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Fantasy Island
Make your own Zoological Theme Park and much more.

Age Grading: 6+ Years
Product Code: WS/60

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Detailed introduction
  • A Big Science Fantasy adventure kit with a new Ant-O-Sphere module and an amazing Fighting Fish Watertower!
  • It features ant tubes and real gardens, plus three diifferent llinked lagoons for Fighting Fish or Triops!
  • Lots of fun and animal friendly activities with mirrors, doors, coloured gravels and much more! Recipes for feeding and keeping the animals happy all included
  • FAQ
    Q1. The ants in New Zealand are very small! What can we do?

    A1. If your ants are less than 3mm long, they are probably less than 1mm wide. And our air holes are 1mm wide. So they may escape from there.

    So what to do?
    1. Cut thin strips of tissue paper, wet them, and let them dry over the two lines of holes. Air will still get in and out but not ants. After they have settled in 3 days or so, they generally do not want to escape and the paper can come off. ( Some might pop their heads out for a look around but then go in again. If you are faint hearted , best keep the paper on.)

    2. Better, put sticky tape over the holes! For small ants, enough oxygen diffuses into the colony through the very thin plaster walls. In fact you can blow air through the back into the colony .. try it!

    3. Better still - collect ant larvae and pupae at the same time. Ants love to look after them and usually they don't even think about escaping.

    4. Best of all - try and find bigger ants. It seems NZ has 11 species of native ants and 28 introduced ones. As it gets warmer towards christmas you'll have more ant size choices.



    Q2. The water is getting too cold for the Betta.

    A2.

    We have collected some strategies for helping fish through very cold periods, but first we'd like to explain why the kit has no heating.
    Bettas will survive at temperatures down to about 64F(17C) . Usual room temperature settings (for winter) in modern living areas will be about 68F ( 20C). This was the assumption in designing the kit .
    The ideal temperature range is in the tropical 70s (24C), but ornamental Bettas have been bred over the last 100 years or so for living in small unheated bowls northern climates. Electrical heating systems and child accessible fish environments are not compatible: so we have planned the kit to work without heating in most domestic situations.
    But yes, if you have cold winters, and in particular cold rooms, the kit may need to be placed in a warmer position.
    We are not sure of your exact situation, but we can recommend to following strategies
    1. Place a thin insulating layer of plastic foam under the kit to keep it from touching cold surfaces. Bubble wrap will also work.
    2. Move the kit a bit closer to where there is all night warmth from machinery - eg fridges, TV's on standby, to help avoid severe temperature drops overnight. But please make sure water spills will not create a hazard.
    3. Move the kit away from windows if they are single glazed to help avoid severe temperature fluctuations . 4. Place a low power desk lamp shining onto the kit at night for extra warmth. But please make sure it cannot be knocked into the water.
    We do not recommend a glass test tube type aquarium heater as it is difficult to fix in the kit, is a breakage and electrical hazard, and the kit was never intended for this style of heating. However some pet shops and veterinary practices do sell warming mats designed for very young animals. These work when placed under the kit, but need to be monitored carefully as they can overheat the water.
    We suspect the death was not entirely to do with temperature if the kit was kept indoors in an occupied living area. Many Betta suppliers do not keep fish in ideal conditions before sale and they can arrive with weakened systems. To give them a more dependable start you can add a few drops of broad spectrum fish 'tonic' to the water. This is cheap and available at all aquarium supplies, but we are not allowed to include it in the set as it is not designed for children to handle. .





    Q3. My ants won't go out of the ant catcher and into the tubes!

    A3. Here are a few hints.
    1. Put the catcher part in bright light and the rest of the colony in shade.

    2. If that doesn't work - put a food tube with sugar water in it onto another port to see if that entices them out.

    3. Wait until they get bored and move house. But we have some that have moved into the catcher for months! Actually, we don't mind, and nor do they.

