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#46169 Why Does Mikey Bustos Hate Gamergate

Posted by drtrmiller on December 16 2016 - 1:39 PM

I have a number of strong opinions on what is happening here.  But before I delve into them, I would like to separate out the facts of this specific situation from the broader—and I think more important—point that I would like to make, immediately following:


Case-specific facts:


I've said publicly and privately that an import and export license are both required for ants to be legally sold and shipped to buyers.  A responsible company will both defer to the judgment of individual states in how they issue such import licenses, as well as incorporate other externalities, such as the contentiousness of exporting ants to amaeteur hobbyists, before any exchange of goods takes place. Based on my discussions with the owner, I am certain Gamergate understands this 100%.

Currently, Australian ants only come into places like Europe through the black market, where the sole obstacle to obtaining them is the huge pricetag. If irresponsible, amateur hobbyists were the only market for Australian exports, Mikey would be right to ban such individuals from his group—but that's not the case. Being able to export from Australia legally, sustainably, and ethically, now means that North American and European museums, universities, and ant research labs will have a legitimate opportunity to display or study native Australian ants, and one can expect a pretty big commercial market for that alone, consisting of mature adults with generally flexible corporate spending accounts.

So, given the fact that Gamergate has only just announced that they are seeking to export, without any public details of how such a service would operate, or to whose benefit, we should condemn the decision to de-platform and isolate the site owner—who, in my opinion, is a quite mature and responsible individual—for allegedly expressing the desire to recklessly export ants to amateur hobbyists in other countries, when there's literally no evidence that this has happened yet, or would ever happen.

Let's assume, as Mikey apparently has, that Gamergate did intend to export to qualified hobbyists (say in Canada, where it's apparently easier to obtain an import license, for obvious reasons related to climate), even though Gamergate hasn't advertised as such yet. Well, as a mature and responsible individual, the exporter would be quick to learn of the possible legal and logistical challenges, never mind the extreme contentiousness within the scientific and hobby community (as evidenced by this reaction to the announcement), and would then reassess how best to accommodate all the parties involved to reduce, or ideally, eliminate conflict.

The problem here, with the facts I have, based on both public and private information, is that Mikey simply "banned" the Gamergate owner/author without any warning, and with no opportunity for education or explanation, as he does anyone who advertises the sale of ants not also advertised though his "Global Ant Nursery," or GAN program. While that is Mikey's right as the group administrator, it should also be said that the rigidity and callousness to which the zero-tolerance policy is applied will be sure to send disruptions and discord throughout the community both as we see now, and into the foreseeable future. If future Gamergate blog articles, unrelated to the sale of ants, are prohibited from appearing on the largest antkeeping hobbyist group on Facebook, in the same way that those grey and black market dealers and links to their respective websites are banned or taken down, then essentially, one individual (with a commercial conflict of interest, mind you) is picking and choosing who gets seen, and who remains hidden and obscured, which leads me to a more important point:


Broader point, opposing vendor-run communities:


As commercial vendors (Tar Heel Ants, Ants Canada, AntStore, etc.) continue to accumulate power and influence through social media, private groups, and business ventures, their ability to decide who's allowed into the mainstream online communities, or who's relegated to the fringes, will have an increasingly chilling effect on the ability of gifted hobbyists, makers, thinkers and innovators to be discovered, to succeed in connecting with antkeepers like your and me, and to remain as independent operators, free from monied influence. In my view, the designation of Gamergate as a prohibited resource in the largest, vendor-run Facebook group for antkeepers, and the banishment of its owner/author, would appear to be mainly a business decision made under the guise of scientific ethics, and that decision should alarm any and everyone with a stake in this hobby and community.

Independent forums and blogs like Formiculture and Gamergate will continue to be the only platforms where ideas may be promulgated freely, and individuals seen or heard, based on the popular merits of their contribution(s), with relatively little censure. Given the failed attempts by Ants Canada to absorb and acquire both (Formiculture and Gamergate), we should enjoy these freedoms while we still can.

  • dspdrew, Reacker, MrILoveTheAnts and 14 others like this

#37852 Much ado about the founding of Lasius temporary social parasites

Posted by Batspiderfish on July 25 2016 - 8:34 PM

In Formicidae, temporary social parasitism describes ants that must start their colony with the aid of workers from another species, but will eventually become independent. This is usually undertaken by a parasitic queen replacing the living or deceased queen of a host colony, taking advantage of the host's entire workforce and convincing the resident workers that the parasitic queen deserves to be the colony's only reproductive. All of the reproductive ants that happen to be in the host colony (including the mother queen) are often killed and eaten. The workers of the parasitic species gradually replace the original members of the host colony, until only the parasites remain, taking over all responsibilities for the nest.
Social parasites can typically be distinguished from claustral species by their broader heads (usually broader than the mesosoma) and reduced gaster. The large head is presumably to give the queen an advantage over her host species when she needs to defend herself. The gaster is likely smaller because the parasitic lifestyle does not require large stores of nutrients; when queens' gasters get smaller, the resources required to develop a queen go down and the number of virgin queens a colony can sustain goes up.


Almost 1/3 of the species in the genus Lasius are socially parasitic, and they are arguably the most encountered social parasites in the Northern Hemisphere. The Lasius subgenera break up these particular parasites into four basic kinds:


Subgenus Acanthomyops



Lasius interjectus, by Alex Wild



Lasius latipes, by Batspiderfish


Subgenus Acanthomyops:
North America:
Lasius claviger, Lasius latipes, Lasius murphyi, Lasius interjectus, Lasius subglaber, Lasius arizonicus, Lasius californicus, Lasius coloradensis, Lasius mexicanus, Lasius bureni, Lasius colei, Lasius creightoni, Lasius pogonogynus, Lasius occidentalis, Lasius pubescens
Lasius from the Acanthomyops subgenus are endemic to North America and commonly referred to as “citronella ants”. Colonies subsist almost entirely underground, on populations of root aphids. Their queens are typically large, shiny, and orange or brown, they have somewhat broad legs and antennae (Lasius caliveger and Lasius interjectus) up to very broad (Lasius latipes). Their bodies tend to have many long, standing hairs, and very little in the way short, fine hairs.
In captivity, the colony founding conditions and strategies for these particular Lasius are poorly understood, and it is not uncommon for young queens to die for seemingly no reason. While they are fully capable of adopting themselves to host workers, they will often not lay eggs and may have trouble engaging in trophallaxis. There seems to be essential conditions which are not being met, possibly involving an oft absence of root aphids which wild Acanthomyops depend on. It also seems that dealated queens like to band together in groups of three or more, which could suggest that solitary colony foundings are less than ideal (although it is worth mentioning that captive Lasius are very rarely polygynous). It's been noticed that they survive much longer when they are fed tiny specks of sugary liquid inside the test tube.

On of the potential difficulties in raising queens from this subgenus may trace all the way back to their mother's nuptial flight. Acanthomyops frequently hybridizes, which, in Formicidae, often begets reproductively unviable queens (although the workers are quite functional, and males produced by the queen will only contain her DNA). It is believed that males breed interspecifically as a form of reproductive parasitism, greatly inhibiting the ability to create subsequent generations by affected Acanthomyops queens. Many Acanthomyops spp. are competing to infiltrate colonies of the same host species.


Subgenus Chthonolasius



Lasius umbratus, by TAFMF's “Vulgaris”



Lasius subumbratus, by Batspiderfish

Subgenus Chthonolasius:

North America:
Lasius umbratus, Lasius speculiventris, Lasius minutus, Lasius subumbratus, Lasius vestitus, Lasius nevadensis, Lasius atopis, Lasius humilis
Lasius umbratus, Lasius mixtus, Lasius balcanicus, Lasius bicornis, Lasius citrinus, Lasius distinguendus, Lasius jensi, Lasius meridionalis, Lasius nitidigaster, Lasius rabaudi, Lasius sabularum, Lasius viechmeyeri
Chthonolasius are present in most of the Northern Hemisphere. Wild colonies largely survive off of root aphids, as with other yellow Lasius, but workers have large eyes and are not afraid to occasionally forage above ground. Their alarm pheromones do not differ much from other Lasius, so a citronella odor is generally indistinct or absent in preference of formic acid. Queens are usually smaller than typical Lasius (L. subumbratus being one notable exception) and are more dull than Acanthomyops. Their coloration is often brown to orange. Some species of this subgenus are known to build cartonous galleries, using a type of Hormiscium pithyophilum fungus to glue grains of sand together, supposedly fed on aphid excretions.
These ants are much more agreeable in captivity, compared to Acanthomyops in North America. Queens will very usually begin laying eggs within one month after having host workers. The length of time it takes for the first parasitic workers to eclose varies with the level of care from the host species. Niger-group Lasius are best suited this, in my experience. Colonies of Chthonolasius will thrive given the same care as their claustral cousins.

Subgenus Dendrolasius




Lasius fuliginosus, by Lebon Lionel

Subgenus Dendrolasius:
Lasius fuliginosus, Lasius buccatus, Lasius capitatus, Lasius spathepus
Queens of the Eurasian Dendrolasius typically have dark, shiny bodies with lighter appendages and a distinctly convex depression at the top of the head. These ants are well known to be hyperparasites of Chthonolasius in the wild, and seem doubly enthusiastic about carton-building. Colonies largely subsist on aphid secretions, but are seemingly more arboreal than their usual host. Similar to Acanthomyops, these ants utilize a citronella odor. Colonies sometimes use the budding strategy during reproduction, a share of workers and one or more queens moving to a separate nest area. Unlike the other parasitic Lasius, workers are black.
Despite their hyperparasitic reputation, Dendrolasius colonies can easily be founded using other Lasius in captivity, and have foraging habits similar to Chthonolasius, although the founding process may sometimes fail unforeseeably.

