Frequently Asked Questions

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Ant Keeping

What is the best setup for beginners?

Most of our formicariums are easy-to-use and suitable for beginners. We do however recommend our Starter Kits as a great place to begin. They come with everything you need to get started in ant keeping, including a great beginner species queen ant. They contain all you the basic equipment needed for every stage of ant keeping.

What is the best ant species to keep for beginners?

There are over 1300 species of ants in Australia, so there are quite a number of species suitable for beginners. We recommend starting out with a species that does not sting and are relatively hardy. Examples include Camponotus, Aphaenogastor and small Iridomyrmex, but there are plenty of other suitable species also. Please contact us if you are unsure and would like some advice.

What does my queen need?

You can find our basic care guide HERE. This outlines the very basics of what your queen will need. We recommend doing further research and learn how to care for your ants. There is a wealth of information available on YouTube.

What is the difference between claustral and semi-claustral queens?

Watch a quick explanation video HERE.

Claustral: Claustral queens in the wild do not leave their founding chamber to forage at all. They will use energy gained from metabolising their wing muscles that are no longer required, to sustain themselves until their first generation of workers emerges. From that point, her workers will forage for food and will feed the queen via a process called Trophallaxis. These queens are generally kept in a standard test tube set up in captivity. 

Semi-claustral queens in the wild will periodically leave their founding chamber to forage and feed themselves during the founding stage. In captivity they will require feeding from the start and in some instances (such as Myrmecia) will require access to a foraging area during the founding stage. A tub and tube set up will work well in this instance.

What should I feed them?

Adult ants require a liquid sugar source, such as our Ant Juice. Provide this to Semi-claustral queens straight away, and start feeding this to your claustral colony once the first workers emerge. Your colony will also require a protein source. This could come from feeder insects or our Ant Mousse. The protein helps the queen with egg-laying and helps maintain healthy growth of the larvae.

I do not like and/or cannot keep crickets or other live feeder insects. Are there other alternatives for protein source?

For most ant species, freshly killed feeder insects are the best and most accepted protein source for ants. Mealworms are the easiest feeder insect to raise and keep. You can also try our convenient Ant Mousse. We have found most ants will readily accept this food, but it is always good to provide variety for your ants to ensure they are getting all the nutrients they require.

How often do I feed my queen and colony?

Claustral queens will not require feeding until their first workers emerge. Colonies in test tube set ups can be fed a few drops of liquid sugar food onto their cotton ball every 1-2 weeks. Frequency will depend on how many workers you have. Be careful not to put too much liquid on the cotton so as it blocks the air flow or leaks into the tube. Also be aware not to feed them too frequently and disturb them too much. Small colonies are fragile and do best if left undisturbed as much as possible. You can also provide small amounts of protein as they will take it. Use a small dish or piece of foil to try to keep the test tube as clean as possible.

Once your colony is in a formicarium you can have the liquid sugar food available at all times in a feeder.

NOTE: Keep note of how much your colony eats as they grow and adjust the frequency and volume of feeding to suit. Also remove any uneaten food within a day to prevent mould.

Why do my ants keep covering their food in sand?

It is generally believed that this behaviour is an attempt by your ants to cover the scent of excess food to prevent ants from other colonies from taking the food. You can reduce the amount you are feeding at any one time to allow your ants to finish their food. Reducing the amount your feeding can also help prevent wild ants from invading to take the excess food.

I caught a queen. What do I do next?

If you are lucky to catch your own queen ant, you should set her up in a test tube set up. If she is a claustral species she will metabolise the energy stored in her wing muscles while raising her first set of workers and will not require feeding until the workers emerge. Feeding her and disturbing her may stress her out and she may eat her eggs, so it’s best to place her away in a dark warm place. The less you disturb her, the better. Big vibrations, light, and disturbance at this stage should be avoided. If you must check on her, do so once a week.

How do I know if my queen is fertilized?

