How do I move my ants to a new habitat? (Ian, Missouri, USA)

My name's Ian and I have a little delima I thought you could help me with. I started an ant farm about six months ago off of three queen ants i caught in the wild. Their pretty well settled into the habitat and have grown to a number in the upwards of around 2000 ants. The problem is, the habitat is too small for the current number living there. I need to know how I can move the queens safely from the existing habitat to another (I have already prepared one). Any inside tips would be greatly accepted.

Ian, Missouri, USA

Dear Ian,

Thanks for your question. You may be more worried about your ants than you need to be. Ants are very tough and collapsing tunnels on top of them will likely not hurt them so long as you recover them relatively quickly. Firstly, I would suggest connecting the old nest to the new habitat with some sort of tubing to get the ants comfortable in their new habitat. Hopefully, they will explore the tubes, find the new habitat, and start building a new nest. You can try to attract them to the new area by feeding them there. If you are really lucky the workers may even move the queens and brood to the new habitat. Otherwise you should just wait for as many of the workers to get to the new area as possible and then start digging through the old nest. You will probably want to dump the sand into a large tray with a thin layer of oil, vaseline, or fluon painted around the edges to keep the ants from escaping. Depending on the amount of sand in the old habitat and the size of your tray, you may want to dump the whole container in the tray or go little by little. Sift through the sand gently and pick out as many ants, brood, and queens as you can. They will probably be somewhat upset at their house being dumped out so you should move quickly to get them into their new habitat. If you do not already have them, investing in featherweight forceps and/or an aspirator would be very helpful for collecting fast moving ants. Good luck and I hope your ants like their new home!

Ben Rubin & the AntAsk Team

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