    4. If you can't wait, this method always works. It is a bit drastic, but crazy fun, and you'll need to rebuild a bit of the colony.
    Pull off the antcatcher and plug the hole with cotton wool to keep the ants in it..
    Pull out one empty antosphere - or at least a sphere with no ants in it.
    Take the sphere apart, but have 3 cotton plugs and o rings on standby.
    Pop antcatcher and ants, plus the two halves of the sphere into the fridge ( not freezer) for 5 or 10 minutes.
    Check every few minutes - when they are all curled up alseep and not moving you are ready.
    Get mum or a not-panicky friend to help now...
    The next bit must happen very quickly and DON'T breathe on your ants or they'll wake up furious!
    Take the lid off the chilled-out ants and tip them fast into a chilled half of the antosphere.
    Plop the other half on top and your assistant holds it closed while you plug up the ports.
    Then put o rings on - then rebuild the colony!



    Q4. Where can we get ants?

    A4. We suggest in spring or summer, collecting your own local worker ants plus ant larvae and pupae ( often called ants 'eggs') , and ant dirt, from a nest in the park or garden. You don't need a queen. Away from the influence of the queen, some pupae and larvae will naturally turn into new queens and males in your colony, ensuring at least one queen is fertilized. Very Exciting! Then, the colony can go on 'forever'. Get larger ants. Over 3mm long means their heads are usually too wide to get through the holes which are 1mm diameter. This is the best idea.

    If you don't have a chance to find them in the wild....

    As we don't know where do you live, here are some information for specific regions below, hope they do help!

    UK:
    Ants should be out and about in parks and gardens in the UK during the spring.Just follow the clues in the booklet for catching ants. (But you should be aware that catching certain rare ants is illegal in the UK.)

    OR you can get nice big ants by mail from our distributor in UK
    http://www.interplaydirect.co.uk/
    If you are in USA, or Canada please visit here:
    http://www.sciencekit.com/alive
    The ants they supply are usually nice and big.

    There are more on the web.
    You'll need to order them from a supplier inside your own country because quarantine laws usually stop ants being shipped from one country to the next.
    If it is very cold at the moment where you live, maybe wait until the weather warms up to catch your own live ants.Or order them over the internet.
    Most suppliers sell Harvester ants, and these ants are ideal - they are herbivores. So mustard seeds, grass seeds, dried fruit, sugar etc are great foods for them.
    Worker ants alone might live up to 3 months. But with a fertilized queen, your colony can go can 'forever'. We are not sure if the queens some suppliers sell are fertilized, and able to lay eggs that will hatch. You may need to ask them.



    Q5. My ants are having trouble climbing up the tubes.

    A5. This problem tends to sort itself out after a day or two as condensation (water vapour) naturally gathers in the tubes, usually overnight. Ants feet can 'get a grip' on the wet surface. As they go up and down they to drop dust and pheromone or trail making chemicals onto the wet surface. This dries out to non slip surface. Clever ants! To speed up this process, carefully undo the ends of some of the tubes and blow gently into them so your breath makes fog on the tube walls. Don't inhale ants and don't let them escape from open ports! You can even tip a little very fine dirt into the tube and shake it down so it sticks to the walls.
    NOTE: The ants might go crazy for a few minutes - Carbon Dioxide from your breath is a stimulant for 'avoidance behaviour'.
    If your breath does not fog the tubes, try tipping a tiny amount of water down the tube. To make it a special treat for the ants, mix half a teaspoon of sugar into a cup of water (very diluted sugar water) and trickle just a little down the tubes. It will dry slightly 'sticky' and your ants will love it too.



    Q6. My ants aren't going in my ant-o-sphere starter from the big clear container. What can I do?

