Che G. and the Nasa designed chambers of inglorious death

About twelve years ago now, we bought my eldest daughter an ant farm.  It looked a bit like this, and I believe was from the same company:


I bought it for these reasons:

1. It’s educational!

I had dreams of my child deciding on entomology as a career. She would be the next Jane Goodall of colonizing insects.  It would sharpen her observation skills! She would be learning science-y things and she wouldn’t even know it!

2. It was an easy  “pet.”

All the previous pocket pets of hers were, in reality, my pets, especially when it came to cage maintenance, attention, and well, all care after the few days happiness of having a rabbit, hamster, hermit crab,  goldfish, slug wore off.

3. I always wanted one.

I got it for the kid, I swear it. 😛

We had the new ants about three weeks and they dutifully built  great tunnels, sort of ate the food we put in, and in general seemed alright.

Then we went on a four day camping vacation, leaving the ants and other pets to a neighbor.

We came home to DEATH.

There was one ant alive. He was dutifully burying the bodies of his fallen companions.. poor fellow.

It was a mini ant graveyard.

I felt terrible presuming the house had been too hot or perhaps there was a food or water issue.

I wasn’t sure.

I only figured I didnt have the right environment to make it work.

Since then, in the name of   my personal bucket list of things I wanted as a kid  science we’ve raised chicks, tadpoles, yearly butterflies, had fish, and briefly brought in numerous other critters from outside.


Fast forward twelve years to last week,

when our ants arrived for our

Antworks gel ant farm!


The website boasts that they are:

“modeled after a NASA Space Shuttle experiment to study animal life in outer space & test how animals and ants successfully tunnel in micro gravity. the AntWorks® was conceived.. The habitat has a blue Gel is complete with nutrients to promote healthy growth in the new ant colony. NO FOOD OR WATER NEEDED for these out of this world Space Age Products”

I was  The kids were so excited and I put the ants in the moment they arrived. The fact that they eat the gel makes food and water issues moot, and I made a point to put them in a room with optimal temperature. I assumed we’d get at least a month or two of tunnel digging and happy ant harmony.

It was going to work out this time!

On the first day they built some great tunnels.

The second day they lazed about a bit.

On the third they staged an all out REBELLION.

What had been happy worker ants digging for the thrill to dig, were angry, panicked ants, trying to figure out a means of escape.

One was clearly the leader.

He was at the very top, chewing away at the seal in the lid.

I named him Che G.

He was a rebel with a plan.

I thought they’d tire and eventually get back to doing ant-y things, like digging tunnels.


The next day, they were still hanging out at the top.

The next, lying around at the top with twitchy antennae.

Except Che, he was making headway on the lid seal.

Are they getting food and water, if they aren’t tunneling?


Another thing they do not get if you do not open the cage weekly is:


Even though the directions said air needed refreshed just once a week, I thought I should open it up.

Maybe that was the problem.

Slowly I pried up the lid on the opposite side of Che, thinking a few seconds would improve the air quality.

They faked me out.

Milliseconds after doing so, Che, and every other ant in the joint were racing to the opening. So much for sluggish.

I got the lid back down, but not before Che ran out and across my arm, crawled down my shirt, and bit me right below the left breast.


Ant farm ants are harvester ants and have huge mandibles.

I yelled and whacked the little bastard off.

Last I saw him he was racing underneath the furniture.


How exactly do I refresh the air or feed/water the not digging ants without them all running out hmmm???

This morning, it’s not looking too good in our space aged habitat.DSCN9965

There are two bodies in the lid. They got caught in the lid when I had to shut it to keep them from running out. I’d take them out, but then, more will run.

The ones on the bottom look to be dead.  There are also dead ones in the white debris up top (from the digging).

I am, once again, an ant murderer.










13 thoughts on “Che G. and the Nasa designed chambers of inglorious death

  1. Jeannine van der Linden says:

    Ultimately our ants were released. Because we live overseas, we didn’t get the ants but had to harvest our own locally. No insect immigration allowed. 🙂

    The harvesting itself was a project involving a good deal of learning and fun, so I am not sorry. But in the end my kids liberatied them after watching them for a couple of weeks..

    My eldest child was once responsible for the liberation of an entire herd of sheep at a local petting zoo thingie, so I might have expected it.

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