Subgenus Austrolasius



Lasius carniolicus, by Will Ericson 

Subgenus Austrolasius:
Eurasia: Lasius carniolicus, Lasius reginae
Little is known about these root-aphid tending social parasites, except that the queens are only barely larger than her workers at less than 4mm. They often parasitize Lasius alienus in the wild. Because of her morphology, she might depend on a different founding strategy from these other, robust Lasius.

The Basics:


Orphaned workers from our captive colonies, like these Lasius alienus, may be used as the host to begin a new colony.

One of the most important things to note about Lasius social parasites is that queens are not capable of caring for brood or opening pupae before they have host workers. They will not lay eggs without host workers. In order to start a colony, a queen will need to be introduced to workers from a foreign nest, which are from the same genus. We don't quite understand how significant the species is, although some paraites (i.e. Lasius speculiventris) seem to be particular (they have only been found in the nests of another social parasite, Lasius minutus.) Myrmecologists have only been able to truly confirm a host species when they find a nest which houses two different kinds of workers.

When taking a sample of host workers to introduce to your queen directly, always try to choose those who are living inside of the nest. The ants in charge of brood care are the youngest in the colony, and younger ants are the least aggressive. Ideally, your workers would be coming from another colony you already care for, but these younger workers can be found in the wild under judiciously flippable stones. Be conscientious about the impact you are having on any wild nest.
Make sure not to add any test tube substrates (i.e. coconut fiber) to the parasite/host colony setup until the queen is adopted to host workers. Otherwise, she may seal herself off from the young workers long enough for them to become aggressive.

Colony Founding Techniques

(For the most reliable founding technique, see the callow method at the bottom of this list)



Active, naturalistic introduction:

A sample of at least 20 host workers and (ideally) some brood are kept in one test tube setup, the parasitic queen(s) kept in another test tube setup.
Both tubes are placed close to each other in a foraging arena and left opened.
The parasitic queen(s) will eventually encounter one or more of the workers, which will likely latch onto her in an attempt to kill her. The queen will often retreat to her tube to kill and remove any workers. She will lick the worker's corpse and groom herself, presumably spreading the worker's hydrocarbons over her body.

The queen may wait for some time before seeking out the host workers again, but this second encounter is often much friendlier.
Uncomplicated, least human involvement.
Ants are not subjected to abnormal environmental hazards.
Queens have space to retreat from hostile workers.
Risk of injury or death to workers and/or queens.
Older workers will almost always be hostile on the first encounters with the queen(s).


Active, naturalistic introduction -- the pre-killed worker variant:

One worker from the host sample is crushed and placed in the sealed tube with the parasitic queen(s). If the queen expresses interest in the corpse, licks the body and grooms herself, it can be assumed that she intends to infiltrate that colony.
Both tubes are placed close to each other in a foraging arena and left opened.
Poses less danger to the queen; colony odor can be secured and administered in a safe environment.
At least one worker is always sacrificed, but this is likely a better outcome than if the queen were left to do this on her own.

The chilling method:

A sample of at least 20 host workers and (ideally) some brood are kept in one test tube setup, the parasitic queen(s) kept in another test tube setup.
The tube containing the host sample is placed in refrigeration, but well above freezing temperatures.
The tube containing the queen is adjoined to the chilled host sample, or the queen is placed inside the chilled host colony tube.
All of the ants remain in refrigeration until the queen and workers come together as a colony.
This method has the potential to introduce a queen to a host sample without any casualties.
Aggressive workers are sedated by cold temperatures.
The risks associated with refrigeration (i.e. condensation, flooding, physiological disturbance) pose a danger to ants and brood.
The queen has nowhere to escape to if the workers prove too much to handle.


The callow method:

A small sample of host workers and a manageable number of pupae are kept in a test tube setup in such a way that a fine paintbrush or toothpick can reach all the way to the wet cotton bung. The queen(s) are kept in another test tube setup.
The worker's tube is given access to a small foraging arena so they may feed themselves.
As pupae mature, the host workers will open up the cocoons to eclose young, callow workers.
After a callow ecloses, very carefully and gently coax the callow onto your paintbrush or toothpick and remove her from her sisters. If any mature workers come with her, place those back in the tube.
The callow worker is introduced to the social parasite queen. There is unlikely to be any hostility. Offer a tiny sugar meal.
After the parasitic queen has a decent number of workers, boost the her with some more of the host's brood. The original adult host workers (that you did not introduce) can be released back to their colony, and the callow workers can take over brood care.
This method has the potential to introduce a queen to a host sample without any casualties.
Callow workers are not aggressive, and will imprint upon the queen.
It can take some time. If the social parasite species is prone to mysterious death, this can happen while the queen is alone in her tube. Make sure she gets the opportunity to feed, but keep the tube clean.


Lasius latipes with Lasius cf. nearcticus host workers and eggs

It can days, weeks, or months before your queen begins to lay her first eggs. There could be something going on behind the scenes during this time; for whatever reason, a parasitic queen with a usurped colony will not always begin laying straight away. Once she has her first egg, however, the most difficult phase of her life is basically over; it is a sign not only that she is fully accepted by her host workers but that she is adapted to captivity, in good health, and is finally ready to begin her colony. While there are still a few hurdles to overcome, you can now relax or celebrate. Since your queen already has a selection of host workers to keep her fed, she will begin to produce eggs to match the hypothetical age of the colony (a 50 host worker colony will cause her to lay eggs as if she is already about one year old, etc.) 
One thing that can be said for temporary social parasitism is that while a queen will get a huge amount of free labor, it isn't exactly of the best quality; it's a rather tumultuous time in the colony's life. During the early stages, host workers are rather aggressive, careless, or confused when they interact with members of the parasite species (and vice versa.) Brood of one species can be eaten or neglected by the other. Workers will be bullied and occasionally killed to be fed to the larvae. These behaviors may be an immunity response of the host species to the ants who parasitize them. Once the first parasite worker successfully matures, the situation usually changes for the better.
Sperm Parasitism in Ants: Selection for Interspecific Mating and Hybridization
Resources (Free Access):
Colony Founding of Acanthomyops murphyi, a Temporary Social Parasite of Lasius neoniger
Experiments on the Adoption of Lasius, Formica, and Polyergus Queens by Colonies of Alien Species

  • Reacker, Myrmicinae, drtrmiller and 14 others like this

#1409 Ant Keeping Guide for Beginners

Posted by Crystals on February 21 2014 - 6:25 PM

General Ant Care & Information


Did you ever want a pet that you didn’t have to worry about if you went on vacation? 

Ants can be left with just water and humming bird nectar for over 2 weeks with no impact to the health of the colony.



Ants Require:


  • A Formicarium (ant nest)
  • An Outworld (or foraging area)
  • Food and water
  • Heat cable/mat (in temperate or cooler locations)



The Formicarium houses the ant colony, providing room and safety for the queen, workers, and brood (baby ants).  The Formicarium also provides humidity which is essential to the ant’s brood.  The Formicarium will need to be watered every 2-5 days depending on the type and size of the Formicarium.

A Formicarium can come in many shapes and sizes, and can be made from many different materials.




The Outworld, or foraging area, allows you to easily feed the ants without them escaping.  It also provides a place for the ants to place their trash and they will often pile it in one corner for easy cleaning.

The Outworld can be made from almost any container as long as it is big enough that you can get one hand in it.

The Formicarium and Outworld are attached together with vinyl tubing.  Some Formicariums have the outworld built into it.




Food and Water:

Different species may prefer different foods, but all ants require some sort of liquid sugar and protein.

The adult workers will almost exclusively eat sugars and the brood (ant young) will be fed mostly protein. Fruit is welcomed.

Sugars: Honey water, fruit juice, and hummingbird nectar are the most commonly used sugars.  But oriole nectar, maple syrup mixed with water, and other sugars will likely also be accepted.

Protein:  Protein is usually provided in the form of insects, but various cooked meats may also be used as treats.

Different species of ants tend to like different types of insects. 

Some of the most commonly accepted insects include fruit flies, mealworms, crickets, spiders, white lawn moths, and other small soft insects.

If the insects are not cultured at home, it is advisable to freeze them for at least an hour to prevent any mites or pathogens from harming your ants.

You can also freeze excess insects that you catch or buy.  The ants prefer the insects fresh, but will accept them frozen.

Mealworms and flightless fruit flies are easy to culture and raise.



Most ants will require a heat cable running underneath one side of the Formicarium.  Most ants in temperate locations will not survive more than a few months at constant room temperature.  They require a location where they can warm up. An 15 watt reptile heating cable or heat mat works well.  Heat also allows the brood to develop faster.



In temperate locations there is winter and summer, and the ants use the winter to hibernate.  Hibernation is a time of rest and re-energizing for the ants. 

They will require at least 2 months of hibernation in a location where the temperature is between 5-12°C. 

The ideal times are between the end of October and late March, but they will have no problem with hibernation from early December until late February.

If they slow down or become inactive when the temperatures get cool outside, don’t worry.  It is normal.

Ensure the Formicarium is moist and that the ants have access to water and sugar water at all times in case they wake up for a few minutes.

After hibernation the workers and queen are rested and ready to “work like ants”.


