Levine died Jan. 16 at an assisted-living facility.
The novelty, which became a classic American toy, came into the mind of Milton Levine at a 1956 Fourth of July picnic at Studio City, Calif., where he said watching the industrious ants reminded him of spending his boyhood at his uncle's farm watching ants "cavort," the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.
"We should make an antarium," he said in that "eureka" moment.
Levine and his brother-in-law, E.J. Cossman, created the plastic Uncle Milton's Ant Farm sold through a mail-order business in which people obtained ants separately sent in a vial.
"Part of the thrill of the ant farm was that you had to wait and check your mail every day" for the 25 or so ants to arrive in a vial, said toy historian Tim Walsh.
Levine and Cossman's company also marketed plastic shrunken heads to hang off of rear-view car mirrors and spud guns that fired potato pieces, a huge favorite among the kids of the 1950s.
Uncle Milton Industries was sold in June to Transom Capital Group, a private-equity firm and was valued at between $30 million and $40 million.
"Ants work day and night, they look out for the common good and never procrastinate," Levine told the Times in 2002. "Humanity can learn a lot from the ant.
"I found out their most amazing feat yet. They put three kids through college."
Kate Middleton recycles dress at movie premiere
Couple mistakenly served bag of cash at McDonald's drive-thru