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Outdoor ant formicarium

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#1 Offline AntsMAN - Posted July 8 2016 - 5:35 AM


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I wanted to try something different, and was wondering if anyone has tried to keep an ant colony outdoors.

I want to monitor a completely natural environment. My plan is to get the prefect piece of rotting wood, and start a Camponotus colony. I am going to put it in the middle of a field to discourage them from moving out.

I want to put a glass cover over them with a piece of wood that will fit right over, so I can see them.

My plan is to sink the wood into the ground half way or so, and fit the glass over that with a cover. I do not plan on helping them at all, just getting them started.

I'm going to put the queen in and leave a thin layer of soft wood to the outside, so the workers can chew through it when they eclose. The idea would be to do weekly monitoring and start a journal to track the progress and maybe compare it to the colonies in captivity. If anyone has any suggestions, on how to best make this work please feel free.

Current queens/colonies

Camponotus novaeboracensis x2

Camponotus pennsylvanicus x2

Camponotus herculeanus x1

Formica sp. x1

Lasius americanus x1  (Lasius alienus)

Lasius neoniger x1

Crematogastor cerasi x1

Myrmica sp. x1









#2 Offline sgheaton - Posted July 8 2016 - 5:58 AM


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If you call, "Not bug bombing my yard in the chemical of death," and then, "watching the resulting colonies come to be," having and outdoor formicarium then yeah. Nothing as fancy as having the glass to see them or anything... But for now I have walkway bricks that if I flip up will cause many scatterings. I'm always surprised to see how many eggs/larva/I suppose how big the broods are.


Its also rather humorous that I've made a "dirt patch" of sorts that my cat immediately claimed as his. This was my first trap with rocks placed over holes as an area for chambers to be dug. Which they have promptly done and made their own...so when he decides to roll around in the dirt (which he often does...daily) and then lay for little, eventually something will get on him enough that he spazzes out and jumps/runs away twitching his fur. 


In the meantime I'm sure my neighbors are loving my yard as it was overflowing with tetramorium queens last Saturday. As long as they stay outside, I'm fine with them. Not in my shower though......Bad ant

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#3 Offline Stubyvast - Posted March 17 2023 - 3:31 PM



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Hello! I am also attempting to create an outdoor formicarium, as I am not allowed to keep ants inside the house. My formicarium's storage area is quite big, with a slanted roof for protection against rot and leakage. I will then put my Farms in there. I also put a skylight window in the slanted roof to let the daylight into it, and this will allow my ants to have natural light in their environment. However, my ants are not free to escape the box, as potential predators, such as spiders, could wipe them out in their early stages of colonial development. 

#4 Offline Manitobant - Posted March 18 2023 - 5:28 AM


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This thread is from 7 years ago…

#5 Offline rptraut - Posted March 19 2023 - 3:25 AM


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Despite the age of the thread, I might have some useful suggestions for these questions.  If I understand you correctly, you have made an outdoor enclosure that you are going to put various foricaria in so you can keep ants outside of the house.  If this is the case, I would suggest that you select a location for it that is sheltered from wind and harsh rain.  It should also be well drained and have good air circulation.  I would locate it on the east side of the house to warm the ants early in the morning and if you can locate it up against a brick or stone wall, the absorbed heat from the wall will keep them warm during the day and night.  The south side of the house could be too warm (hot) on sunny days.  If you could put it against a basement window you could check them from inside any time.  You could also partially bury the enclosure to take advantage of the cooling effect of the earth in an otherwise hot location.  Hopefully you can also find a place that is close and handy as you will have to maintain them regularly.  


 Others have mentioned having problems with where to keep ant colonies that is acceptable to others like parents and spouses.  To keep peace in my household, I keep my ants in a greenhouse and workshop and my formicaria have to be as escape proof as possible.  It wasn't always this way.  When I began keeping ants, I "kept" a wild colony outside in my garden for the summer.   I used an old 'Uncle Milton Ant Farm' that I modified with chambers, half buried in a sunny location, with a sugar/water feeder attached at one end and an opening to the ant farm at the other end.   The photo below is from a different time, but you can see the type of modifications that I made.


2022-09-20 008.JPG


I made it so I could easily check on the below ground brood chambers and there is an opening on top where I fed insects etc for protein.  I covered the above ground part with black cloth to warm it on sunny days.   A Tapinoma colony began to collect sugar/water within days.  I checked on them regularly and watched as they finally brought their brood into the ant farm.   By the end of summer the whole colony had moved into the ant farm but the queen and her entourage were still nested in a place beside the ant farm, in the soil.  I was very lucky in the fall when I dug them up as I was able to get the queen and her workers to join the colony when I placed them into an outworld that I connected to the now freed ant farm. 


2022-09-20 006.JPG


This was a similar setup in the garden that I used last summer.  I replaced the sugar/water when empty and I kept it covered with leaves to prevent overheating.   The black round brood chamber was as added feature last year that I hoped the queen would move into if she wouldn't move into the ant farm.  


I still have the "Ant Farm Colony" today.  Of course, they've long since graduated to bigger housing and I learned a lot along the way.   Much of what I learned was from simply watching ants and what they do in their natural environment.  If you're having trouble convincing someone you can keep ants, start by learning as much about them as you can outside.  Set up a feeder, see who comes and "adopt" a colony.  Set up a feeding schedule, keep a journal of your observations, take photos, do a little nosey digging, use bricks or rocks to lure them to the surface.  You can show that you are responsible and that you take ant keeping seriously.   Start slowly with a small colony in a garage or out building.  Your knowledge and experience will grow with the colony and you'll soon find that no one will doubt your ability to care for ants anymore!  It worked for me.  Good Luck.


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#6 Offline Stubyvast - Posted March 26 2023 - 3:57 PM



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Wow this helps a lot! (Sorry for replying to a 7 year-old topic...I was just doing some research and saw this, so I though to check it out. But yeah, thank you for the advice! It really helps. 

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