Preventing Escape:

Escape prevention is usually a 1-2” layer on the top rim of your Formicarium.  Usually made out of virgin olive oil, dried talc powder, or Fluon (Insect-a-slip). Barriers effectiveness will depend on the type of barrier and the species of ant.


Obtaining a Colony:

The easiest ways to get a colony is to get one from another hobbyist or to find a queen after her mating flight and letting her raise her own colony.  Most mating flights in North America occur in May, July, and August.





More In-depth Information



Ant Housing

This part of the guide will go over Formicariums, hydration, heating, and escape barriers.


It is easy to make your own ant formicarium and outworld.

Formicariums can be built from many different materials such as Firebrick, Grout, Ytong (AAC), gypsum, hydrostone, and others.  They offer a high visibility view of your ant colony.

Plaster can be used, but it molds very quickly, often within weeks.

 There are step-by-step guides on how to build Formicariums out of different types of materials in this forum.

 There are some companies that sell formicariums that are designed around long term ant care if you don’t wish to build your own.






There are hobbyists around the world who sell nests and outworlds.


A quick note about Uncle Milton and Gel farms.  They are designed to hold worker ants for 2-6 months.  Due to lack of humidity control, problems with collapsing tunnels, sanitation problems, and similar issues a queen and brood (ant young) will not survive for more than a few months.  Many of those ant farms are just for observing the workers during their life span, not to hold an actual functioning colony with queen, eggs, larvae, pupae, and workers. 


How much room?

If there is too much space, ants may start dumping garbage into the unused, empty chambers.  Many people keep upgrading the nest as the colony grows.  Many colonies with less than 50 workers only need 3-4 chambers.  It is also possible to use sand to fill in the excess rooms to prevent the ants from using them until the colony grows more and empties the tunnels on their own.


Moving colonies

When the colony runs out of space and you need to expand or move them into a new nest.  Connect the two nests together and wait, it may take a day or so for them to explore the new nest and think about moving. There are several ways to convince the colony to move if they don’t move themselves in a day or so.  

Different species react differently to different methods. Typically changes heat, moisture, or light get them motivated into finding a new nesting site.  For example, Camponotus (Carpenter ants) are easy to move simply by placing the heating cable on the new nest and cooling the old nest slightly.  They will follow the heat. 

Some species will follow the heat, or move away from it.  Careful not to use too much heat or you could kill your ants.

Stop watering the old nest as it dries out the ants will likely move to the new nest as it has the humidity that they prefer.

If you cover the new nest, some species will move to the cover of darkness.



Nest Design

Many people love to design their own nest.  It is fun to build or carve your design, whether they are tunnels or a completely different design.

Keep in mind certain aspects such as nest hydration, ventilation, and connecting the outworld.



Ants don’t live in bone dry locations.  Some ant species prefer more moisture than others as well.

There are several ways to add water to your formicarium. 


  • If the nest is vertical or under a 45 degree angle, a reservoir molded, or carved into the formicarium would work
  • If you use a method that involves pouring, you can make a chamber separate from the others and use a piece of 1/4” tubing to allow water to enter the chamber.  Or you can drill a hole in the glass.
  • Some nest materials such as ytong or firebrick rapidly absorb water and don’t require a water tunnel



In smaller nests the tubing leading the outworld provides sufficient ventilation.  Some types of nest medium allow small amounts of air to pass, such as firebrick and Ytong.

For large nests, an opening with fine stainless steel mesh will be needed.  The opening is often on a side of the nest or in the glass.  The mesh is epoxied or siliconed on so there is no chance of escape.


How to connect the Formicarium and Outworld:

Clear vinyl tubing like you see in plumbing is used to connect the formicarium to the outworld.  The Formicarium and outworld each have their own piece of tubing that is connected in the middle with a larger piece of tubing. 

Usually, a drill is used to drill a hole the same width as the vinyl.  The hole is carefully dusted out and lightly moistened with water.  Use 2-part epoxy as silicone has too much “give”, and push the tubing as far into the hole as you can.  Add another layer of epoxy on the outside around the tubing/nest joint.

Use the same size of vinyl tubing for the outworld and the formicarium.  Then you can use a wider piece of vinyl to connect the two.  Water and/or heat may help in connecting the ends, although it will probably take scissors to get them apart again.

            For example, I use 5/16” x 7/16” on my formicarium and outworld, and I use a 3/8” x 1/2” piece of vinyl as a connector.

You can also buy a plastic connector.



 Tunnel depth

Ants come in many different sizes, so the tunnels they make also vary.

The tunnels should be wide enough for 3 workers side by side and about twice their height.  The chambers should be at least twice as long as the queen and as wide as the queen is long.  Try not to go over twice the queen’s length for the width of the chambers or the ants may not feel secure.  The chambers can be as long as you want.  They can be square, rectangular, oval, curved, or any shape.

The chambers should be twice as deep as the queen is tall.  Even 3x her height will work as this will allow the ants to pile brood high, sit on top of it, while leaving plenty of space to move around.




If your house is under 22° C then your colony will likely need additional heating.   Some species need more heat than others.  Myrmica are heat lovers, while some species of Lasius place their brood in moderate heat and excess workers hang out in cooler areas.

The best heating method is to use a heating cable, or a heating pad meant for reptiles.  Place it under one corner/side of the formicarium.  This will create a heat gradient with heat on one side and cooler locations on the other side.  This will allow the ants to choose what temperature they want.

Use a heating cable no hotter than a 15 watt.  You can leave them plugged in all of the time, or place them on a timer to mimic the suns heat.

You can place the heating cable/mat under the nest, or on the glass.

If the ants are as far as possible from the heat, then it is too warm.  Move it further away from the center of the nest and reduce the time it is on. 


Heating lamps have been used in the past with success (and some failure).   You can try using a ceramic heat emitter or a darkly colored bulb, perhaps the infrared night bulbs for reptiles, to prevent your colony from stressing over the light while providing heat. 

Observe your colony carefully for any indications of stress due to overheating.




Outworlds are necessary for the ants to keep the nest clean, to allow the ants some area to explore, and to make things easier for you when feeding and cleaning.  Some people go all out with their outworlds and decorate them, or even grow plants in them.  You can, however, just use a simple, empty plastic box.  

Mini food dishes make feeding and cleaning up easier.  The inserts inside some pop bottles or aluminum foil work well for dishes for feeding.

 Most outworlds have secure lids with ventilation holes, but others are left open.  Regardless of which method you choose, you should have a barrier to prevent your ants from escaping.




Olive oil

Extra virgin olive oil is probably the most used.  Take some paper towel or a cotton ball, dab it in the oil, and “paint” a light sheen about an inch wide along the top rim of the outworld.  Even just using your finger to wipe it on will work. Allow it to settle for a few hours before use since it tends to drip for a while and can drown ants caught in it.  If it drips, just wipe up the excess with a clean paper towel.  It holds some species with ease, such as Myrmica and Formica. Although there are some ants who have no trouble walking over it.  The oil has to be re-applied every 2-3 weeks.


Talcum powder

A homemade barrier uses baby powder (those made from talcum powder) and isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol.  Mix it together to make a paste, paint an inch-thick band along the top and allow it to dry.  Alcohol evaporates quickly so it shouldn’t be long until the powder is stuck to the side.  The particles of the powder aren’t stuck on there very well and even an ant’s weight will cause them to fall off.  This is temporary, as well, and some ants don’t seem to have an issue walking over it.   Be careful as the more ants trying to cross it, the faster it deteriorates.   If you have a large colony it won’t be long before the ants clear a path.


 Fluon or Insect-a-slip

Insect-a-slip, or liquid Teflon, is one of the best barriers out there.  It comes in a small bottle and is pretty pricey for the amount you get.  Before you let that deter you, though, consider that one layer uses only a fraction of the bottle and lasts at the very least for some months.  It does degrade faster with higher humidity or at low temperatures.   Each application should last around six months.  If you can bring yourself to spend $20 for a small bottle of the stuff, it is well worth it.






Freezing before feeding

Insects and arthropods can carry mites, diseases, or parasites that can be harmful to your queen/colony.  It is highly recommended to freeze any food for a few hours at least before feeding.  Many people store insects in the freezer until it is feeding time.  They will last for a long time in there, but like other foods, freezing and thawing repeatedly can cause them to spoil

Feeding live insects that you yourself have raised is acceptable.  Flightless fruit flies are commonly dumped into an outworld to let the ants hunt.  Store bought insects may carry mites, crickets are well known to carry mites.


Feeding Dishes

Using feeding plates or containers minimizes the cleanup and chances of mold.  Feeding plates can be made from anything from tinfoil, pieces of cardboard, or the inserts in some pop bottle lids.      

Another alternative is to soak cotton balls in food such as sugar water when offering it to prevent drowning.

Waterers are excellent ways to water, or offer liquid food.  Easily made or bought.      

They can be bought from tarheelants.com

Link on how to make them: http://forum.formiculture.com/index.php/topic/108-how-to-build-an-ant-waterer-or-liquid-feeder/


Offer A Varied Diet

Ants like a varied diet.  If you are only giving them crickets day in and day out you may find that don’t accept them as easily or at all after a while.  This is because, as with all foods, each individual type of arthropod has its own nutritional content and a varied diet gives them more of the nutrients they need. 

It is highly recommended to offer your ants a varied and balanced diet for your ant colony.  Some good sources of sugar are honey, hummingbird nectar, table sugar, potentially fruits (careful of pesticides), and maple syrup.      


