Posted Feb 27, 2014
When I was about 7 years old, I received an unexpected gift from my parents -- an ant farm. Nope, it wasn't the dog I'd been begging for, but it didn't take me long to fall in love with my new, tiny friends. Seriously, I absolutely LOVED that ant farm! I would turn down watching TV to sit in front of the ants for hours on end, captivated by their tunnel-digging mastery. They even, performed these types of funeral rituals and buried their dead! It's amazing.
Ants are also pretty easy to care for. All you do is fill the farm with sand and then fill it with ants. You can either order live ants, or, if you or your child is kind of a tomboy like I was, you can go outside and get your own ants for free. You also don't have to worry about spending money on any kind of specialized food. All ants eat is sugar water. Simply fill a dropper with a mix of sugar and water, squeeze the droplets into the farm, and watch the ants clamor. The only "downside" to having ants as pets is that you, obviously, can't really play with them. Also, there were a few times when ants would escape from a crack in the plastic farm. It wasn't a large number of them or anything, but it did happen from time to time. All I did was pick them up, put them back in the farm, and tape up the sides to make sure it didn't happen again.
If you go outside and catch your own ants (read: black ants -- make sure you are not going after those red guys. They are not nice.), as I did, you probably won't have access to the queen, just the workers. Unfortunately, this means that no new ants are being born and that the ants you have will die off in about a month. To remedy this, I went on daily runs to get more ants from outside.
Overall, an ant farm is a great introduction into pet ownership, especially for little kids. It teaches them how to care for something that's not easy to kill off because of human error. It also engages them -- watching the ants burrow and work is fascinating.