Scientists claim ants can carry more than 50 times their body weight. Milton Levine knows ants can carry far more than that – like the success of his business, Uncle Milton Industries, for 50 years. In 2006, while my father celebrates his 93rd birthday, his famous product, Ant Farm, celebrates its 50th “ant-iversary” of bringing happiness – and bugs – into the homes of people across the country.

How did such an unlikely idea as putting live ants into millions of homes – and charging for it – become such a success? To answer that, we’ll have to go back to Pittsburgh, 1946.

On return from duty (Milt was sergeant of an engineering platoon that built bridges for Patton’s invading army through Germany), Milt and his brother-in-law Joe Cossman saw a baby boom on the horizon, so they decided to start a mail-order novelty company. Their first products included animal balloons, plastic shrunken heads and dwarf tree kits. Remember the “100 soldiers for a dollar” advertised on backs of comic books? That was Milt and Joe’s item. So were plastic rear view mirror shrunken heads and potato shooting “Spud Guns.”

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