There is no definitive way to tell in a queen is fertile, however there are some indicators that she may have mated. If the queen has removed her wings it can be an indication that she is fertile. It is not a guarantee though, as some queens will break them off even if they haven’t mated due to instinct. Conversely, if a queen keeps her wings it doesn’t mean she has not been fertilized because sometimes queen ants keep their wings after mating. If the queens gastor is physogastric, meaning it has blown up like a balloon full of eggs, or if she lays eggs and seems to care for them and bunch them together it may indicate she is fertile. 

Signs that your queen ant may be unfertilized are if she lays a few eggs sporadically and leaves them scattered around not seeming to care for them, or if the eggs end up all turning into males, called drones. 

So, if you find your own queen, go ahead and set her up in a test tube and see what happens…

How long before my queen lays eggs? How long after egg laying will I have workers?

The time it takes a queen to lay eggs varies widely depending upon a number of factors including species, humidity, temperature, stress/disturbance and food. It may take as little as a day or over 6 months for your queen to first lay eggs. She may also lay eggs and eat them before she has a successful worker emerge. Generally, queens are more actively laying eggs when the temperatures are warmer, so providing your colony with heat may speed up the process. So, if your queen ant doesn’t lay eggs right away, don’t lose hope, she may still be fertile.  Keep her in a warm, dark and quiet place and wait to see what happens.

Development time for the brood into worker ants also varies considerably due the factors listed above. Keeping your ants in a warm dark and quiet place will give them the best chance at forming a successful colony.

My queen ant has her first workers! How and what do I feed the colony

Your new workers can be fed a few drops of liquid sugar food onto their cotton ball every 1-2 weeks. Frequency will depend on how many workers you have. Be careful not to put too much liquid on the cotton so as it blocks the air flow or leaks into the tube. Also be aware not to feed them too frequently and disturb them too much. Small colonies are fragile and do best if left undisturbed as much as possible. You can also provide small amounts of protein as they will take it. Use a small dish or piece of foil to try to keep the test tube as clean as possible. Remove any uneaten protein after a day and adjust feeding amounts to suit.

Remember to keep your small colony in their test tube until it is absolutely packed full of workers! If you move them too early, the colony may die.

The cotton in my test tube setup is dirty and mouldy. How do I transfer my queen /colony into a new test tube setup?

Mould in test tube set ups is perfectly normal and is no generally reason to panic. Ants are adapted to deal with mould and it exists in claustral chambers of queen ants in the wild. Leave your ants in their dirty test tube until the mould is thick and covers all of the water blocking cotton. Only move them into a new test tube set up when this occurs, or the water in the tube dries out. Hopefully by then your queen has some workers to help facilitate the move. The easiest way to get them to move into a new clean test tube setup is to attach the old test tube and a new test tube together and allow the colony to move themselves. Cover the new tube to make it dark and inviting and keep the old test tube open to the light. It may take some time (weeks) for your colony to move so be patient. You can use a test tube adapter, tape or BluTak to attach the tubes together, but make sure air is still able to transfer into the tubes (this is very important)! Only move them if absolutely necessary, remember, ants do not like disturbance.

When can I move my new ant colony in a test tube setup into their first formicarium?

Moving your ants into a larger set up too soon is one of the most commonly made mistakes in ant keeping! Ants do not like having too much space and it can cause the colony to stress and ultimately fail. We recommend leaving your ants in their test tube set up for as long as possible, until it is packed full of workers. We do not go by how many workers you have as this will vary too much depending on the size of your ants and how much water your test tube set up has. The longer you leave them, the more chance of success you will have, patience is a virtue!

If you move the colony into a formicarium too early, they will suffer because there isn’t enough worker power to ensure the brood are properly cared for. Humidity in a formicarium can fluctuate much more than a test tube set up. Ant eggs, larvae, and pupae are very humidity-sensitive.

NOTE: Remember to take small steps. In the wild, the ant colony will slowly excavate their underground nest to accommodate the growing colony. We need to try to replicate this gradual growth with our formicarium. New and smaller colonies are most vulnerable to having too much space. Gradually increasing the size of your colony's nest will give your colony its best chance at success, rather than placing them into a nest that is too big and causing undue stress.

