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Care Guide: Ants

Living Care Information

barbatus or badius (harvesters),

commonly known as
red ant, red harvester ant,
carpenter ant

Quick Start Information

  • Open the shipment upon arrival, remove the container, and inspect your ants.

  • Your ant colony will not reproduce. Non-reproductive individuals of unknown ages are included in your shipment.

  • Do not handle the ants with your bare hands. They can deliver a painful sting and have a strong bite.

  • Harvester ants are typically used in ant farms.

  • Carpenter ants can only be shipped within the state of North Carolina per USDA regulations. They are considered a pest species and should not be released under any circumstances.

About the Organism

  • Ant colonies divide labor based on a caste system. Colonies are organized into the worker caste and the reproductive caste.
  • Myrmecology is the study of ants.
  • Worker ants use a second stomach to collect and transport food back to their colony.
  • Ant workers can lift 50 times their own body weight.
  • Ants communicate the location of food sources to one another by using pheromone scent trails.
  • Domain: Eukarya
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Class: Insecta
  • Order: Hymenoptera
  • Family: Formicidae
  • Genus: Pogonomyrmex or Camponotus
  • Species: barbatus or badius(Harvesters) or pennsylvanicus(Carpenters)


Our ant farms include a coupon that you can use to request your shipment of live harvester ants. We ship live harvester ants in a plastic vial containing a slice of potato. Before introducing the ants to their habitat or ant farm, place them in a refrigerator for 5 to 10 minutes to chill them to immobility. Do not place them in the freezer, as extreme cold will kill the ants.

Carolina’s carpenter ants are normally used as a food source for other animals. Carpenter ants can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Check your ants daily until you are ready to use them.


Ant farms are ideal habitats to allow student to observe harvester ant behavior. We offer several ant farms for classroom use:

We suggest that organisms be:

  • Ant Farm (contains a sand substrate and includes food for the ants)
  • Giant Ant Farm (contains a sand substrate and includes food for the ants)

Our Ants Amazing Bugs® Kit and our Gel Ant Farm with LED base contain a gel ant farm that provides the food and water the ants will need to survive in the farm.

It may take 12 to 24 hours for your ants to become acclimated to their new home. Carpenter ants can be refrigerated in their shipping container until they are needed as a food source for other organisms. Check the ants daily until you are ready to use them.


Feed your Harvester ants the food included with your ant farm. As a supplement, offer small pieces of celery, lettuce, carrot or apple every 2-3 days. Ants have also been known to eat dry cat food. Remove any uneaten food after 2 days to prevent mold from accumulating. Provide your ants with a few drops of water each day and keep them in a cool room.

If you have a gel-based ant farm, the gel proves all the food and water needed by the ants. No additional feeding is necessary.

Maintaining and culturing

With proper care, harvester ants will live 2-4 weeks. Do not add different species or ants from a different nest to an established habitat. Ants are extremely aggressive toward invaders in their nest and will attack and kill invaders.

Keep your ant habitat in one place to avoid the tunnels collapsing and damaging or disturbing the colony. Avoid placing your ant farm in direct sunlight as this will cause the temperature inside of the ant farm to rise and harm your ants.

Ants are most active at night. We recommend covering the ant farm when you are not observing it. This will encourage more activity and decrease stress for the ants.

High temperatures can shorten the life of your ants. Ants will live longer in a cool room at temperatures of 60-70°F.

Ants will carry their dead to a chamber in the nest called a midden. The midden serves as the colony’s garbage collection area. Students may be able to identify the midden chamber in the nest. Occasionally, dead individuals will be transported to the surface. Remove any dead ants transported to the surface. This practice prevents disease from spreading to the rest of the colony.


Ants should not be released under any circumstances.

If you no longer with to keep the ants, place specimens in a sealable container and freeze for 1 week. Dispose of the ants in the regular solid waste.


No biosafety information applies for this organism.



Why didn’t I get any queen ants?

We ship only the sterile worker ants. This eliminates the possibility of establishing an ant species in an area where it is not native.

What are some foods that I can feed my ants?

Ants will accept a variety of fruit, grain, and plant foods, but avoid animal meats, fats, and oils. If you have a gel ant farm, it contains all the food and water the ants will need.

Why are our carpenter ants not active?

If you are refrigerating them, the cold makes them less active. Carpenter ants are also more active at night. In nature, that is when they forage for food.

Can I collect my own ants for my ant farm?

Yes, but be sure not to add different species or ants from separate nests to the same ant farm. Ants from different colonies will attack and kill one another. Do not attempt to collect fire ants or army ants for your ant farm. These species are extremely aggressive and swarm very quickly and have will deliver a painful bite or sting to defend their nest.

Need help?

We want you to have a good experience. Orders and replacements: 800.334.5551, then select Customer Service. Technical support and questions: caresheets@carolina.com