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Ant Keeping Basics

Starter advice

Published on Jan 2, 2024

This article is aimed towards newcomers to the hobby that want to know the best equipment to start with and the most beginner friendly ants to get. This is also aimed at people that may just be browsing and interested how to start.


So, what do you need to start ant keeping?


But not just any ant, you need a Queen ant. Queen ants are much bigger than your normal (worker) ant. Once every year something called nuptial flights happen, this is where all the unfertilised queens and also the male drones take to the air as they have wings. You have likely already seen nuptial flights happen in the summer, these are all the flying ants you see!

The queens and drones will fly up around 10 feet in the air to mate, then the now fertilised queens will drop to the floor, chew off their wings and find a small space to hid and start her colony.

How to identify a queen ant

The main identifiers for a queen ant are wing scars on their thorax and a large abdomen.

A good, and quick guide to identifying a queen can be found here


What are the best ants to start with?

There are many beginner friendly ants that are easy to care for and do not sting. The best advice for new starters is to keep a native ant to your country, so that if ever you decide that you no longer want to carry on with the hobby, you can simply release them outside.

Here is a good list of beginner friendly ants:

  • Lasius Niger (Pavement ant)
  • Lasius Flavus (Meadow ant)
  • Messor Barbarus (Harvester ant)
  • Camponotus Nicobariensis (Carpenter ant)


Test tube setups

Starting your ant colony in test tubes is the most proven method, check out Bruma ant’s youtube video showing how to make a test tube suitable for ants. Skip to 1:30:

Another video from Ants 101 that is good to watch too can be found here:

Ants should generally be kept in test tube set ups for as long as possible, but general advise is to wait for at least 10 workers before offering a nest to move into.



Nests come in all shapes and sizes and can offer different things. The only thing to make sure to stay away from in ant keeping are Gel nests, these are really bad for ants and will ultimately see them die inside these nests.


We offer a range of nests on our store, with the main feature of our nests being the sand and plaster inside. We have found this the best for hydration and humidity of the nest. Also ants absolutely love this combination as it is made to be as natural as possible, which generally ants prefer to just a totally plastic nest.

Our most popular range is the Terra nests, when used correctly, these nests can provide the most optimal conditions for your ants to thrive, whilst also allowing you to view them without too much disruption. Find the blog on this nest range here, with a few links to the product pages:



What is an outworld? It is an area you can provide the ants that resemble the area outside of the nest where they can forage for food and water etc. Outworlds are an essential part of a ant keeping set up as it gives you an easy way to offer them food and water.

We have a range of outworlds in varying sizes on our store that link up perfectly to the nests we make.


Starter bundles

If you are just starting out, starter bundles are an easy way to get you off on the right foot!

We have a few bundles that we have put together, our most popular being the Terra v2 Starter Bundle, this provides you with a nest, and outworld and a feeder which you can offer water or sugar water to the starting ant colony. You may also want to get a test tube connector to make for an easy move from test tube to the nest when they are ready to move out of the tube!



We really hope this has given you a good base of information to start in this awesome hobby! If you have any other questions, we have a facebook group called AFS Ant Keeping Community where there are many current and experienced ant keepers on there ready to help!


Thank you for reading!

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