Tear the body and trim wings

I find it’s also a good idea, especially with young colonies, to cut up or tear open any insect prey before feeding.  It gives the smaller, weaker nanitic workers an easier way inside to the good stuff.  This is especially true for harder bodied insects such as beetles  Trimming off any wings or spindly legs (like those on crane flies) prior to feeding can help prevent a mess in the outworld. 


Test tubes/tubing as feeding tubes

Utilizing unused test tubes or lengths of aquarium tubing, you can effectively create a feeding bottle.  Simply fill the tube with your liquid food, plug the open ends with cotton, and voila, the ants can drink without drowning, and you don’t have to worry about replacing it any time soon unless it molds.  If your honey or syrup is too thick to do this with, thinning it out with some water is effective.


Over feeding and under feeding

Be advised that it is possible to over- or under-feed your ants.  Over-feeding might give them too much food, which they will store, and it may go moldy in the nest.  If the ants remove it, great, but sometimes they don’t.  Under-feeding isn’t generally a huge problem, but if you are under-feeding you may notice your newest workers being smaller than usual.  This is because the larvae are underfed, just like the queen’s first brood, don’t get enough of the stuff they need to grow to normal size.  

Underfeeding is usually not a fatal error for your ants, unless you forget to feed them for a month or so. Ants are hardy creatures with rather small stomachs and the ability to store food in their second stomach.  Ants are marvelously efficient creatures.

Most ants will collect as much as they need and dump the excess in the outworld.

            Note: if the colony has too much room in the nest, they may use a spare chamber as a garbage heap.  As the colony grows they will likely empty it out.


Preferred foods

Like people, ants have preferred foods.  It varies from species to species, and even season by season or with the stage their brood is in.

Link to a list of preferred foods by species: http://antfarm.yuku....es#.Urn8oLTwrYR





In the winter in temperate locations there are often no ants active in the wild.  It is a time when ants rest and re-energize themselves.

Generally, in the wild, a colony will store food, then sometime in the fall or early winter, seal off the nest.  No foraging takes place, brood stop developing, the queen stops laying eggs, and everyone seems to go to sleep; but what about in captivity?  What happens if you don’t let them hibernate?  Where can you place them for the winter?  What kind of environment do they need?  


What about in captivity?

In captivity, the same thing happens as in the wild.  It’s a natural cycle ants go through whether you hibernate them or not.  If you choose to keep them heated and lit up during the winter, you’ll likely notice less activity, no or slow brood development, no egg laying, and less foraging.  It’s probably best for their health if you just let them sleep.


What happens if I don’t allow them to hibernate or keep them heated over the winter?

If you don’t let them hibernate, then there is a chance they will suffer for it.  Some colonies stay perfectly healthy, others start having increased worker deaths, and all around poor colony health.  The queen tends to lead a much shorter life without hibernation.  It is strongly recommended to let them hibernate for at least 2 months, although 3 months is preferable.


How do I put them into hibernation?

There are several ways to hibernate your ants.  They require a temperature between 2-8 °C.

An unheated room in a cool basement will work, and many people put their ants in the fridge.  Coolers can be used with success, either the electric version or using bottles of ice to keep the temperature low.  It is strongly suggested to place a thermometer on top of the nest to monitor it.

Check them once a week or so to ensure they have adequate water and that they aren’t freezing to death, but otherwise leave them alone.  

If you have an insulated/heated garage or shed, put a thermometer in it to monitor the temperate over the winter; anything lower than 0°C may be hazardous to their health.  The temperature shouldn’t get above 8° C


What do I do for them during hibernation?

You should offer some sweets during the hibernation period just in case anyone wakes up and goes foraging.  It’s not all that common, but not completely unheard of either.  The thing you need to be most concerned with is water.  If they run out and the nest dries up, they can die very quickly.  Make sure they stay moist and have access to water at all times.

Some ants may appear to be dead during hibernation, but they may just be sleeping.  If you’re concerned, you can remove the ant, warm it up, and check it.  If it appears dead, place it on a wet paper towel for a few hours.  While it is possible for ants to die during hibernation, I wouldn’t really worry myself over it until spring.  It can take a day or so for the ant to wake up.




Starting Your Own Colony



Catching A Queen

An ant nest will produce winged ants called alates once a year (the time varies depending on the species).  These are princes and princesses that will embark on the mating flight at the right time.

Most alates will only mate when they have flown high into the sky, so if you disturb an ant hill and see winged ants, don’t bother collecting them.  They haven’t mated and are infertile.  It is nearly impossible to get them to mate in captivity.

Alates usually fly just after a rain or in high humidity.  Each species seems to send the alates out on the same day as others of their species.  There may be 1-5 flights over a 1-3 week period.

Queens can vary greatly in size from one species to the next.  Some are only 2mm, while others can reach 14mm.


To Find The Queens

It is easiest to find them on cement, usually a sidewalk or driveway as the queens run around trying to find a good place to dig their new home.  You may walk along the sidewalk for days and weeks and see nothing, but one day you will see dozens.

Other ways to find queens include turning over small rocks or pieces of wood.  New queens will crawl under these to start a new colony.  Even pulling apart rotten logs, or peeling the bark off of a dead tree can yield the wood-dwelling species.

The following thread explains in-depth how to find newly mated queens.




A Queen will usually shed her wings shortly after landing.  Sometimes the queens will keep their wings for years even if they are mated.

Some people say queens with wings are infertile – not true.  There are flourishing colonies in which the queens have wings, and many infertile queens who have shed their wings.


Queen, Prince, or worker?

A queen is larger than the males.  The males have a very pointy gaster (abdomen) and are only 1/3 of the queen’s size.  The males also have extremely tiny heads with huge eyes. 

After mating the males die, if they don’t mate they will only live 1-3 days without the colony to feed them.  Males always keep their wings.

The queens and princes have larger thoraxes (mid-sections) than the workers do.



Flight Times

Around the world ants of the same species tend to fly in the same time period.  In North America, Camponotus fly in spring, Formica in August, etc.

You may search for weeks with nothing, and then one day you will suddenly see dozens of them.

Some species are hard to find because they aim their flight to dense forests, or even fly at night. 

This site lists the months that certain species were spotted flying.  http://forum.formicu...hart/#entry1004


ID Your Ant

Once you have a queen, the first thing to do is to get your ant identified.  The easiest way to do this is to take a few pictures, a measurement (in millimeters), and create a somewhat detailed description of the ant and where you found it (location based on the nearest large city is extremely important) and post it on www.formiculture.com or http://antfarm.yuku....ku.com.Within a day or two someone will likely be able to ID your ant down to genus, perhaps even species.  

Usually genus is enough to get a clear idea on how to care for your ant.  Some ants, of course, are social parasites or semi-claustral and can make their care requirements a little harder to meet.  I’ll get more in-depth on these two stipulations further down.


Queen Care

Caring for a queen can be a bit different than caring for a mature colony.   Different techniques used for the different types of queens.  Some queens can be trickier than others or have special nesting requirements, food requirements, or something else.  

In more northern locations, many ants that fly in or after August will wait until spring to lay eggs.  A 2 month hibernation in the fridge may fool the queen into thinking it is spring.

Note: Even if you find a queen, they may be infertile, and in the first year or two many die for no apparent reason.  


Differences Among Queens

There are 3 different categories of queens:  fully-claustral, semi-claustral, and socially parasitic.  Each has slightly different methods of care.



Fully-claustral queens are typically bulkier than semi-claustral queens, with smaller heads proportionately to social parasites and semi-claustral.  The reason for this is that they do not forage or need to fight during the founding stages since they spend their entire time in the nest.  These queens are the easiest to care for and the most important things to keep in mind are humidity and disturbances; you can typically just put them into a new home and forget about them for a month.  They nourish themselves through fat and food stores along with metabolizing their wing muscles.



Semi-claustral queens are usually thinner and require a foraging area and access to food during the founding stages.  These queens can be trickier, but are fun to watch.  Food requirements vary from species to species, but for the most part the diet is comprised of sugars and insects.


Social parasites

Social parasites are the third type of queen ant.  These queens are usually somewhat stocky like the fully-claustral queen, but have larger heads and mandibles in proportion to the thorax compared to their fully-claustral counterparts.  Their gaster is usually smaller. These queens need a host in order to found a colony. In the wild they invade a colony of their preferred host species, kill the queen, and use the workforce to raise her own brood.  In order to care for these ants properly you will need to identify their host, collect brood (ant pupae or larvae) and give them to her.  Once the workers emerge, they will think the queen is theirs and they will take care of her.

Note that adult workers from different colonies have different scents, introducing adult workers to a different queen may result in a fight that can kill your queen.


In a small handful of species, the queen may accept adult workers. First you need to refrigerate both the queen and her host workers for a few days.  The longer workers are separated from their colony, the more likely they are to accept a new queen.  After this is done, add one worker to the queen while they are all still in the refrigerator.  The cold slows them down and usually limits their aggression to posturing.  In some parasitic species the queen will kill the worker in order to use the worker’s scent to infiltrate the colony, if this happens, do not be alarmed.  Add a second worker, watch for signs of aggression, if it escalates to the point of combat, separate them and try again later.  If all goes smoothly and you get the workers introduced to the queen without incident, leave them in the refrigerator for a few more days in order to allow the scent to really stick and get the workers used to their new queen.

