The ant-keeping hobby became a worldwide phenomenon with people of all ages from a lot of different countries keeping their own pet-ant-colonies at home. Ants are fascinating creatures to watch. They have a way to interact and work together that many human groups or teams would dream of. Together, they are capable of incredible things and seem to have a somewhat unified brain that makes all of their actions benefit the whole colony.
But in some cases, ant colonies grow too big for the ant-keeper to handle. What can be done to reduce the colony size without killing ants?
As a whole, if an ant colony gets too big for the ant-keeper to handle, it can be given away to a zoo or another local ant-keeper. Native ants could also be released into nature. Or the colony size could be controlled through temperature, space, and the amount of food offered to the colony.
You will be surprised how big an ant colony can actually get and how fast it can grow. So if your colony is starting to get out of hand then you might need to act fast before they completely outgrow their habitat.
How to Reduce or Maintain the Size of a Pet-Ant Colony
If a pet ant colony has grown bigger than expected or desired, or if you have reached a colony size you don’t want to exceed, there are some things you can do about it.
You can adapt the temperature, the food, and the size of their home.
Adapt the Temperature for the Ants
If the temperature is reduced, many ant species tend to slow down a bit and don’t multiply as quickly as they did at higher temperatures.
The eggs, larvae, and pupae develop slower and the size of the colony can be slowly and gradually reduced.
Adapt the Amount of Food for Your Colony
Depending on how much your ants leave and how fast they eat whatever you offer them is a good indicator of the amount of food they need.
In nature, ants would search for more and more food, as the colony grows. You can interrupt this process with your ants in captivity and offer them the same amount of food, thereby keeping the colony’s size at a constant level.
Or you can decrease the amount of food, making the colony shrink.
But carefully watch your ants, as they might try to escape and find more food outside.
Adapt the Space of Their Home
As ant colonies grow, they want more space in their formicarium. If you don’t want the colony to grow any further, don’t offer them a bigger place to move into.
What to do if you Can’t Take Care of Your Ants any Longer?
There are situations in life, in which you can’t take care of your pet ants any longer.
Maybe you are going to move away or the colony just got so big that you don’t know how to care for them anymore. Don’t worry and don’t panic. There is always a way to give your ants a new home.
Release Native Ants Into Nature
The ant colony that you are keeping is a native ant.
This makes things a lot easier. If you have collected the queen in the neighborhood, chances are high, that there are no problems, if you release your ants back to the wild.
Before you do so, you should check the local rules and if necessary get permission from authorities.
Give Your Ant Colony Away
If your ant colony is not native in your area, you should really not release them. They can harm the ecological system and can potentially become a real threat or pest.
You can call zoos if they are interested in your ant colony.
You can also try to find private ant-lovers, who are interested in taking over your ant colony. There are websites that bring together people who want to give away their ants and others who would love to take in a new and already established colony.
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 🙂