Ants in a Bottle

Ants can be pests! But on the other hand, they are fascinating to watch. Incredibly strong for its size, some ants can move objects that would be relatively equivalent of a single human moving an elephant.


You and your child can build a formicarium or ant farm similar to the wormery we made some months back. In fact, you can use it for ants, worms or other small burrowing critters.

You Will Need
  • A clean, large, wide-mouth glass jar (such as a large peanut butter or pickle jar), plus its lid
  • A small bottle (find one with a diameter 2 or 3 inches less than the jar)
  • Another jar or cup
  • Modeling clay (not play dough)
  • Sand
  • Ants (!)
  • Sugar and small bits of ant food (bread crumbs, bits of cheese, ripe fruit, jam)

Put a ring or collar of modeling clay around the opening of the smaller jar and place it, upside-down, into the larger jar. (Figure 1) The clay should make a seal between the opening of the bottle and the bottom of the jar. Pour in enough sand so that it fills the space around the smaller jar to an inch or so from the bottom.

Mix a slurry of sugar water in the third jar or cup. Find an anthill or a line of ants outside, and pour a little of the sugar water on the ground near it. Fill the cup about a quarter full with sand and mix it thoroughly with the sugar slurry. Put the jar or cup on its side next to the sugar water on the ground. Pretty soon there should be quite a few ants inside. Remove the jar and pour the entire contents--ants, sand and all--into the larger jar. Repeat if you didn't get enough ants the first time.

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