    A6. 1. Put the sphere or colony part in shade and the clear jar in brighter light. But don't make the jar hot - just bright. Most ants will move out

    2. If you collected ants from outside - make sure you also got some of the original ant nest dirt and put it inside the sphere or colony. It 'smells' like home and the ants will be much happier to move in. Don't put in 'foreign' ant dirt - this will drive them crazy. it must be from their own home

    3. Even better, if you collected ants from outside - make sure you also got some tiny white maggotty things or little brown sausages. They are the babies and pupae. Worker ants are programmed to look after them and it gives them a reason to get to work setting up house in the main colony.

    4. If you don't have dirt or babies you can take more extreme measures ...carefully! Put a cotton ball in the lid of the jar full of ants. Put it in the fridge ( not freezer) for 10 minutes or more until the ants curl up and go to sleep. The next bit happens very quickly: open the antosphere, then take the lid off the jar and tip the ants into the sphere, snap it shut and block the ports. Try not to breathe on the sleeping ants ... they wake up very ummm... angry! They will wake up in no time anyway. After a day or so you can reconnect the jar as extra accommodation.



    Q7. Why are my 'Ants by Mail' not doing anything?

    A7.

    1. Put the sphere or colony part in shade and the clear jar in brighter light. But don't make the jar hot - just bright. Most ants will move out.
    2. Lack of 'reason to live' or general 'ant depression' is a big problem with worker ants bought by mail. If it is winter where you are, or you are in a apartment block, of course ants by mail may be the only solution. Otherwise we strongly recommend getting live ants with larvae.
    When you collect ants from outside - make sure you also got some tiny white maggotty things or little brown sausages. They are the babies and pupae. Worker ants are programmed to feed and tend to their every need. So larvae and pupae give them a reason to get to work setting up house in the main colony.
    3. If you collect ants from outside - make sure you also got some of the original ant nest dirt and put it inside the sphere or colony. It 'smells' like home and the ants will be much happier to move in. Don't put in 'foreign' ant dirt - this will drive them crazy - it must be from their own home. Make sure your ants are longer than about 3mm or they may also be narrow enough to squeeze oit of the 1mm air holes.
    4. Carpenter ants can be very aggressive and painful to do battle with. This method below is a quick solution for feisty, biting or aggressive ants.
    Put a cotton ball in the lid of the jar full of ants. Put it in the fridge ( not freezer) for 10 minutes or more until the ants curl up and go to sleep. The next bit happens very quickly: open the antosphere, then take the lid off the jar and tip the ants into the sphere, snap it shut and block the ports. Try not to breathe on the sleeping ants ... they wake up very ummm... angry! They will wake up in no time anyway. After a day or so you can reconnect the jar as extra accommodation.
    5. Yes 90% of ants can scale the tubes and jars. For slippery footed species, wipe a little sugar water around the inside, or trickle it through tubes, then blow dirt or sand through them. Instant edible high-grip pathways. .





    Q8. Ants are escaping!

    A8. The holes are 1mm diameter which means ants smaller than 3mm may escape with a real squeeze. But larger ants physically cannot escape through the holes.
    Anyway, here are some hints that may help avoid future escapes:

    1. Clean out the colony and start again making sure two parts of the colony mouldings click together with no gaps. If the kit is moved around, sometimes the gaps can enlarge, then sand can get wedged in between, the gap widens unseen, and ants can escape. So best seal that join or seam with sticky tape too before putting soil in and before putting the side 'curtains' and base on. We suspect this might be the source of your larger ant leaks.

    2. Now we do know you have some pretty big ants - see if you can find some over 5mm long. 1cm ants are wonderful as they are easy to observe.

    3. When you collect ants, ALSO collect larvae and pupae from the same nest. They look like little white grubs or maggots, or brown seeds. These divert the ants' attention and give the ants a good reason to stay in the nest. The presence of the young ones also causes strong organizational behaviors in the workers, makes the colony very exciting, and when they hatch, you may even get queens and drones!

