By Owen Jones

Ants are cold-blooded animals which means that they cannot keep themselves warm. If their environment is cold, they go into a very lethargic lifestyle and virtually hibernate, whereas when it is warm they run about the garden looking for food to take back to the nest. The climate of the country that they live in along with its seasons determines which sort of ants can live there and how they will behave and when.

Therefore, in the temperate countries of the north. you rarely see ants in the winter, whereas in the tropics they are lively all year round. This is just perfect for the ants that live in those locations.

When you take ants out of this natural environment, bring them indoors and make them live in a box, normally called an ant farm, you have to regulate the ants' temperature and their food. If you have a local kind of ant, the temperature is not a problem. It is much the same as with tropical fish.

Whenever, you build an artificial home for an animal, you have to produce an environment that it can live in, you cannot require that creature to adjust to what you can provide although some can change a little. Similarly, ants know what they like to eat, so if you have an ant farm you must give them what they like to eat, not what you think is good for them.

Fortunately, ants have quite a varied diet. However, there are also foods that they like, but which they should not eat and, just like with us, the main one of those is sticky, sugary things. They make us fat and rot our teeth and maybe they do with ants too, but the main reason is that they find it tricky to take home. If the workers cannot carry enough food home, then the colony will suffer.

It is a good tactic to put the food in one spot too. Not because otherwise they will not be able to find it, but because you might not. If you over feed your ants the surplus will be left to rot. You do not want rotting, smelly mildewy food in your farm. It looks bad, smells bad and may infect the ants with mildew, yeast or mould illnesses. So, if the food stays uneaten after two days, you should get rid of it; wait twenty-four hours and then set more down.

Most ant farms hold harvester ants, but you have to check. Harvester ants like crisp food. They can bite it easily, carry it home easily and digest it easily too. This means vegetables like celery, carrots and lettuce (but try others as well) and some fruits.

You will have to judge what they eat and how much. It depends on the size of the colony, so begin with a few grammes and see how it pans out. A half a teaspoon of water a day is useful for them too, but do not make a puddle. The ground ought to remain dry.

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