You have seen exciting and interesting documentaries where entire colonies are kept in captivity and their activities are carefully recorded and analyzed. Perhaps you yourself always wanted to keep ants right next to where you lived but always thought terrariums required the expertise and money only available through natural history museums or nature centers. It is indeed an art to maintain an ant colony. If you do it right you can join many people who do just that like Mikey Busto. His Ants Canada initiative designs terrariums/formicariums and provides many instructional videos. Activities of Ants Canada is so much in line with the natural philosophy of Nature Documentaries that we would like to feature a few of their videos here.
Watchable terrarium design is very critical for engaging and informative natural history interaction. Ants are amazing self-organizing systems. However certain species requirements can be rather demanding. A mature leaf-cutter ant colony can consume leaves more than a weight of a cow every day! Think of the nutrient cycling these ecosystem engineers provide to their biological community… Being able to meet basics requirements of a colony requires good design. Take the famous tropical weaver ants (Oecophylla smaragdina) who construct their nests by stitching leaves of trees using secretions of their larvae as glue. Being able to maintain and even encourage nest building is so impressive that it actually deserves a whole page by itself. Check it out!
Ants Canada really carries the domestic ant keeping to a new level and deserves kudos. The set of OMNI nests consist of many different modules and new creative designs continue to come out. These modules are connectable and therefore enables expansions as the colony grows. Perfect educational tools for schools and displays for nature centers.
These artificial nests enable observation of the diverse natural history of ants normally hidden underground. It enables intimate observations of the life cycle and above ground “out world” activities of these amazing social animals. How a colony is founded? Once nanitics emerge and worker ants numbers increase how do they decide when and where to move their core nest? How they sort their waste and even use a toilet area to poop? How do they forage? What is the daily, weekly, monthly food intake? What do they prefer to eat? What parts of the nest chambers do they use most? Do they shift nests? Watch ants and learn!