You'll need

  • An empty 1 litre round plastic bottle (a soft drink bottle works well, any colour)
  • An empty, clear, 2 litre round plastic bottle (a larger soft drink bottle works well)
  • A bottle cap (if the bottles don’t have one)
  • Scissors
  • A piece of cardboard, about 15 cm by 15 cm
  • Sticky tape
  • Blu Tack (or sticky tape)
  • Sandy soil
  • Paper towel
  • A rubber band
  • Cotton wool
  • Breadcrumbs and sugar water or fruit (to feed your ants)
  • A jar (for collecting ants)
  • Honey
  • A pin

What to do


Scissors and pins are sharp. Ask an adult to help with this activity.

Some ants can bite and sting, so be careful when collecting them.

  1. Gather your materials on a flat surface.
  2. Cut the neck off both bottles so you have 2 cylinder-shaped bottles.
  3. If the bottles have caps, keep one of them. Throw away the bottle necks.
  4. Stand the small bottle right way up on the table. Cut the cardboard to make a lid that covers the top and fix it on with sticky tape.
  5. Stick some Blu Tack on the underside of the smaller bottle and fix it inside the larger one. Position it in the middle, so there is an even gap between the 2 bottles, and push it down firmly.
  6. Fill the space between the 2 bottles with sandy soil, stopping about 8 cm from the top.
  7. Add some food and water for your ants. Prepare half a teaspoon of chopped fruit or breadcrumbs soaked in sugar water. Put the cotton wool in the bottle cap and soak it with water. Put the cap and food on the cardboard lid of the inner bottle.
  8. Your ant farm is ready for some ants!
  9. To capture some ants, put a piece of fruit or some honey in an open jar. Put the jar outside, near an ant’s nest if you can find one. When you have 10 to 20 ants in the jar, take the jar to your ant farm.
  10. Transfer the ants onto the soil in your bottle (gently tap the jar, or use a soft paintbrush to flick them out).
  11. Cover the top of your ant farm with paper towel and secure it with a rubber band.
  12. Use the pin to make some small holes in the paper towel so the ants can breathe.
  13. Carefully move the ant farm to a place out of direct sunlight where you can easily look at it.
  14. Now you can enjoy watching and caring for your new pet ants!
  15. Try not to move the bottles too much or the ants’ tunnels could collapse.
  16. Check your ants’ water every day. Soak the cotton wool again if it feels a bit dry.
  17. Feed your ants half a teaspoon of food each week (this is enough for 10 to 20 ants).
  18. When you have finished with your ants, make sure you release them gently back where you found them.

​​​​​​​Questions to ask

Can you see the tunnels the ants make? Can you imagine all the ant tunnels that are underground in the wild?

Why do ants make tunnels?

What things do both ants and people need to live?

What’s happening

Many types of ants live underground in large groups called colonies. They make tunnels and chambers in the soil as a way to get from place to place, to store food and to raise young ants away from animals that might eat them above ground. The tunnels that you can see in your ant farm are just like the tunnels they make underground!