Ant Farm in Saudi Arabia

On Thu, Jan 3, 2013 at 4:33 PM, Allan wrote:


I have twin 4 year old boys who love ants. I brought them back a small ant farm from the USA, supplied with harvester ants from a nature store online. It is entirely self contained, with even edible gel for tunneling that prevents them from needing to be supplied with food.

I am following precautions regarding allowing them to get loose since I don't want to disrupt the local ecosystem. I am curious, are Harvester Ants native to Saudi Arabia?
Apparently they do well in arid regions, and there is plenty of that here.

Thanks & regards,

Allan in Saudi Arabia

Dear Allan:

Thanks for contacting our blog.

The harvester ants that come with ant farms in the USA belong to the American ant genus Pogonomyrmex, which only occurs in the Americas. Here is a nice map showing their distribution:

Since your ants do not have a reproductive queen associated with them, there is no danger they would disrupt the local ecosytem, even if they did escape. But of course, you will wish to keep them contained for the enjoyment of your sons.

Now to your question about harvester ants in Saudi Arabia: Note that Ant Web has a site on the ants of Saudi Arabia:
There are in fact quite a few native harvester ant species in Saudi Arabia, in the genus Messor . These could be suited to rearing in an ant farm, once the ants you already have die off, as they will in a few weeks or months. Here's the page on Messor from the Saudi ants site linked above:
They are about 1/4 inch long, and some of the species forage in the morning and evening, along conspicuous trails, in unirrigated areas.

It would be recommended, when you put new ants in the farm, that you substitute the gel medium with an inorganic digging medium such as slightly moistened sand or granular pumice. The ants can be fed grass seed, edible grains or hulled, unsalted sunflower seeds. Take care not to overfeed, as the uneaten food will spoil.

Happy ant farming, Stefanie Kautz and James C. Trager of the Ask Ant Team

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