Check out our colony of hundreds of leafcutter ants. They live in a large glass ant case called a formicary, in our Creepy Crawlies gallery.

Watch the ants duck in and out of the nest boxes, carry sections of leaves across aerial walkways and sip thirstily from the surrounding moat.


Looking after our ant colony

  • The ideal temperature for the ants is 24-27°C and the ideal humidity is about 70%. If the temperature goes above 27°C, the queen becomes infertile and dies.
  • Imagine sticking your hands into a cage full of hundreds of ants with sharp pincers. We do this regularly to clean the formicary.
  • As well as leaves, we also scatter cereals, fruits, nuts, seeds and cooked meats. This is not food for the ants. Instead, they create a mulch and eat the fungus that grows on the mulch. If we don’t keep this supply varied, the ants are tempted to forage elsewhere, and have a tendency to escape.

Build your own colony

The formicary at the Museum is large enough to hold hundreds of ants, but you can make your own small ant case at home. It is important to remember to look after the ants, making sure they always have enough food and water.

They need to be kept in a well-sealed container and away from heating or cooling equipment, food sources or hygiene areas. Individual ants will not survive outside their case for very long, but if their escape route is not sealed the ants may establish a food route back into the case.

Find out more

How many ants are in the average nest, and how do these tiny creatures organise themselves?

Find out more in the leafcutter ant fact file