Link to a document about social parasites: http://antfarm.yuku....=1#.UrnBj7TwrYQ



Queen Setups

Among the most commonly asked questions is “What can I put her in?”  The answer is just about anything.  As long as your semi-claustral queens can forage, and your fully-claustral queens feel secure, just ensure that there is an easy way to maintain the nest, adequate humidity, and surface to view them from.  


 Common techniques and items used:     Also see Various Setups for Founding Queens - http://www.formicult...ens/#entry15089


Test tube setup

The test tube setup is extremely cheap and easy to make while providing all of the key things a good claustral chamber needs.  You fill around 1/3 or ½ of the tube with water, plug it with a piece of cotton, insert the queen, and then plug the open end with a dry piece of cotton.  The water is needed for them to drink, and to maintain humidity or else they will dry out and die.  The piece of cotton inside holds back the water to prevent drowning while also allowing an easy drink for your new pet.  You can make it tighter or looser fitting as a way to help increase or lower humidity levels in the tube, too.  The piece of dry cotton on the end allows air flow so she can breathe, and also keeps her from escaping.  The test tube setup is nearly perfect for any queen or small colony.  You can even add a bit of dirt or sand to give it a more natural look or feel, or for queens who like to dig.  Dirt also helps prevent deaths from flooding most commonly encountered with small species such as Solenopsis molesta.  

Video on test tubes: .


Once the queen has workers, you can place the tube in a plastic/glass container to let them forage.  They can live like this as long as the tube has water.  If the tube runs out of water, place a new tube in the container and they will likely move once the water in the original tube is gone.


Test tube alternatives

A common replacement for test tubes is vinyl aquarium tubing.  You can easily find 10-foot lengths of this stuff at your local Home Depot or hardware store.  Cut it into smaller (3-6 inch) segments, plug one open end with cotton, clay, or something else, and follow the above procedure for the test tube setup.

Another replacement is a prescription pill bottle.  You can usually get them for free from your local pharmacy, and they can make wonderful impromptu test tubes.


Firebrick/ytong/pumice/grout chamber

Another option is a firebrick/ytong/grout/pumice setup.  Use a small block molded or carved with small chambers and covered with a piece of glass. All you want is one, or possibly 2 chambers in the beginning.  In general, the amount of space given to a queen is 1.5x her body length, and 1.5x her height.  This gives her adequate room to maneuver, while also making sure she feels secure.  Mold or carve little tunnels to place tubing into to allow each queen access to its own outworld – like a mini nest.  This is good for small colonies, or for semi-claustral queens.

Ensure you keep the nest moist.


Household containers

Pretty much anything you find around the house can work as long as you ensure that it is cleaned out, first.  A jar, with a layer of dirt on the bottom, or filled all the way up, can be a wonderfully successful environment, and provides plenty of space for quite a long time. There is record of someone who once crumpled a piece of damp paper towel up and placed it into a small cup for a Camponotus queen and she was able to successfully raise her first workers in this. 


Feeding Queens


Ultimately, feeding a fully-claustral queen is a personal choice.  They don’t require any food for many months because they typically have fat and food stores, and will metabolize their wing muscles for nourishment.  If you do decide to feed them, it’s common that they won’t accept protein in the form of insects, but they usually go for sweets.  There are, of course, exceptions to this rule; some Aphaenogaster queens ravaged any termites offered, for instance, but this isn’t always or even typically the case.  Usually a dab of honey, maple syrup, or sugar-water will suffice.  One way to offer protein is to mix whey protein shake powder in with maple syrup/water or a hummingbird nectar mix and many queens will accept it.  It’s a great source for protein, but do note that you likely won’t see any increase in numbers or size of nanitic workers when feeding a queen.



Semi-claustral queens need food.  You can still use a typical test tube setup for them, but instead of sealing it off with cotton, leave it open and place it into a plastic/glass box.  Put food into the box, and the queen will find it and take it back to her tube.  These queens usually will accept protein, especially when larvae are present, and in some species, seeds such as sunflower seeds.  Giving her some sugar isn’t a bad idea either, in the form of sugar water or hummingbird nectar.

It is possible leave the queen in a sealed tube and place food inside with them.  Ensure you use some tinfoil or paper as a feeding plate to prevent dirtying the tube.


Nanitic Workers    (nanitic workers are a queens first workers, they are much smaller than normal)

When nanitics arrive, it’s time to start thinking about food even if your queen is fully-claustral.  You likely won’t need to feed them for several days.  When the nanitic workers begin trying to open the nest by tearing at the cotton plug sealing them in, you know they are very hungry.  Offer some sugar water or hummingbird nectar, and maybe a small insect.  Something soft and/or torn open with some needles/pins/tweezers to allow the smaller, weaker ants’ access to the good stuff. Many young colonies will love pieces of large spiders, or whole small spiders with a tear in the body.  Tearing off the meaty, metathoracic legs of a cricket and tearing open the tibia slightly will give them access to the muscle tissue within which is rich in protein.  Fruit flies and termites work well too.


Freezing before feeding

Insects and arthropods can carry mites, diseases, or parasites that can be harmful to your queen/colony.  It is highly recommended to freeze any food for a few hours at least before feeding.  Many people store insects in the freezer until it is feeding time.  They will last for a long time in there, but like other foods, freezing and thawing repeatedly can cause them to spoil

Feeding live insects that you yourself have raised is acceptable.  Flightless fruit flies are commonly dumped into an outworld to let the ants hunt.  Store bought insects may carry mites, crickets are well known to carry mites.


Methods of Feeding

There are several ways to feed a queen/colony while minimizing the mess.

Cut a Q-tip in half, dip one side of the cotton end into the liquid, and put it in.  Lock it in place using the cotton plug dry side against the wall.  

Place all food onto a small piece of tin-foil, remove the foil once the queen has eaten her fill.

Whenever using a liquid/semi-liquid, such as honey, syrup, etc, ensure you soak it into a small piece of cotton to prevent drowning deaths.


There can be problems if you’re just dropping drops of honey and what not into the test tube.  Sometimes ants can get stuck and drown in those drops, or they’ll walk through them and make a huge mess in the tube which can cause mold.  


Queen Problems

Sometimes not everything goes smoothly with your queens.  Problems do occasionally crop up.  Some are common while others are rare.


Settling/Cotton tugging

Often when the queen first goes into the tube she will start tearing at the cotton plug.  This behavior may last a week or more, but you just need to be patient and leave her alone.  Sensory deprivation can help get her to settle down and settle in a bit faster.  Put her in a completely dark place where she won’t be disturbed, and give her at least three days before you check on her.  There are instances where she will do this until she’s dead, while it is sad, it does happen,  and if it goes on any longer than a week, consider using a different kind of setup for her.  Many Pogonomyrmex queens, for instance, do not settle well in test tubes and usually perform far better in a dirt setup.  Or when there is dirt in the test tube.

Then there are times where a queen gets a rough disturbance like being dropped and she may start tearing at the cotton all over again.  This happens because she deems her nest to be unsafe and likely is prepared to abandon her brood and start over.  Give her a few days of sensory deprivation, and maybe a day in the refrigerator if necessary to try to calm her down.  



Fungi can come in all different colors and shapes.  Zombie-ant fungus, insect-infecting Aspergillus flavus, common house molds, etc. can all be harmful and fatal to an ant or a colony of ants.  If you spot mold in one of your formicariums, I suggest moving the colony as soon as possible. If you happen to be having worker or queen die-offs, leave the dead specimens in a container with a lid for a couple of days and see if they sprout any fungus.  Some fungi will grow within an adult ant and end up eating it inside out.  If after a day or two in a sealed container they do not sprout anything, it is likely that a fungus isn’t the cause of death.

Some funguses are deadly, others don’t seem to bother the ants.


Dirty tube

Ants poop just like you and me.  Sometimes you get lucky and no mold ever sprouts inside your test tube, but after a while you’ll notice the cotton and water looking yellow to brown in color.  That’s ant excrement and it can be gross to look at it.  It shouldn’t be harmful to your ants, but it is recommended to move them once the water gets contaminated.



Sometimes your queen’s parent colony will have a mite infestation, or she picked some mites before you found her, or perhaps some food you gave her was contaminated.  In any case, if you see extremely tiny (like pinhead size) dots on your queen or running around your tube, it’s likely you have mites.  Unfortunately there’s not much that can be done about a mite infestation in ants.  With reptiles, they have mite powders that will dry the mites up without harming your pet, but I’m afraid these products are just as likely to kill your ant(s) as they are to kill the mites.  Fortunately not all mites are detrimental to your ants so it may not be a problem at all.  One thing you can try is offering lemon or orange juice (freshly squeezed from the fruit) on some cotton.  Ants are smart, they know if they have a problem and how to deal with it.  It's possible they'll use the acidic lemon juice to dry out and kill the mites taking care of the problem on their own.  With 1-2 larger mites on a newly found queen, it may be possible to remove the mites with tweezers.

Some people have also found dead queens with small, larva-looking things in the test tubes.  These are usually parasitic flies or even wasps that laid eggs on or in the queen.  Once they hatch, they can chew through the queen's gaster causing death, and will usually eat their victim after.  There's no way to know if your queen has a parasitic wasp or fly larva in them, and nothing you can do after it kills your queen.


