The GAN project.

 Photo by  Alex Wild

Photo by Alex Wild

We'll be honest. The first queen ant we obtained was via the Global Ant Nursery (GAN) project. The process was easy and fulfilling. We wanted to educate others that had not had the opportunity to check it out. This led us to sit down with the founder of AntsCanada and the GAN project (and arguable the pioneer of ant keeping) Mikey Bustos, and ask him a few questions.

Gamergate: Hi Mikey, we think the GAN project is a great initiative for people who live in areas where they do not have access to queen ants or have had no luck finding their own . Thanks for answering a few of our questions regarding the Project. Let's get into it.

When did the GAN project begin?

Mikey Bustos: Thank you for interviewing us about the GAN Project! We are excited to share with Gamergate what it's all about. The GAN Project began sometime in 2009. It was smaller with just myself and perhaps 1 or 2 other ant farmers. It has evolved and grown so much since then.

We have about 60 GAN Farmers; selling in 16 countries.
— Mikey Bustos

G: No worries Mikey. We thought it was a great opportunity to share with people the how, who, why, and when of the project. Next up, what led you to start the GAN project?

MB: The GAN Project was initially a solution I came up with in order for our customers at AntsCanada to obtain an ant colony with a queen for their formicariums, but still be ecologically sound and legal. It's against the law to ship or transport queen ants across US State borders and ecologically hazardous to transport ant colonies to other countries. The GAN Project offered wannabe ant keepers a way to obtain ant colonies both legally and responsibly as it involves the exchange of locally caught ants. It also offered a great way to make the ant keeping hobby much more accessible to newcomers, as well as a great opportunity for experienced and enthusiastic ant keepers to earn some money doing what they love.

G: It's definitely a great way to help new hobbyists and reward experienced ones. So how do people purchase queens via the program?  

MB: The process is very easy.

You simply log onto our QUEEN ANTS FOR SALE page on our website and read over how it works and our agreement. You then simply fill out the form provided for buying ants and click the box to indicate that you agree to our terms.

You will hear back from us in a day or 2. If you are in North America, Australia, or Singapore we will verify that we are processing your GAN purchase and will send you a Paypal invoice for you to pay for the colony. When the colony is paid for, we send you the contact information of the GAN Farmer and connect you via email so you can go ahead and arrange a convenient time and location to meet for pickup of the ants. If you are from outside North America, Australia, or Singapore we simply connect you right away with the GAN Farmer to arrange for an in-person pick up and exchange of money. In all cases, ants are exchanged in person and not shipped via mail.

Sometimes we require additional information or materials, proof of identification and residence, or inform you if you don't qualify for purchasing ants through the GAN Project for whatever reason.

Remember that we also do have certain restrictions to buy ants, e.g. you must be 18 yrs of age or older or partner with your parent/guardian if you are under 18 yrs of age. If in USA or Canada we only allow GAN Project transactions within your State or Province.

G: It does sound incredible easy. We know we didn't have any difficulties when we completed our purchase. What are some of the conditions of purchase that you place on the buyer to help ensure that they're educated about the responsibilities of being an ant keeper? 

MB: All our conditions are listed in our terms of agreement which all participating members of the GAN Project must agree to before submitting the form.

GAN Host Agreement (buyer)

GAN Farmer Agreement (seller)

The GAN Project is always evolving and changing so it is best to read the GAN Pages for the current agreements and conditions.

G: And how is the pricing set?

MB: The GAN Farmers set their own pricing for their colonies. We also add a $10 AC surcharge on all GAN prices in US/Canada/Australia/Singapore to cover our email correspondence. GAN Project activity is greatest in these regions and it takes a lot of time to properly manage the colony sales.

My dream is for ant keeping to be as big as herpetoculture or the keeping of aquariums.
— Mikey Bustos

G: Sounds very fair to us. But what if we're experienced ant keepers, how do we become a GAN farmer?

MB: The process is similar to purchasing a queen and is also very easy.

Again, you log onto our QUEEN ANTS FOR SALE page on our website and read over the description, and the agreement Fill out the form provided for the selling of ants, then click the box to indicate that you agree to our terms.

