Instructables

Soda Bottle Ant Farm

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Picture of Soda Bottle Ant Farm
Ever wanted an ant farm?  Ant farms are entertaining, yet educational – it’s fascinating to observe the little ants as they go about their busy lives.  But store-bought ant farms are often expensive, and usually limited in size.  If you’d like an inexpensive, easy-to-make ant farm alternative that gives ants tons of space to lead a more natural life, then this soda bottle ant farm project is for you!
 
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Step 1: Materials You'll Need

One of the great things about this project is that it mostly requires materials and tools that are inexpensive, common household items.  You’ll need the items pictured above, as well as a few other things -- here's everything you'll need to gather:

• Two 2-liter plastic bottles
• One smaller plastic bottle, between 591 mL to 700 mL in size. Get one that has five bumps on the bottom (like the 2-liter bottles, as shown in the close-up picture above).
• One “Tornado Tube.” These are used to hook two plastic bottles together and are often found in toy stores. They can also be purchased online, such as from Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000GYSZOI/
• Optional: Hair dryer and Goo Gone to clean the bottles up.
• Utility knife
• Scissors
• Epoxy that works with plastics. I used quick-set, multi-purpose Loctite epoxy and it worked great.
• Soil
• Funnel or construction paper
• Optional: Grass/grass seeds, small leaves, rocks, twigs, etc., to make a natural foraging area for the ants.
• Shipping tape
• Cotton ball
• Ants!

Step 2: Clean Up the Bottles

Picture of Clean Up the Bottles
Empty the three plastic bottles, rinse them out with plain water, and remove the labels.

Tip: To more cleanly remove the labels, use a hair dryer for a few seconds on the parts that are attached to the bottles with glue – this will melt the glue. If there is a little glue residue left, use a product like Goo Gone to remove it.
HrdWodFlor9 months ago
I like this! A much more natural enviroment than most ant farms. Good job.
Teisha (author)  HrdWodFlor9 months ago
Thanks, HrdWodFlor! I always enjoy finding ways to repurpose/up-cycle items.
This is amazing!! I no longer have to buy a fake environment for the ants!!
Teisha (author)  MarkersUnite1233 days ago

Thanks, MakersUnite123! Ants definitely deserve as real an environment as we can give them when they're in an ant farm. Thanks for checking out the 'ible!

whoohoo8 months ago
i can't find any tornado tubes. any replacements?
-CCCP- whoohoo18 days ago

You can just find 2 caps from your bottles, then drill them out so you are left with a threaded ring, Epoxy them together.

-CCCP- whoohoo18 days ago

You can just find 2 caps from your bottles, then drill them out so you are left with a threaded ring, Epoxy them together.

Teisha (author)  whoohoo8 months ago
(removed by author or community request)
Teisha (author)  Teisha8 months ago
The tornado tube linked to in Step 1 is still available from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000GYSZOI/
(Accidentaly said "Step 2" first time I replied.)
-CCCP-18 days ago

Awesome!

Ellexis9 months ago
Great job! Our kids want to do this with our indigenous fire ants... Sounds like fun!
woodpuppy9 months ago
Hi! as a kid I used to make ant-farms out of 2 pis. plastic nailed to a wooden frame. Something like 40 cm by 50cm and about 5cm apart. Least to say my farms never lived that long. THIS IS SO GREAT!. It´s winter over here in Germany, but come springtime I WILL make myself one of theas. Thank you so much for the idea.
Teisha (author)  woodpuppy9 months ago
That's really neat! I've made various bug containers over the years, but this is the first one I tried to make specifically as an ant farm. (I don't have a lot of wood-working tools, so that limited my options.) Even though you can't get ants easily in the wild right now, you might be able to order them online somewhere? That's actually what I did here in the U.S., but I don't know what the options are like in Germany. Thanks for checking out my project! Auf Wiedersehen!
gotsparkles9 months ago
Great idea!! I will be doing this over the weekend with my 4 year old! Question, though.... How do you feed the ants?
Teisha (author)  gotsparkles9 months ago
Thanks for checking out the ant farm! I hope you and your 4-year-old enjoy trying it out - I think it should be a lot of fun as a weekend project.

You can add food to this ant farm by simply taking off the top (if you did not tape it shut) or by removing the cotton ball and adding food through the hole (if you went that route). I've been adding food through the cotton ball hole and it works well. (Just don't add too much at once or they might get moldy.)

