Ant farms: June 2011 Archives


I work in the retail store of a children's science museum in Alabama. Recently, we ordered a gel-enviroment ant farms for our store and set-up one to serve as a demo. The enviroment is really cool, and our ants have been tunneling a great deal. However, I have a dilemma. Today, I tried to open the habitat to let some fresh air in (as per the ant farm instrcutions) and when I did, the ants swarmed to the top and tried to escape. When I placed the top back (I was only able to open the habitat the with of a finger nail) an ant got stuck between the top and the walls...basically got squished. I feel HORRIBLE to say the least, as and my co-workers an museum visitors absolutely love the ants and their cool habitat, and to make it worse I realized that the ant was not dead as I first thought, but still alive with a broken mandible and stuck. (To add to my distress, all the other workers hav been trying for more than two hours to get the other any un-stuck...even though it's futile :() As this ant will probably die, and the instructions recommended removing ALL dead ants.....I am asking how I can safely remove this ant. These are Havester Ants, and now that they swarm evey time remove the top, and knowing that their sting is bad, I am REALLY afraid to even attempt to open the container again. I guess what I am basically asking is how can I safely remove the dead ants without A.) Getting myself sung and letting other ants escape (this would be REALLY we have lots of small children and people who come through store all the time) and B.) Remove the dead ants safely and without harming the others.

If you could help me answer this, I would greatly appreciate it.


Hi Ashley,

Sorry to hear about your dilemma!

You could paint the edges of the container with oil, vaseline or fluon. Fluon is a chemical that makes surfaces slippery for ants and prevents them from crawling up on plastic or glass. We use it in our tubberware boxes that we keep our ants in. However, it is white and does not look very pretty. See this post for a picture. You can order it from this website, for example.

To calm the ants down, you could put the ant farm in a freezer for several minutes (up to 5 minutes should be fine). When you get the ant farm out, the ants might look dead, but after warming up, they will start moving again and they might move quite fast. So be careful when doing this! Also, I am not sure how the freezing and condensation water will affect the gel in your farm. While you open the ant farm, you could place the it in a big tubberware container coated with fluon. If ants escape from the farm, they will still stay in the tubberware container and you can collect them with tweezers.

Hope this helps and nobody gets stung!
All the best,
Steffi Kautz & the AntAsk Team