a peek inside the fishbowl

03 Jun, 2006

Our own miniature Jonestown

Posted by andrea in: Easy ways to make kids happy|Misc. life

A couple summers ago we had a lovely, living, active ant farm.

The batch we caught were really gung-ho – the keeners of the class. They scurried to and scurried fro. They tunneled madly off in all directions. They even TALKED! Not to me, but to their fellow coworkers. I could tell they were talking because they were always feeling each other up with their antennae. Or perhaps we stumbled upon a colony of perverts? Who knows, flirtation aside, they got stuff done. This is ultimately what you want in an ant farm.

This year we got a new ant farm. A dee-lux version, and if we bought a second one we can attach them together.

We’re about to take our third go at it.

My husband does all the ant-catching around here. And he hasn’t been able to catch any good ones.

Case in point, the first batch (a population of about a dozen) didn’t tunnel. They just carried the grains of sand from the sides of the container and piled them in the middle. I guess they didn’t get the memo. They’re supposed to tunnel, NOT build a sandcastle.



Mark’s theory was that he had caught nursemaid ants. When he uncovered the stone they were tunneling under they all ran for cover with eggs in their maws.

I told Mark that next time he needs to catch a manager ant – a leader – someone who gives directions to the others. It was clear that Mark had caught the group from accounting, because these guys were doing nothing but taking from one pile and adding it to another.

The second batch was captured from a different colony from elesewhere in the garden. This time Mark made a point of catching ones on the surface. Builder ants! That’s what we needed! But they did the exact same thing as the first group: carried grains of sand from the sides and piled them in the middle. I secretly wondered if they’re smarter than we are. Were they playing dumb to hasten their release? Trying to build a pyramid? Or an escape route?


I felt sorry for these guys, so I sprinkled some sugar into the container. They dashed over as fast as their six legs would carry them. And then they sat there, gorging themselves for what seemed to be a really long time. Imagine the revelry! The conversation!

Said Sammy, the elderly ant, while slugging back another drop of sugar water: “Did I ever tell you about the year we went on the Journey To Compost. It took two weeks! Just to find out the place was overrun by potato bugs! And we had to avoid the lawn otherwise we’d get stepped on by these two giant girls who sometimes caught us and put us in these horrible ?”

Brock – the teenager ant who really couldn’t give a damn – rolled his compound eyes. “C’mon ya old fart,” he said, clearly irritated. You’re not going to tell THAT one again, are you?

“Shut up Brock,” said Sammy. “Your phermones are really stinkin’ up the joint.”

I had also put in a couple drops of water. They were definitely drinking themselves silly! They were really loving the sugar water. Perhaps a little too much.

As of yesterday the little buggers were playing dead. See, I told you they were smart! Mark’s already cleared out the sand. We’re ready to catch some new ones and try again.

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  • a peek inside the fishbowl » Blog Archive Look who I found! - a peek inside the fishbowl: […] He (or she) was just hanging out on a hosta. He’s the only one I’ve seen from our brood. […]
  • andrea tomkins: Me too! I am REALLY looking forward to it. We didn't get to go last year so I'm really counting on it this summer!
  • Ginger: I hope COVID-19 doesn't take away your camping trip!
  • andrea tomkins: It's going to be tough. The problem is that everyone seems to have a different tolerance. Some people think it's no big deal, while others haven't lef
  • Ginger: I'm that person too. I liked my personal space before this, but now...I would prefer even more than 6 feet please!
  • andrea tomkins: We have a natural gas BBQ but we bought this portable one a few years back fo camping and/or picnics. I loooove the smell of burning charcoal! And yes
  • Corvid: You have a charcoal grill *and* a gas bbq? Or just charcoal? I have both. Charcoal flavour is unique/delish. What restaurant is that?

The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

If you'd like to contact me, please use this form. If you're so inclined, you can read more about me here. Thank you for visiting!


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