Brood problems

Sometimes everything is going right with your queen, but you notice the brood keeps disappearing, or she constantly has a pile of fresh eggs, or you even catch her eating her brood.  This can be caused by stress or environmental factors killing the brood.  Sometimes queens are just fail moms, though. If your queen is eating her brood, or potentially eating her brood, I suggest taking a close look at the environment they’re in and making sure there is no reason the brood is dying.  If there is no apparent reason for brood deaths, ensure that she is being left alone.  Only check on her once a week, and put her somewhere where she won’t be bumped, exposed to vibrations or any other disturbances.  If all of this is done and she still isn’t producing, or is eating her brood, consider her a fail mom.  In this case, there is no harm in keeping her until she dies or perhaps gets lucky and produces some offspring.  Offering her some callow workers of the same species may make the colony successful.

You can also attempt to introduce adult, non-callow workers.  Some ants are more accepting than others, so always be wary and only do this if left with absolutely no choice.  Stick the queen and any collected workers (of the same species!) in the fridge for a few hours.  Introduce one to the queen and observe them for a few minutes.  Chilling them in this way typically reduces aggression to only posturing, but be prepared to break up a fight.  Leave them in there until they at least stop showing aggression before introducing more.  The workers will be able to assist the queen in raising her brood.

To add to this, queens routinely feed eggs to larvae.  It is one of the more common ways for a queen to feed the larvae.  Sometimes queens simply lay a bundle of infertile eggs that are just for consumption and slowly consume them.  It is common for a queen to lay a sizable pile of eggs, but end up with only one large larvae with no eggs or any other brood.  The larvae will usually pupate and eclose, so no problem.


Spontaneous death

Sometimes a queen just dies for no apparent cause.  It could be genetic, a disease, reaction to fumes, residues, or the stress of being caught, or some microscopic or nearly microscope life-form such as a mite.  If you fail to find any likely cause of a queen’s death, and no fungus sprouts after a couple of days in a clean, sealed container, chalk it up to luck of the draw.  

Queens who are infertile usually die within days, although they can live up to year or more.  Queens who are infertile will lay eggs, they will develop into males with wings.  Only fertile queens can produce workers.

For this reason, many people catch 3-5 queens to ensure they get a couple that survive.


Colony care

Caring for a colony in a formicarium is different than caring for a single queen or fledgling colony.  They will need a variety of foods, plenty of space, an outworld, preferably a moisture gradient, and a temperature gradient. 

There are some things differences between catching a wild, mature colony and rearing a colony from a new queen.


Mature vs. new

Many people find a mature colony and are able to catch a queen from it.  This is fine in as long as you do It properly and I’m sure most enthusiasts would agree. 


Never take a queen without workers

Never take a queen from a colony without also taking her workers.  After workers start pampering and caring for the queen, it is unlikely she will survive if she is removed from them.  They tend to become wholly dependent upon their workers, so if you can’t catch most or the entire workforce with a queen, don’t collect a mature colony.  Polygynous species are an exception.  Catching only a portion of the queens and workers from a polygynous colony will allow the remaining portion of the colony to live on and give you a mature colony to keep and observe.


Collection of a colony

If you have to dig up a colony to get it, be aware that most ants dig many feet below the surface over a wide area so it is unlikely you will locate the queen, and even if you do, you could kill her.  Ants nesting in wood are a different matter as they are usually easier to obtain.  But most wood-nesting ants practice polydomy, so it’s possible the queen isn’t even in the log you’re tearing apart.  

Sometimes colonies will be just underneath a rock or piece of wood, if you turn it over you might see the queen.  If you see her, catch her first, and then collect as many workers and brood as possible.


Stress of catpure

Another problem that can arise is stress.  A mature colony has likely lived and thrived in the wild for some years and a sudden home invasion, destruction, and capture can be extremely stressful for a colony.  New queens from nuptial flights adapt to captivity far more easily than a mature colony. Sometimes a mature colony will have a large worker die-off after collection, so be prepared.  A wild colony will probably take several days to 2-3 weeks to start eating and settle in.

Queens don’t live forever

There is almost no way to determine the age of a queen.  The queens you find in a mature colony are possibly quite old; some can live upwards of 12 years!  So be advised that without knowing the age of the queen in a mature colony, it’s possible she and her colony will be approaching the ends of their lives.


Helpful Links:

Ant Flight Chart: http://forum.formiculture.com/index.php/topic/181-ant-mating-chart/

Site with ants and their range: http://www.antweb.org/          

General help: www.formiculture.com      You can post picture for identification here.









Most of this information was copied from various sites and heavily edited.  I made them into 5 booklets that I hand out with colonies I sell, so if some parts seem to heavily lean towards a cold climate or seem a bit disjointed please disregard it.


I have attached the mini booklets I use in case you wish to print them off for yourselves.

Attached Files

  • dermy, AntGuySA, LC3 and 11 others like this

#32719 $3 Tower

Posted by PTAntFan on March 23 2016 - 4:31 PM

I came up with this cheap design a while back using off the shelf bead containers and well, it seems to work pretty well. I came up with this because although I think the GroTube is great for medium to large size ants, I could not get them to work with the small Z. Xyloni i've been keeping.  They just squirm their way out under the plate no matter what I do.  I still love my GroTube for my F. Francoeri but despite two different units and a V2 unit, they still escaped...in large numbers.


Enter the $3 Tower:

3 Dollar Tower (8)

This stack screws together tightly and makes a nice tower.


One trick I had to solve was providing an easily refillable moisture solution.  I thought of the test tubes we all use and how well those work for founding queens and small colonies.  The problem is that the moisture eventually dries up.  Solving that problem resulted in this notion where I expose the cotton shielded cotton ball to a refillable container that also separates the ants from the water:

3 Dollar Tower (2)

This turns out to work extremely well. And attaching an external tower for refilling is a snap:

3 Dollar Tower (7)


I built a few models like this of various size and dimension.  Visibility is GREAT.  Here is a completed one:

3 Dollar Tower (1)
For ventilation I just drill a hole and secure some copper mesh with glue gun.
3 Dollar Tower (5)
Here I am hoping a colony will move from a failed GroTube that I setup in a box with test tube into a $3 Tower.  I did this once before.  Once the ants realize there is a moisture source in the tower and their test tube is dry, they move overnight.
3 Dollar Tower (6)


The one challenge I have had is feeding.  These Xyloni are VERY aggressive about exploring any exits to the formicarium, so feeding time was always a mess.  I have contrived to attach a glass jar connected by tubing and line the jar with Fluon.  That's in testing now and required a $20 diamond-head drill bit.  I also recommend a step-bit for getting clean holes in these bead stacks.  You'll already be drilling into a curve so precision is important.  Bottom line is that it's only $3 if you have everything you need already; drill, bits, cotton, tubing, glue gun and glue.


I got the bead stacks at Hobby Lobby but have seen them at Michael's as well.  I have some of the small ones and they also work ok, but the wider ones seem cleaner, have better visibility and are easier to work with altogether.

  • Trailandstreet, Gregory2455, Foogoo and 9 others like this

#13866 Etherwulf's Synthetic Ant Diet Research Thread/Guide

Posted by Etherwulf on March 14 2015 - 5:45 AM


 I've finally gotten round to creating a research thread for my synthetic ant diets. I aim to provide some insights into formulating synthetic diets as well as show that it is fairly easy to accomplish.


Nonetheless, there are certain pitfalls along the way that I will highlight so that you need not repeat my previous mistakes. As far as possible, each step will be illustrated with a picture but for those that do not, there will be clear descriptions of the steps taken.





Synthetic ant diets are nothing new. Several research papers have documented the creation of these diets with the most prominent ones below:


Straka J. and Feldhaar H. 2007. Development of a chemically defined diet for ants. Insect. Soc. 54: 100–104 


Bhatkar A.P. and Whitcomb W.H. 1970. Artificial diet for rearing various species of ants. Florida Entomol. 53: 229–232


Dussutour A. and Simpson S.J. 2008. Description of a simple synthetic diet for studying nutritional responses in ants. Insect. Soc. 55: 329–333 


Ants require two main types of food, carbohydrates and protein. Generally, worker ants require very little protein and rely on carbohydrates for energy while larvae require a much larger amount of protein to grow. Also, adult ants can only feed on liquid foods and only larvae can consume both solid and liquid foods.


The key to creating successful diets is the protein to carbohydrates ratio (P:C). Several studies have shown that too much protein can lead to lifespans being shortened by half and colonies collapsing. In short, too much protein will kill your ants so great care must be taken in deciding the amount of protein. 


The Dussutour and Simpson diet (Which is what Formula is based on) found that the most successful combination for Rhydontiponera ants is a P:C ratio of 2:1 so that is what we will be using later. However, I have made modifications to the diet which have given it greater receptivity to certain species of ants that previously refused to recruit to the original. Also, egg has been omitted from the diet because a research done on egg white injury in ants have provided sufficient reason to remove it. The study showed that ants fed on  egg white diets had shortened lifespans and showed increased aggression towards nestmates. 


Creating synthetic ant diets offer a more consistent source of nutrition and is also easier to feed in the long run. In addition, it is more economical because very little of each ingredient is needed in making one batch.






For protein, there are a few choices to pick from:




Whole eggs are a high quality source of protein, or more specifically, albumin. It has been used in ant formulations since the original Bhatkar-Whitcomb diet but it is known to cause egg white injury or biotin deficiency when used in high quantities. Hence, I have chosen to omit it from my own formulations. If you choose to use eggs as a protein source, you must ensure it is used in conjunction with other protein sources.


Calcium caseinate


This is normally found in milk alongside whey. However, it is known to sediment in solutions as it is the least water soluble of the caseinates, causing an uneven distribution of protein. Hence, it is advised to avoid calcium caseinate.


