the lymph nodes located there were trying to process the toxin (I have just confirmed this suspicion through wikipedia. Great Cosmos I love the Internet!)

I was squirming with intense pain for half an hour, and the sting area remained very uncomfortable for an additional three hours, red, inflamed, and perpetually oozing clear fluid. Lesson learned: Handle Pogonomyrmex barbatus with care.

My ants never did much tunneling, preferring to try and climb around looking for a way out of the cage, and that was a big disappointment. They did occasionally kill one another, and I found the way they kept all their dead in one pile, which quickly grew over with fungus, fascinating. Unable to breed, the ants were all dead in a few months, which was another disappointment.

Once vacated, a new species moved into the ant farm, Drosophila melanogaster or the common fruit fly, thriving in the nutrient gel and covering the farm with poop flecks until I was driven to put it on the back porch where the cold hopefully killed them off. I’ve got a coupon for more ants, but isn’t that just opening myself up to more heartbreak?

Anyways, Ant Farms are sooooo 1950s, today there are more exotic ways to go, like the Ant Lion Farm and the Triassic Triops.

PS – I’d like to wish Science Punk better luck with his new antfarm. He’s all ready off to a good start by trying to catch his own ants. Maybe I’ll try the same.






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