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Ant Farm Co-Inventor Uncle Milton Dies At 97 In Thousand Oaks

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Milton Levine, co-inventor of the classic Ant Farm toy that sold over 20 millions copies and gave countless of intrigued youngsters a look underground at the secret life of bugs, has died at age 97. Levine died of natural causes at an assisted-care facility in Thousand Oaks on Jan 16, reports the Los Angeles Times.

The inspiration for the classic American toy, according to the LA Times, was a 4th of July "parade of ants" at a Studio City picnic in 1956 that reminded him of collecting the creatures as a child. He recalled stating that he wanted to make an "antarium."

With the help of his brother-in-law, E. J. Cossman, Levine built a transparent habitat using two plastic panes and a green frame with a farm scene that allowed people to watch ants dig tunnels through the sand. Ant collectors were said to have received a penny per pet to wrangle red harvester ants from the Mojave Desert and send them, by mail, to Levine.

In a 2002 LA Times interview Levine remarked that, "Ants work day and night, they look out for the common good and never procrastinate...Humanity can learn a lot from the ant." Levine also said of ants: "I found out their most amazing feat yet. They put three kids through college."

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Levine's company of humble beginnings today provides a spectrum of science and nature-based toys, animal and insect habitats and other-themed items. Last year, the company estimated to be valued between 30-40 million dollars was sold to Transom Capital Group.

Levine is survived by Mauricette, his wife of 65 years; daughters Harriet and Ellen; sisters Pearl Cossman and Ruth Shriber; his son Steven, who started running the company in the mid-90s; and three grandchildren.