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So How Do You Fulfill Live Ants Anyway?

Kelly Direct has fulfilled countless products over the past 25 years…..apparel, basketballs, bicycles, CDs, collectibles, gift certificates, frozen shrimp, weight loss supplements, yoga wear and even severed feet (for a horror film release).

Some of these products have shipping restrictions.  Some do not.  It is our job to inform you of merchandise susceptible to guidelines or restrictions which may affect ship time, ship cost or the ability to ship the products at all.

“Hazardous” materials such as aerosols, cigarette lighters, perfumes and some types of cosmetics cannot be shipped.  Federal Express won’t allow postage stamps. UPS won’t allow batteries.

Alcohol is a whole other story.

Furthermore, depending on the type of shipment, we may be required to comply with the Department of Transportation, the Food & Drug Administration, International Air Transportation Association and other regulatory agencies.

Given these restrictions, it got us thinking:  What kind of restrictions do they place on shipping live ants, ladybugs and creatures?

It turns out that ants are OK (spiders are not).  Turtles are OK (snakes are not).

You can ship ants to 50 states (but tadpoles to only 48 states).

The foremost leader in fulfilling live creatures is Uncle Milton’s Industries.  The Southern California based firm introduced the flagship Ant Farm® habitat to children and families in 1956.  Uncle Milton now processes online orders directly to consumers and distributes products through a broad range of retail channels including mass merchant, specialty toy, online, hobby, gift, and department stores nationwide.

Shipping live ants presents unique fulfillment challenges to Uncle Milton:


  • Data capture:  After the product is purchased, consumers mail in an enclosed (non-replicable) certificate.   The PO box is swept and envelopes are opened.  Consumer address data is then input to the order entry system to create ship labels (Uncle Milton uses USPS).


  • Product safety.  Ants are packaged into customized ventilated containers for safe travel.  Each ant must be at least 1/4 inch in size or they could escape from the habitat.


  • Weather Conditions/Ship Delays.  Ants can only be shipped if the temperature is greater than 32 degrees Fahrenheit and less than 85 degrees Fahrenheit.  If the temperature range does not fit in this category, Uncle Milton emails a delay notification to the client.


  • Return policy and guarantee.  Uncle Milton guarantees the live arrival of the ants.  If the creature order arrives in ”an unsatisfactory condition”, the consumer fills out an on-line form to request a one-time replacement.  One-time replacements will only be honored if the company is contacted within 48-72 hours of the consumer’s receipt of the ants.  It is also “not required that the dead creatures be returned.”


While this is certainly a unique and entertaining fulfillment scenario, it underscores the importance of identifying any restrictions that may impact the packaging and shipment of merchandise to your end-users.  Call Kelly Direct today for expert shipping guidance.