    As far as Houdini ant escapees go, we suggest making sure that all the seams and friction pegs are free of any sand or rootlets etc. When the colony is assembled clean and new from the packaging, according to the plans, with all friction pegs pushed in firmly, all side curtains clamped on tightly, top and bottom mouldings dirt free and pushed home securely, the soil filling voids covered with stickers provided ... only an ant with a diameter of less than 1mm can escape. Any knocking or rough use of the structure after filling tends to introduce sand into the seams and can allow larger ants to escape. If used vigorously in a classroom, it is possible the seams may separate just a little.

    If you find more ants are escaping, we suggest starting again. This means washing the edge to edge contact areas of the transparent mouldings. Also make sure the sockets for the friction pegs are free from dirt. The two halves should snap together very tightly. Also maybe you could go for bigger ants. More fun-more visible. If not, and if the nest is being moved about a lot ( eg in a classroom) taping the sides is a very good idea.



    Q9. Betta Diary and Ant Diary

    A9. You can copy these maps and fill them in.



    Q10. Worker ants laying eggs?

    A10. Some worker ants under certain conditions which are hard to predict will lay eggs when away from the effects of a queen. But these eggs are most often sterile. They are often fed to growing larvae as 'trophic eggs', or food eggs. Some enthusiasts claim these eggs have hatched into larvae and grown into new drones and queens etc. We are yet to prove it. Maybe you can?

    BUT we know a sure way to keep the colony growing. Scoop up larvae and pupae ( they look like maggots or tiny sausages) with the dirt and the ants you put into your colony. These usually turn into workers BUT we have had queens and drones hatch successfully and keep the colony going for 18 months so far! An ant lives about 3 months max.



    Q11. What do ants eat?

    A11. Here is a strategy. It takes patience, but that is what real science is about:

    1. Find a variety of foods, both vegetarian and meat based chopped very finely. Just a small spoonful of each. Crushed cat or dog biscuits are a mixture of both and most ants like them. And some old lids from jars.

    2. Find some ants in a park or a garden. Get really really close... and observe very carefully......

    3. Leave the foods in little piles in jar lids near the ants. See which foods they will go to and take away. Also see what they are eating 'in the wild'.

    4. Try and track down where the ants are coming from. When you find the nest, carefully collect about 20 worker ants AND some of the dirt from the nest.

    5. Also try to collect a few 'ants eggs'. They are not actually eggs, but larvae and pupae that the ants carry around in their jaws.

    6. Put the ants larvae pupae and dirt into your colony. The chemicals (pheromones) in the dirt and produced by the 'babies' help normalize ant behavior and should help feeding.

    7. Now you also know which foods they prefer.

    8. This time you should have a thriving and exciting colony of happy ants.



    Q12. Ant hunger strikes, our ants refused to eat.

    A12. This is very unusual and we are not entirely sure why it happened in your case. But it seems it can happen if certain worker ants from certain species are separated from their larvae and pupae. They are kind of 'left with no purpose in life.'

    Here is a strategy. It takes patience, but that is what real science is about:

    1. Find a variety of foods, both vegetarian and meat based chopped very finely. Just a small spoonful of each. Crushed cat or dog biscuits are a mixture of both and most ants like them. And some old lids from jars.

    2. Find some ants in a park or a garden. Get really really close... and observe very carefully

    3. Leave the foods in little piles in jar lids near the ants. See which foods they will go to and take away. Also see what they are eating 'in the wild'.

    4. Try and track down where the ants are coming from. When you find the nest, carefully collect about 20 worker ants AND some of the dirt from the nest.

    5. Also try to collect a few 'ants eggs'. They are not actually eggs, but larvae and pupae that the ants carry around in their jaws.

    6. Put the ants larvae pupae and dirt into your colony. The chemicals (pheromones) in the dirt and produced by the 'babies' help normalize ant behavior and should help feeding.

    7. Now you also know which foods they prefer.

    8. Make sure your colony is not in bright sunshine, or they cook. Make sure it does not get too dry in hot weather. If they ALL gather around the water well, squirt 3 or 4 pipette fulls of water on the back of the plaster.