Whey concentrate


Whey is also found in milk and is available as a concentrate or isolate. It is commonly consumed by bodybuilders as protein so it can purchased from your local health store. Isolate contains a higher protein percentage of about 90 - 94% while concentrate has 70%-80%


Insect Extract


Insect extracts are perhaps the best source of protein since they are low fat (with the exception of waxworms) and are consumed naturally by ants. I prefer cricket flour which can be bought online or from a health store. Make sure you buy only those with no preservatives and no additives.




Fructose and Sucrose


Fructose and sucrose are found in honey and table sugar. Fructose is slightly sweeter than sucrose. Honey is prefered here because it is minimally processed so it keeps all trace minerals and vitamins, instead of refined sugar which are "empty calories". If you can obtain unrefined sugar, that would be best but it can be somewhat tricky to get hold of.




Sodium Benzoate


Sodium benzoate is used to as an antimicrobial agent to inhibit mold growth. It is easily obtained at stores selling baking supplies. It is only effective at a pH of below 4.5 so ascorbic acid (vitamin C) needs to be added to reduce the pH. If you choose to use vitamin C tablets, ensure that no flavourings and additives are added.




Vanderzant Vitamin


This is specially designed for insects but can be hard to obtain. Use sparingly (about 2g per 300ml).




Used to solidify food into cubes or gel


Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)


Used to increase the acidity of the solution to increase the effectiveness of sodium benzoate at inhibiting mold growth


Food Coloring of choice






Milligram scale


This is used to measure precise quantities of ingredients. I use a cheap diamond scale bought online.


Stove/ Microwave


I prefer using a gas stove because it offers me greater control over the heat. A microwave can be used but a bit of finesse is required because the solution should be taken out when it starts to boil. 


Spoons/Stirring rod/Beakers


Small coffee spoons can be used to scoop minute amounts of powder ingredients.


pH scale is not needed but can be used to double-check the pH.





1. Ensure environment and tools are clean


Wash all tools with soap and sterilize metal/glass tools in boiling water if possible. This is to maximise effectiveness of the preservative used. Wash hands thoroughly with soap before beginning.


Common mistake: Do not skip this step! Skipping this step can cause mold to grow despite the presence of sodium benzoate. Observe the picture below for details.


(Note that the bottom left was from a contaminated batch that still had preservatives. These samples were left for a week in a moist environment to simulate the likely conditions that your ants will be living in.)




2.  Prepare the following quantities of ingredients:


4.916g (3.335g)* of cricket powder 

2.222g (1.665g)* of whey 

12.220g (10g)* of unrefined honey (Percentage of sugar varies based on honey used. Check nutrition labels)

100ml of distilled water

1.300g of agar (Increase or reduce this to change consistency of the final product. I used a 1.3 % agar solution at a 5 :1 ratio of agar solution to dry mass of ingredients)

0.120g of sodium benzoate

2.000g of ascorbic acid (You may have to increase this if you use more water) 

1g of Vanderzant 

2 drops of food colouring



*brackets indicate actual amounts of protein or sugar present


Common mistake: Do not approximate! Weigh all ingredients using the milligram scale. Small deviations of ±0.01 are acceptable.


Tip: You can weigh certain ingredients together to save time. Use a small container/dish to hold the ingredient being weighed but remember to 'tare' the scale to 0 before adding the ingredient.





sml_gallery_229_319_366104.jpg    sml_gallery_229_319_42515.jpg    sml_gallery_229_319_985257.jpg


3. Dissolve all ingredients EXCEPT AGAR in 40 ml of distilled water


Stir until all ingredients are dissolved. 


Tip: The honey is likely to stick to the weighing container. Rinse with water and pour into the mixture until no more honey is left. Better still, use a larger container to weigh the honey and just mix ingredients in that container later.





4. Dissolve agar strips in boiling water


Boil 100ml of distilled water before adding agar strips. Stir until dissolved and switch to low heat


5. Add the mixture from step 3 to the agar solution on low heat


Stir until the solution is homogenous and evenly spread out. 


Common mistake: Do not allow parts of the solution to agglutinate/clump up! This will cause an uneven distribution of protein and carbohydrates



*OPTIONAL STEP*  Skip to step 6 if you don't want to pasteurize your ant diet. Pasteurization kills microbes and allows your ant food to be stable-shelf. That said, refrigerating it is still prefered.


5a. Heat solution at a constant temperature of about 75 celsius for at least 20 seconds before cooling it to 4 Celsius in an ice bath or fridge.


6. Pour mixture into a shallow dish or mold (if you want shapes)


I used sterile petri-dishes but you can use any shallow dish that has been cleaned with soap or sterilized.


Common mistake: Ensure dish or mold is cleaned with soap or sterilized. Do not touch the mixture with your hands!






7. Refrigerate completed ant diet at around 4 Celsius 


To store it long-term, put it in the freezer compartment.

 If you have pasteurized your food in step 5a, it is fine to store it at room temperature. 



Whew! If you have followed the steps above, congratulations, you have just made your first batch of ant food. 


This is my first version using cricket flour and I'm already seeing greater receptivity. Picky species like Nylanderia sp. readily accepted this version so if you have trouble feeding your ants, try this out.


Feel free to modify this formulation and post your own attempts below. 


If enough people are interested, I will create an online logsheet to allow everyone to share their own synthetic ant diets.




Can I feed my ants solely this?


While studies have shown that healthy colonies have been raised solely on this, I recommend using this as the staple food while offering the occasional insect. Water should be provided at all times. If your colony does not grow as expected, cease feeding a nd provide sugar water ad libitum along with insects 


Feedback this to me on this thread so I can figure out what's wrong


Isn't this the same as Formula by Byformica?




While Terry and I base our diets off mostly the same literature, we have made our own modifications to the original D&S diet so they are very different in composition.


The PC ratio for this particular diet remains the same but I've increased the amount of sugar for sugar-loving species which refused to take the P:C 2:1.


This sounds like a lot of work. Can I buy some from you?


Currently, I have no plans to sell this. I am planning on sending free samples in the future to people in exchange for them recording their observations for me so I can improve this diet. If there is enough interest and when I have time of course, so drop me a PM to indicate your interest.


My ants don't want to eat this! What's wrong?


Again, many factors are involved such as consistency, preservative levels, etc. Try increasing amounts of honey used and remove other competing sources of food.


Feedback this to me on this thread so I can figure out what's wrong


Can I use a liquid feeder with this?


Yes but I do not recommend it. Adding more water will result in a gel but it will eventually agglutinate, causing the feeder to clog.


Can I repost this somewhere else?


Yes, but credit me and provide a link back to this page.



Moderators, please sticky this if you find it beneficial.


And for all those who've found this helpful, please like this post. Thanks!  :)



  • Ants4fun, ToeNhi, Gregory2455 and 9 others like this

#46506 The Importance of Plants for Ant Diversity

Posted by MrILoveTheAnts on December 21 2016 - 7:11 PM

The information in this thread is geared toward an eastern North American audience, but it's fundamental message can be applied to other parts of the world.
Doug Tallamy is perhaps the best speaker on the topic of conservation native plants and pristine environments. Sadly he's also a bird watcher, though that's not entirely a bad thing. Ant and Bug people don't typically plant or design landscapes, unless they're raising butterflies. Whereas bird watchers tend to be home owners who landscape with attracting birds in mind. While Prof. Tallamy is currently the head of Entomology at the University of Delaware, he's not much of an ant guy. I know because I've asked him in person. So I feel there is a need to fill in the gaps. 
His book, "Bringing Nature Home" is summarized in the video below. There is also a link to his website below that which is a list of what plant genera support the number of species of Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies). Which can be quite pretty and sometimes evil-looking.

He focuses on moths and butterflies because they're the number one source of food birds eat. He speaks and writs about other insects as well, however, he completely almost completely ignores Ants, the most abundant kind of insect on earth by number. 1 in 3 insects on the plant is an ant. I believe the reason he's doing this is because ants are in direct competition with birds when it comes to insect food and seeds, and probably wouldn't sell as many books if his readers knew they were also planting ant gardens. Though really they're planting spider gardens, assassin bug garden, and aphid gardens, as the path to biodiversity is the same for all of these.
Another reason he's ignoring ants though is because ant species are rarely specialized in nesting in or around any one particular kind of tree. That is, you can't plant a specific kind of tree, forb (wildflower), or grass and get a specific species of ant because of it. (Unless they were already nesting in the pot which frequently happens.) They tend to be generalists in their environment. Things such as soil type, presence of dead wood, and climate determine what species of ants that can be found in a given location.
A fundamental rule of nature is if you remove 1% of a habitat, then over the next 25 to 50 years you will have lost 1% of the species. This is because you have lowered the carrying capacity. Now 1% is hardly noticeable, but when you bulldoze 70% of a forest, over the next half century you can expect to lose 70% of the species that depended on that forest. But the good news is this works both ways.
By planting trees, shrubs, forbs (wildflowers) and grasses you are literally increasing the three dimensional space ants have to forage on and nest in. If these are native plants then they are more than likely producing 40 times more insects of nonnative plants. Consult your kitchen spice rack for a collection of defensive chemicals plants have come up with to stop from being eaten.

