Keeping fire ants as pets at home is an exciting hobby. Fire ants are known for being rather aggressive little creatures, and most people would refer to fire ants as pests rather than pets. Owning a fire ant colony is challenging and rewarding at the same time, and they are not the right pet for the light-hearted. But some experienced ant-keepers love their little pets and enjoy every moment watching them do their thing.
As a whole, fire ants need some more safety precautions than other pet-ants, their colonies grow faster than other ant colonies and they are not the best species to start with. But other than that, fire ants make exciting pets that are real survival masters and are fun to watch.
Fire Ants Require More Safety Precautions Than Other Ants
The mini-societies of ants are smart as a colony and can accomplish impressive things. One of the most remarkable abilities of the fire ant is escaping from wherever they are being kept.
Since fire ants are known for their aggressive behavior and very painful attacks, you have to be extra careful when handling your tiny pets.
Fire ants can chew through rubber and silicone and are masters in escaping. Normal ant farms are often not suitable for fire ants. Make sure to create an escape-proof setting for them.
If you clean or put food in or do anything else with the fire ants, wear thick rubber gloves. If you want to be extra careful, coat them with talcum powder and keep your arms upright.
Make sure that your hair, clothes, or jewelry does not fall into the nest while observing or cleaning, or feeding the ants.
We have a whole article that talks about keeping fire ants as pets and if you even should keep them as pets in the first place that you can read right here.
What do Fire Ants Eat and Drink?
Just like any other ant species, fire ants need access to fresh water at all times. This can be offered to them through water tubes.
Pour water in around ⅓ of the tube, push cotton in to close that part, and the water will be sucked in the cotton. The ants can drink from the cotton.
Fire ants eat almost everything. You should give them a mixture of carbs and proteins. The carbs could be syrup, sugar water, honey, or sweet fruits such as watermelon or banana.
For the protein, you can offer them either frozen or fresh insects such as mealworms, crickets, centipedes, or cockroaches.
You can read a full guide about what fire ants eat including a list of things they especially like right here.
How do You Raise Fire Ants?
Just like any other ant species, fire ant colonies start with a single queen ant. In some cases, more than one queen ant start a colony together, but for your own colony, starting with one queen is better. Different queens might kill each other at some point.
How to Catch a Fire Ant Queen
The easiest way to get your hands on a freshly mated queen ant is to catch her after her nuptial flight.
This usually happens in late spring or summer, but you can check out the nuptial flight schedule for the fire ants in your area.
The Latin name for fire ants is Solenopsis. The most popular fire ant is the red imported fire ant, the Solenopsis invicta, sometimes referred to as “RIFA”.
If you see fire ants flying around, get your test tubes and go for a walk. Try to catch a fire ant queen, which is crawling around on the ground.
It can be a sign of successful insemination if the queen has already thrown her wings off, but some queens just take their time or never get rid of their wings.
Therefore a queen with wings can be as good as a queen without wings.
Since fire ants have a very painful sting, you should be very careful around these little aggressive ladies.
How to Care for a Freshly Caught Fire Ant Queen
After you manage to catch a fire ant queen, you can prepare a new tube at home with around ⅓ of water, cotton pressed against the water, the fire ant queen, and again cotton.
The queen and her first workers can drink water from the cotton which soaks in the water and they won’t need food within the first few weeks or even months.
The queen can live off her muscle fat from her wing muscle (pretty crazy, right?) for the next few weeks. She will start laying eggs and care for the larvae by herself.
It would be best not to disturb her during that process. Put the queen with the tube somewhere dark (maybe your wardrobe?) and do not check on her for at least a few days.
If she feels stressed, she might eat her freshly laid eggs.
You can leave this setting with no food, a queen laying eggs, and some workers crawling around for several weeks without any action from your side.
How to Feed the Colony in the Early Stages
After all the hard work, the queen will not move around a lot anymore. She is exhausted.
Don’t freak out, because she stopped moving. She is not dead, just veeeery slow.
After your first workers arrive, you will notice a difference in their behavior. Maybe they pull the cotton in their very first attempt to escape to look for food.
This would be a great time for their first meal. This meal could be a drop of honey or syrup.
You will see your worker ants gather around this meal and then run back to the larvae and the queen to share their meal.
Whenever you open the test tube by removing the cotton, be super careful that the fire ants stay inside.
If your fire ants enjoyed their first meal, you can continue to offer them small meals such as small parts of insects.
After you start feeding the colony in the test tube, they will quickly multiply and you will soon need a new home for them.
Keep in mind that usual ant farms might not be suitable for fire ants. Ants Canada offers these hybrid nests, which would make a great first home for your fire ant colony.
From here on, you can watch your fire ant nation grow. At some point, you will need to move them again to a bigger setting.
Can I Have Fire Ants as Pets
It is possible to have fire ants as pets if you live in an area where fire ants are native. Keep in mind though, that fire ants are aggressive and don’t hesitate to attack you.
Their sting is venomous and very painful and they are not recommended for beginners.
But they are also super cool and interesting little creatures that can make exciting pets if you know what you are doing.
We have an article that goes much more into depth where we answer the question of whether you should keep fire ants as pets that you can read right here.
What are Easy Ant Species for Beginners
If you are looking for an ant species for your very first ant colony, these species might be the right fit for you.
The ant species you might want to keep always depends on where you live.
It’s always easier to start with a native ant species which is already used to the climate, level of humidity, and food offered in the area.
Perfect ants to start with are the black garden ant, Lasius niger, and their very close relatives Lasius neoniger and Lasius americanos.
Other ants that you might want to have a look at are the Camponotus ant species as well as the Crematogaster cerasi.
There is a full list of beginner ant species in another article of ours where you will find more information about each species if you need it.
Lisa is one of the two founders of Animal-Knowledge. She has been very interested in animals and insects from a very young age and has owned different kinds of pets such as snails, ants, fish, turtles, mice, rats, hamsters, rabbits, a dog, … you get the idea 🙂