What's the best setup to choose for my ants?

Many different types of ants will thrive in all of our nest options; however, some have more specific needs. This will be listed on their product page. We recommend to follow this guide and to do your own research of the specific species you are looking to keep so you are aware of their individual requirements. The most important thing to remember is that ants DO NOT LIKE HAVING SPACE! This goes against most peoples instincts, but it is very important. Always increase the nest size gradually. Most of our nests have dividers separating sections of the nest to allow gradual expansion. They also all have expansion ports to allow them to be connected to another nest if your ants outgrow their current set up.

I have a gel ant farm. Is this OK for my ant colony?

No. Gel farms are not suitable homes for ant colonies even though they are sold as ant farms. The gel is an unnatural setup, can mould quickly and is not healthy for ants. Ants in these types of set ups have next to no chance of survival.  We recommend not purchasing any formicariums that seem more like novelty or toy products for children. We also strongly suggest you do not purchase setups from vendors selling home-made or cheap ant products online, as they will compromise your colonies chance to thrive. If given the right care and conditions, your colony can grow for many years, so it is best to invest in quality products that will provide for their ongoing needs.

Can I use a sand ant farm from the toy shop?

No. Ant farms from the toy shop or gift shop are not suitable to house a growing ant colony. These types of nests often have a thin plastic section that you fill with sand to allow the ants to dig tunnels. This might seem like a great idea, but in reality they are not. The sand will most likely collapse and can injure your ants. They also do not allow for easy feeding, cleaning or expansion. It would be very difficult to care for your ants in this type of setup. They do not provide any cover to block the light and often do not have good ventilation. All in all, they are toys, not homes for your legitimate pet ants that could potentially thrive for many years with the right care.

Why isn't my queen laying eggs?

Multiple factors can contribute to your queen not laying eggs.  These may include temperature and humidity, food, water, disturbance, stress, light and too much space. To reduce the likelihood of these factors, keep your ants in a warm dark place in a suitable set up. Try to resist the urge to check on them and feed them too frequently. Exposing them to light and movement can cause queens to not lay, stress eat their eggs or leave their brood to die. If it has been a few months and your queen has still not layed eggs it might be a good idea to provide a small amount of liquid sugar food on the cotton ball as she may have utilised all her energy reserves already. NOTE: If you have caught a wild queen there is a chance she is infertile.

Why did all of my workers ants die?

There are a number of factors that can contribute to the loss of your worker ants. These may include: stress, lack of food or water, over or under heating, drowning, poisoning/infection or old age.

Here are some tips to avoid these problems:

  • Avoid disturbing a new queen or colony. Leave them alone as much as possible in a warm dark place with limited vibrations.
  • Water is absolutely essential to life, so make sure your ants always have access to one or two water sources.
  • Ensure your ants are fed as required. Underfeeding can cause death, whilst overfeeding can cause stress and disturbance. Worker ants can also get stuck and drown in they have too much liquid sugar food available.
  • Temperature and humidity can really affect your colony’s growth. Try to maintain your ants between 20-24 degrees, not in direct sun or air conditioning. Most species will be ok with humidity at around 60%, but be sure to research the specific needs of your species of ants as their requirements can vary.
  • Try not to flood you test tube or nest as your ants could become stuck and drown. The brood may also drown.
  • Do not use insect or fly spray anywhere near your ants. We also do not recommend feeding insects you have found around your home as you run the risk of introducing parasites into your nest. Some people use beneficial cleaner insects in their ant set ups to manage some parasites. Examples of these beneficial bugs are isopods and springtails.
  • Worker ants generally live for 1-2 years and your queen could live for well over 10 years! It is common for the first generation of workers to die off sooner than subsequent generations as they are often smaller and weaker. The goal of your ant colony is to produce more new workers than the rate at which older worker die off, so the colony gradually grows in numbers.
What do I do with my queen if all of the workers die?

