The ants arrived today!!
Santa got an ant farm for Bee this year, just like this one. It is a Gel Habitat based on technology used by NASA in a shuttle experiment.
Around 30 or so Harvester Ants arrived – ordered from a science catalog affiliated with the makers of the ant farm. In the winter, it costs more – because you need to have them sent second day priority mail (with a small chemical heating packet) or run the risk of their freezing. They came in two little vials, looking like a bunch of dead ants in a ball at the bottom of the tubes.
They woke up very quickly, at the sensation of movement and probably because it became warmer for them as well. They are biters, so you don’t want to handle them.
Bee and I watched them intently for a long time – they immediately started getting to work on the gel, which serves as their food, water and shelter (the ultimate low maintenance pet). All you are instructed to do is open the top briefly once a month, for some fresh air – and to remove the dead, which the ants kindly transport to the top for you.
Along with the habitat, Santa was cool enough to include the book The Life and Times of the Ant, by Charles Micucci. It is far more fascinating than you might think at first.
A few facts you might not know:
– Ants have been around for over 100 million years, that is a 35 million year head start on the Tyrannosaurus Rex
– All the ants you find outdoors are female (all workers and soldiers). Male ants are created (via deliberate expression of hormones) only as needed for reproductive purposes, and they die right after mating.
– There are over 10, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000 of them alive right now, compared to the mere 6, 000, 000, 000 humans. Yet they still only represent .001% of the Earth’s insect population.