In a day or 2, we will send you an email to verify that you have been approved to be a GAN Farmer and have been added to our site, or we will inform you if we require additional information or materials from you or if you didn't qualify for the GAN Project for whatever reason.

Remember that we do have certain restrictions, e.g. you must be 18 yrs of age or older or partner with your parent/guardian if you are under 18 yrs of age. If you are in North America, Australia, or Singapore we require your Paypal address as all GAN transactions in these areas will happen via Paypal.

G: Again it sounds very easy. And how many GAN farmers do you have working in the project?

MB: The number is always changing and growing. At the time of this interview we have about 60 GAN Farmers offering ant colonies with queens for sale. They hail from different countries and cities from around the world.

G: Wow, that's impressive. So which countries are currently represented?

MB: This number is also always changing. At the time of this interview, GAN Project ant colonies are selling in 16 countries.

G: That terrific. It gives budding ant keepers from around the globe an opportunity to easily start an ant colony. We know you're a busy man so we've been wondering who looks after the project?

MB: The GAN Project is managed by a fellow ant lover on the AC team named Joseph Bustos. He also happens to be my brother. However, all the members of the AC team, including myself, are involved in the GAN Project in some way or another. I should mention that the driving force of the GAN Project are the GAN Farmers themselves. Their passion for the hobby and desire to provide ants to others in their city gives the GAN Project a great spirit and life! 

The GAN Project began sometime in 2009.
— Mikey Bustos

G: We have to agree with you Mikey. The life of any great initiative is the people within who are dedicated to helping others. What about the ethical issues surrounding the keeping and selling of ants? How have you tackled them?

MB: AntsCanada has always supported responsible ant keeping. We do not support the buying, shipping or importation of ant colonies online. We do not support the ant trade black market (yes, there is one) nor any form of illegal activity as queen ants are collected and smuggled from their native countries and sold. Many die in the process due to stress or inability to adapt to a new climate or environment. A lot of them end up in the possession of young individuals or people who don't realize how delicate owning an exotic ant species is. There are countless cases of queen ants being seized during illegal transport to foreign countries and people charged with hefty fines.

Additionally and more importantly, AntsCanada does not support any activity which may endanger the ecosystem. Ants can potentially transport foreign diseases and pathogens which could spread to local fauna and flora. They can outcompete or wipe out local species, and become serious agricultural pests. The GAN Project is a great way to keep ants without putting ecology at risk because the ants bought and sold are from your local area. This notion of responsible ant keeping has been the primary reason why members of the myrmecological community support the GAN Project and what it stands for. We have even had myrmecologists become GAN Farmers!

In some cases, we also don't allow the sale of certain ant species that the government is trying to quarantine, namely 4 species of Solenopsis in California.

G: I think most would agree with all of those ethical statements. It's easy to see why the GAN Project has been endorsed by scientists and other professionals in the field. What about the success of the Project? Has it lived up to expectations?

MB: We are all very happy with the GAN Project and how it is constantly evolving and growing more and more every day. It is so satisfying for both the GAN Farmers and the AC team to hear feedback from the new ant colony owners who are just so grateful to be able to have the ant colony of their dreams. Making people happy is the best part of the GAN Project! It's ant love all around.

We GAN Farmers also are part of an exclusive GAN Farmer Facebook group where we are able to chat, exchange tips, give suggestions, and share pictures and videos of our ant collections with each other.

G: And the future? What are your hopes for the GAN Project and ant keeping in general?

We hope the GAN Project will continue to be a vehicle for the propagation of the ant keeping hobby. My dream is for ant keeping to be as big as herpetoculture or the keeping of aquariums. Ants are beautiful creatures that provide such insight into the world around us and ourselves, and we hope the GAN Project might be people's way to discover this.

G: Good stuff. Thanks again Mikey, we appreciate you taking to the time to answer our questions.

 

We hope we've enlightened some people and helped others either obtain or sell some ants. We have certainly learnt a few things that we were previously unaware of.

Let us know what you think below.

 

Brendon Cameron