Harvester Ants for Horned Lizards
Note: Harvester Ants cannot be shipped to Oregon or Hawaii. Please do not order if you live in one of those states.
Note: During extreme heat or cold weather conditions it is best to arrange for shipment to an address where the ants will be delivered inside or to a Post Office Box. If possible please use an address of this type to help minimize loss of ants in shipment.
Note: Not all horned lizards eat harvester ants. If your lizard comes from a high elevation area like Colorado, Wyoming, Utah mountains, or if it is young it may not eat harvester ants. Please read Care Instructions below for more information.
Ant Care Instructions
First of all Don't touch the ants! They can inflict a painful sting. Horned lizards have some immunity to it at least. The sting normally causes pain and swelling. If you are ever stung apply ice to the area until the pain subsides. If symptoms persist call your physician. Persons who are allergic to insect stings should be especially careful as they may require emergency medical attention in the event of an allergic reaction.
How do I keep the Ants?
The easiest way is to just leave them in the shipping container and store them in a Refrigerator. The cold will slow the ants way down and they may even go into hibernation. This makes it easy to keep them and easy to take ants out when it's time for feeding to your lizard. As the ants warm up they will start to move around faster again. It's a good idea to check the temperature of your fridge. 40 to 45 degrees is optimal.
If you are not able to keep them in a refrigerator, you can set up a different type of home for the ants. You can use plastic tubs that are about 2 feet by 3 feet by 6 inches deep or something similar. You will want a lid on top with about 10 small air holes in it. Harvester ants are not good climbers and should not be able to climb up smooth glass or plastic so aquariums or other similar habitats can be used as well. Cover the bottom of the habitat with a few inches of sand. Play box sand, beach sand, or landscaping sand works fine. Spray the sand with a little water (a spray bottle works well for this) to get the sand a little moist before placing your ants into the container.
How Many Ants Do I need?
Generally adult horned lizards will eat around 20 to 60 ants per day. You may be able to supplement your lizard's diet with baby crickets and other insects and if so you won't need as many ants. Juveniles will need less ants.
What do I feed the ants?
If you are keeping the ants in the fridge they won't need much food or water. We ship a little food in the container with the ants.
If you are not keeping the ants in the fridge you will need to feed and water them regularly. Harvester ants will eat almost anything but their favorite foods are fresh vegetables and fruits. Feed them small pieces of celery, apple, lettuce, carrot, etc... Feed them small pieces about every other day. If some of the food is not eaten after 2 days remove it from the ant "house" as it can get moldy and be harmful to the ants.
What about water for the ants?
If you are keeping the ants in the fridge you probably won't need to worry about giving them water. If you aren't keeping the ants in the fridge they will need water every day. Using a spray bottle, spray a mist of water onto the ants and sand once a day to keep the sand a little moist and give the ants some water. Don't spray too much or the ants may start to drown in the flood.
How do I feed the ants to my lizard?
You will only want to feed a few ants at a time to your lizard. We recommend about 5 ants at a time. Once those are eaten keep putting more ants in for the lizard until it is full (stops eating). A good tool to get is a large plastic funnel. A couple of plastic spoons or scoops are also useful. You can use the scoops or spoons and the funnel to transfer ants out of their "house" into a jar or other container at feeding time. Ants are cold blooded just like the lizards so try putting them in the refrigerator (not the freezer) for about 5 minutes to slow them down before feeding them to your pet(s).
How long will the ants live?
They will normally last up to 2 weeks without losing too many in the fridge.
Hibernating Horned Lizards During Winter
Wherever it is cold enough in the wild Horned Lizards hibernate during winter by tunneling underground. You may want to hibernate your lizard(s) during winter. They will need several inches of sand to tunnel into. You will need to research how to best help your pet(s) hibernate. Here is a place to start: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100120162645AAnjt7h
Hibernating your lizard(s) will help us here at Life Studies as it is more difficult to supply ants during winter.
Not all Horned Lizards Eat Harvester Ants
To the best of our knowledge there are 14 species of Horned Lizards in North America. Most of these depend on Harvester Ants as their staple diet. If your Lizard comes from a cold, high altitude climate (for example Wyoming, Colorado, or Utah high country) or if your lizard is young, it may not eat Harvester Ants. If your Lizard comes from these areas or is young, you should try just a few Harvester Ants at first. If the Lizard does not eat them - you should remove the ants as quickly as possible so that they do not harm your Lizard. We have only had a very few cases where people caught Lizards from these areas and they did not eat Harvester Ants. Lizards from these areas should not be kept because it is too difficult to obtain the right type of ants for them. Young lizards should be fed baby crickets or smaller ants if they are not able to eat harvester ants very well yet.