Support for LAist comes from
We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This


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

Stories like these are only possible with your help!
Your donation today keeps LAist independent, ready to meet the needs of our city, and paywall free. Thank you for your partnership, we can't do this without you.

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."

Support for LAist comes from

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.