What you feed the ants depends on the species of ant. Different ant species eat different things, but most eat small, dead insects, fruits, seeds, although it varies. Here's a webpage that talks about what they eat more: http://www.live-ants.com/what-ants-eat.html The ant in the picture in step 9 is a black garden ant (Lasius niger), and they're omnivorous -- they'll eat dead insects, fruits, and other foods.
Very helpful!! Thanks so much - it's on our project list for the weekend. :)
Teisha (author)  gotsparkles9 months ago
Enjoy! :)
therishel9 months ago
Clear silicone caulk could be used as an alternative to epoxy to seal the bottom of the lower bottle and to attach the smaller bottle. Silicone is much easier to work with, less toxic, and more forgiving of mistakes. Especially important if building this project with children. If using silicone, be sure to allow enough time for the caulk to cure completely.
Teisha (author)  therishel9 months ago
Thanks for the suggestion, therishel. It's always important to be careful when you're making a project like this with children.
I would love to see someone trying a termite farm. I found termites at work in a piece of wood and kept some of them for about a year in a 1 pound margarine tub. (I fed them wood shavings, sawdust, etc. but eventually forgot about them for too long and the poor things dried up. In my view they are just as neat as ants. A cool thing about termites is that you probably do not need the queen to have a viable colony. Another cool thing is that there are soldiers and workers.
Teisha (author)  gaiatechnician9 months ago
That is a neat idea, gaiatechnician. You could probably guess that I like raising/watching insects. Your termite idea reminded me of a neat article I found on raising mealworms: http://www.hollowtop.com/finl_html/mealworms.htm
HrdWodFlor9 months ago
One of the things you can do if you want, is to take a couple of small bottles and attach them to the larger bottle using lengths of clear tubing. Then make these satellite bottles the feeding/watering stations. once they learn where the food/ water is you can watch them crawl along the tubes. Also if you have one that has just a small amount of dirt in the bottom they will pile up the colony waste and dead ants in it like a garbage dump.
Teisha (author)  HrdWodFlor9 months ago
Thanks for the good idea, HrdWodFlor. I was hoping to try something like this in the future. You could even do experiments where you put different foods in different bottles and see which ones the ants like to visit the most.
cb cowboy9 months ago
What a great idea !! Thanks
Teisha (author)  cb cowboy9 months ago
Thanks, cb cowboy!
nesplanet19 months ago
What would you feed the ants?
Teisha (author)  nesplanet19 months ago
It depends on the species of ant. Different ant species eat different things. Most ants eat small, dead insects, fruits, seeds, but it varies. Here's a webpage that talks about what they eat more: http://www.live-ants.com/what-ants-eat.html

Ants commonly used in ant farms are a type of harvester ants, and they largely eat seeds: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harvester_ant

The ant in the picture in step 9 is a black garden ant (Lasius niger), and they're omnivorous -- they'll eat dead insects, fruits, and other foods.
sabu.dawdy9 months ago
educational
Teisha (author)  sabu.dawdy9 months ago
Thanks, sabu.dawdy!
CaptainNemo9 months ago
If you boil some water and dip the cut edge into it the heat will shrink the plastic just slightly. Enough for it to create an overlapping edge for a better seal. Refer to some of the H2O rocket instructables for a better explaination.
Teisha (author)  CaptainNemo9 months ago
That's a great idea - sounds like it would help seal the cut-off bottom of the 2-Liter bottle onto the top part. Thanks for the tip.
M3G9 months ago
Very cool, well made instructable.
Teisha (author)  M3G9 months ago
Thanks, M3G!
BigWeezy9 months ago
Hey, very cool design, will most likely be trying it out sometime soon, but I was wondering the purpose of the smaller bottle.
Teisha (author)  BigWeezy9 months ago
Thanks, BigWeezy - I hope you enjoy trying it out! The purpose of the smaller bottle is to make a narrow, soil-filled space for the ants to make their tunnels in. Because the space is narrow (like in store-bought ant farm), you should be able to see their tunnels when looking at the outside bottle. (If there were no smaller bottle inside, the ants could just dig tunnels throughout the larger bottle and you would be less likely to see them along the surface of the larger bottle.)
Interresting concept, thanks for sharing.

My first idea was that ants would not last indefinitly inside such a farm, would they? The amount of resources are limited, after all... How long do they last in your experience?

The second idea was that you should be able to make your own Tornadu tube (which I had not heard off before) by drilling the two bottlecaps open and either glue them together or get some matching tube and epoxy them inside.
Teisha (author)  Dominic Bender9 months ago
Thanks for checking out my instructable, Satrek. The amount of resources are not limited in this design -- you can add more resources to this ant farm by simply taking off the top (if you did not tape it shut) or by removing the cotton ball and adding resources through the hole (if you went that route). I've been adding resources through the cotton ball hole and it works well. That said, any ant farm typically lasts as long as the ants do -- if you do not have a queen ant to make more ants, then it lasts as long as the lifespan of the worker ants, which is usually a few months. If you have a queen, the ant farm could last several years (since she'll make more workers).

The reason I picked the Tornado Tube is because it is very sturdy. You could probably use some epoxy, but since a lot of weight depends on that connection, I wanted to make sure it wouldn't break (this is especially important if you want to move the ant farm after filling it with soil).