This can be a very disappointing outcome on your ant keeping journey, but don’t give up yet! Place your queen back into a test tube set up and try to start again. Place her somewhere warm and dark and only disturb her to provide a small amount of liquid food every 1-2 weeks, since she will have already used her wing muscle energy stores. Hopefully she will lay more eggs and start again.

What do I do when my colony starts to produce alates (winged queen and male ants)? Will they mate in my setup?

Ants will generally not mate in captivity. Their mating flights are not fully understood currently, but it is believed that a combination of environmental factors such as temperature, humidity, air pressure and moisture, and pheromones from neighbouring nests may trigger the nuptial flight. Mating takes place on the wing in the air. It is next to impossible to replicate these conditions in captivity.

Once your colony reaches a certain stage of maturity, they may start to produce alates though. When this happens, it is most likely that they will not mate as they are from the same nests. They will generally just live out their lives in the nest.

Can I control how big my colony grows? What if I don’t want them anymore?

You can control the population of your colony by regulating their food intake and temperature. If your colony reaches , continue feeding them the amount of food you are providing them and don’t increase the amount even if it seems they need more. Also, lower the temperature they are kept at by 2 degrees C, and this will slow down the queen’s egg-laying rate and the development rate of the brood (eggs, larvae, pupae). 

Do not release your ants into the wild, especially if they are not originally from your area! If you can no longer keep your ants, find another ant keeper to take your ants, or contact us.

Shop & Products

What is the best setup for beginners?

Most of our formicariums are easy-to-use and suitable for beginners. We do however recommend our Starter Kits as a great place to begin. They come with everything you need to get started in ant keeping, including a great beginner species queen ant. They contain all you the basic equipment needed for every stage of ant keeping.

Do you ship live ants overseas?

Yes. We are fully registered with the Department of Environment and have current export permits. We can ship to many countries around the world; however, it is best to check with your local customs to determine if you can import live queen ants. Note that we do not cover customs or duty fees that your country may incur on packages at the border.

Can you ship live ants to Western Australia or Tasmania?

If you live in WA or Tas, you will need to apply for an import permit here:

What mode of payment does Queen of Ants Shop accept?

We accept payment via PayPal, AfterPay, Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Google Pay, Shop Pay, Apple Pay. We do not accept direct wire transfers, money orders, nor check payment.

What currency does the Queen of Ants Shop use?

All payments will be in AUD. Prices may be displayed in your local currency. If you are from a different country, do not worry as PayPal automatically converts the funds to your country’s currency when buying from us.

How long will it take for my order to get to me/to ship?

You can find our shipping policy HERE. Orders with live ants are shipped on Mondays and Tuesdays throughout Australia and Mondays only internationally. This is to try to avoid delays over weekends. All orders are shipped Express to ensure the quickest delivery time possible.

Do you cover customs/duty fees?

No, we do not cover any customs or duty fees incurred at the border of your country.

What is your return/refund/cancellation policy?

You can find our refund policy HERE.

What do I do when my colony fills up a formicarium?

All of our ant nests have expansion ports. This allows you to connect with a tube another formicarium to the existing one once it is full.

Where is the instruction manual for my Queen of Ants product?

Our manuals are downloadable PDFs from links directly on the product pages. We do this to be more eco-friendly. You can also find some of our helpful video instructional guides on YouTube. Finally, if you need help with your product contact us and we would be happy to help!

I have a question regarding the Queen of Ants Shop/products that I don’t see here in this FAQ.

Please contact us and we would be happy to answer any of your questions!

Buying & Selling Ants:

Where can I buy an ant colony with a queen for my formicarium?

We offer live ant colonies with a queen for sale

How can I sell my ant colony/colonies?

We support the sustainable collection of queen ants from the wild. So, if you happen to have come across some wingless queens that you cannot keep but think someone else could enjoy, we'd love to hear from you! We do not support the intentional over collection of queen ants, or any action that may adversely affect wild ant colonies.  We also believe in everyone getting a fair deal. So, if you've got queens, lets chat!