    9. This time you should have a thriving and exciting colony of happy ants.



    Q13. Sleepy ants, ants are not active!

    A13. 1. If it is winter and very cold the ants will be inactive.

    2. If the colony is in very bright light, the ants will find the shadiest area they can, and stay there. Hang a piece of dark paper over the front and see if they start to move, or put the colony out of bright light.

    3. If they are all gathered around the water tube, and not moving, the colony is too dry. Using your pipette, squirt water onto the back of the plaster moulding. Do this 5 or 6 times if you have had very dry weather. In very hot dry conditions, you'll need to squirt water daily on the back of the colony.

    4. Sometimes, very rarely, worker ants just refuse to perform in an empty nest. They don't like a completely empty nest as there is nothing for them to work at. Collecting ant larvae and pupae ( little maggotty things the ants carry around in their jaws) at the same time as the ants gives them something to do and they will become very active. If you bought or collected the ants with no dirt or nest materials, try adding chopped grass and sand in through the food port. They don't like a messy nest, and they will soon move the offending stuff to different rooms or chambers, often changing rooms every day.

    5. You can wake them up! Carefully pull off one end of the ant tubing and blow through it gently!. Ants are 'stimulated' by the carbon dioxide in your breath. But don't do this too often, and NEVER inhale an ant. Plus the ants don't like it . Their activity is actually trying to get away from the carbon dioxide.

    6. If none of this works, change your ants. Very gently separate the rivets of the kit, take off the cover and release your sleepy ants in a garden. Collect some more lively ones next time.



    Q14. Do ants die when there is no queen?

    A14. We discourage children from taking queens from ants nests. This is an unnecessary disruption to the nest and a risk to the kids ( ant bites etc.) In fact , worker ants ( the ones you find running about the garden) will very happily live without a queen for a very very long time in a well set up colony, especially containing soil from their own home nest environment. If the kids also stock the colony with eggs and larvae, this appears to set the ants into full on organizational mode , even without the queen. Even better: in some species one of the workers may become fertile and start laying eggs, just like the old queen! The workers are all females ( such is life) but held in a state of infertility by pheromones from the queen. When she is not in the nest - changes can happen. Sadly the worker eggs will not be fertile themselves as usually there is no male in the nest to be a 'dad'. So infertile eggs may be fed to older larvae as food!
    So see if you can get 50 to 100 ants all from the same nest. Bigger the ant, the better. Set Antlantis up as described in the booklet. Keep the colony moist in hot weather , be patient ( hard for 5 year olds) and sharp eyed. Magic might happen, and maybe you will make ground breaking ant discoveries absolutely new to science.



    Q15. Do ants hybernate?

    A15. Ants do hibernate. They slow down and 'go to sleep' at about 5¢XC.
    So if you have your colony outside in a cold place - you might see no action.
    They might be sulking in your large container. They do tend to stay where it smells like home.
    1. Gently stir the soil and see.

    2. If they wont leave and refuse to go the the pods, you can cool the box in the fridge ( not freezer) until they stop moving. Then use an ice cold spoon to scoop ants, dirt, any larvae pupae etc into a cold pod. Be quick and don't breathe on them or they will wake up and run everywhere. Put the pod in the colony and let them wake up slowly.

    3. Also see if any are in the pods! Pull the far end of one tube off its port, and blow through the tube into the pod with the ants. Warmth and the CO2 in your breath really gets them jumping! We don't know about garlic or toothpaste breath. Try it and see!

    4. If no action, shake the pod gently and blow again.

    5. If no signs of life - and they were tiny, they may have got out thru the tiny holes in the pod. So try again with tissue paper over the holes.



    Q16. Alternative methods to collect ants?

    A16. How to collect the ants is dangerous, messy, stressful on the ants, here is an idea by feedback, to put some honey in the feeding area, and put it in the path of wild ants and wait, and close the door when you have enough.



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