Here Doug is interviewed, showing off his Black Cherry trees, Prunus serotina. I have planted the same species in my yard, but my tree (sadly) doesn't have the same problem his does. I actually did plant this as a host for Tiger Swallowtail and Red Spotted Purple butterflies. My tree doesn't look anything like his because I have 4 species of Camponotus, 2 Formica, 1 Lasius, and a Temnothorax constantly foraging on the tree. Every leaf of my tree his iconic caterpillar nibbling and I've even seen both butterflies lay eggs on it, but they never make it past the second instar before a Camponotus pennsylvanicus carries them off kicking and screaming. 
Red Spotted Purple Caterpillars actually have a defense against ants which is better shown in the video above than my picture here. The caterpillars build a little stick out of their frass and silk which they run onto whenever the ants come near. The ants don't want to walk on caterpillar frass so the caterpillar gets to live another day.
Eventually Red Spotted Caterpillars become too big for Camponotus pennsylvanicus to carry away, so they abandon the pooh stick strategy and begin mimicking bird droppings, (or a diseased twig of some kind,) because birds don't like eating food that looks like it's not food.
The adult is later born to fly around and do its thing...
... until it drops dead. Actually this is a Black Swallowtail but you get the idea. All insects eventually die of old age and fall to the ground. And that's where ants come in to clean up the mess.
Cicadas lay eggs in the underside of branches to a number of our indigenous hardwood trees. The nymphs feed for a short time then drop to the forest floor where they burrow in and begin feeding on tree roots. Depending on the species 3 to 19 years later they emerge as an adult. Some are killed by ants before they even get to molt out of their exoskeletons. The ones that go on to become adults though, complete their life cycle and eventually drop dead where ants quickly find them.
So do bees though this one's not quite dead yet.

Each spring Honeybee hives clear out their dead. Small piles of dead bees quickly become swarmed by ants.
Why they take back into the nest when they can.
Within rotting wood, particularly when in damp and shaded locations, they are host to a variety of soft bodied arthropods that decompose the log. This is the prime nesting area to a lot of our more cryptic hunting species.
Strumigenys pergandi successfully catching a soft bodied arthropod.
They fly on days late in the summer with heavy cloud coverage. I know because I happened to have been at a car dealership when I found them landing on all the cars.
Proceratium sp.
Proceratium are odd-looking because they have a forward facing gaster, which makes it easier to sting food items in tight, closed spaces of rotting wood and leaf litter where they nest and hunt.
Stigmatomma, or Dracula Ants, are yet more cryptic. They only occur in forests where decades worth of leaf litter has been turning into pristine top soil. These are specialized hunters of centipedes which means they need an ample supply of decomposing arthropods to keep their prey items in good stock. (You basically have to sift threw leaf litter for an hour to find these!)
Temnothorax also nest in rotting wood and within dead plant matter but are better about foraging on the surface of these structures where they're more easily noticed.
Moving back into the leaf litter a moment, opportunistic nesting species such as Nylanderia flavipes come to nest. This is not a native ant species but in the same habitat our native Tapinoma sessile is common.
Dead wood is also where a lot of our wood nesting Camponotus species found their nests. Sadly once the bark is ripped off the log, they no longer become ideal for nesting in.
Other kinds of Camponotus have become more common in my yard thanks to planting more wildflowers and plants that get aphids on them. Here a C. subbarbatus queen roams around looking to start a nest.
In the absence of Camponotus, Crematogaster tend to take over dead wood structures up north. Farther south, many of these species are ground nesting though.
Trees and shrubs are where Prenolepis imparis flights tend to congregate. Even having a single tree is enough to attract a small swarm of males. Forest edges of course get way more attention, but I happen to know someone who has a farm. The boarders along their land is nothing but forest where P. imparis colonies are very common. But beside their home they have a single oak tree, and under it there are several dozen P. imparis nests. 
There are a number of aphids, scales, leaf and tree hoppers that ants tend for food too. I'd post them here but this thread would be twice as long.
Formica pallidefulva rounding up caterpillars and sawfly larva.
Some caterpillars take advantage of ants. This is a spring Azure butterfly (or summer?), and it secretes a substance that makes the ants tend it. Before this caterpillar showed up on this sourwood tree the ants were stealing nectar from the flowers. Now that the caterpillar is eating the flowers though, the ants have stopped this behavior and are giving the caterpillar their full attention.
The adult Azure butterfly. They also lay eggs on New Jersey Tea, and Dogwoods, but only when they flower. They seem to go after any kind of plant that has soft, white bodied flowers of a simple design. Another species in this family hosts strictly on Lupinus perennis, and the caterpillar must over winter within an ant nest. Because of the added confusion with this life cycle it is naturally endangered, as it's also likely they require the correct ant species to nest within.

I love being able to see stuff like this happen in my back yard.
Lawns are not totally useless. Here is a nets of Formica subsericea in my front lawn. They stayed there for a year, then up and moved their whole operation one day to my neighbor's backyard, and they've moved again since.
With an abundance of insect food and nectar sources around, Formica populations tend to flourish. But this attracts unwanted attention. Pictured above is a Polyergus which is genus of specialized slave makers of Formica species. Polyergus colonies can not exist without Formica host workers. Other Formica species do this too.
Back in 2010 I managed to attract a single colony of Formica pergandei to my yard. In a few weeks they completely decimated the F. pallidefulva and F. incerta population in my yard. Each day they would move their entire colony into a new host colony, basically storming into the nest, murdering the queen and any alate brood. Workers that tried to resist were either cast out or killed. F. pallidefulva and F. incerta I would describe as timid ants that would sooner abandon the nest than defend it really. F. pergandei is far more aggressive, especially towards humans. As I observed their behavior, many of them locked onto me and sprayed acid as a response to movement.
Another example of parasitism in ants is within the genus Lasius, where the parasitic species out number their hosts 10 to 1!
Lasius neoniger nest in sandy soil in sunny locations, while its counterpart Lasius alienus nests in dead wood in and along forest edges. Lasius pallitarsis and a few others can be found here and about the US.
Here a colony of Lasius alienus has been parasitized by Lasius claviger. Despite being such a common species, actually finding a colony in the transition process is surprisingly rare. Here the host species is only needed during the founding stage. The colony will turn into nothing but Lasius claviger..... until they are parasitized themselves by Lasius interjectus.
Whether claviger or interjectus though, the resulting colony is almost completely subterranean feeding on the dew from root aphids. 
Another ant that is arguably cryptic might be Solenopsis molesta. They have the common name thief ant because they often nest next to other ants, such as Lasius claviger where they will steal their brood for food, and hung their supply of root aphids. In pure sand, this species is replace by Solenopsis texana which basically does the same thing.
In the same genus is Solenopsis invicta, the Red Imported Fire Ant, which love nesting in lawns and disturbed farm land. Places that are often watered regularly and offer pavement to incubate their brood. It's this kind of "golf course-looking" landscape that has allowed many invasive species to thrive and take over. In their native land Fire Ants are really only common in disturbed locations. The very act of mowing a lawn, preventing an abundance of plant life from growing is exactly that.
Also in especially wooden environments our native Ephemerals grow. Spring wildflowers such as Blood Root, Woodland Poppy, Twinleaf, and Trillium all flower in the early spring and complete their growing cycle by mid summer. Pictured above is Trillium grandiflorum.
The seeds to Trilliums and many other ephemerals have packets of elaiosome on them, which is a lipid rich substance. It's basically ant food. Roughly 40% of our native wildflowers are actually planted by ants in the wild! They assist with seed dispersal
Plants that don't have this kind of relationship with ants and their seeds, are otherwise just food. Here a Tetramorium caespitum worker has ground off a piece of sunflower from under our bird feeder and is carrying it home.
A young Trillium planted by a colony of Aphaenogaster rudis grows out of the colony midden pile, where the ants covered it in their trash and mother nature covered it with leaves.

  • dspdrew, Reacker, dermy and 8 others like this

#42610 Rule reminder

Posted by dspdrew on October 22 2016 - 11:14 PM

As many of you know, the forum has seen an influx of new users over the past weeks and months. Unfortunately, some posts, especially those coming from new members, are not meeting the basic minimum standards of coherence to qualify as written language.

All members agreed to the established rules when joining the forum, and are expected to abide by them:

Rule 7: Post in legible, coherent English, without excessive use of emoticons, slang, chat acronyms, or IM shorthand.

If we want to attract knowledgeable people to the forum who can answer our many questions, we must show that we are intelligent life forms, which includes adhering to a common linguistic system.
Examples of chat acronyms and IM shorthand NOT allowed on the forum can be found on the following website:


In summary, we are asking all users, new and old, to make a minimum effort in their posts, which includes sentence capitalization, proper punctuation, and a prohibition on obscure acronyms, so we may continue to grow as a community and forge the highest quality discussions. These are the rules we all agreed to when registering for the forum. Good luck, all!

  • Crystals, gcsnelling, kellakk and 8 others like this

#30916 Handmade formicariums;

Posted by Elraen on January 5 2016 - 9:49 AM

Hi everyone,


I decided to share my handmade formicariums because sometimes i feel that i need to get new ideas or reviews. That makes me better :) The formicariums which i built could be useful for someone else at a point.



1) Live Chat's fruit ;


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2) 25x25x25cm Glass ;


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3) War zone ;


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4 ) Pico pico ;


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5) Pico Pico 2 ;


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6) Working on it ;


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I gotta add more.









  • drtrmiller, ctantkeeper, Barristan and 8 others like this

#27029 Ant photography thread

Posted by Diffeomorphismus on September 9 2015 - 7:59 AM

Thanks to you for starting this thread!


The "birth" of a new worker of my Cataglyphis cf. bicolor colony:






  • James C. Trager, drtrmiller, Barristan and 8 others like this

#6001 The List of Handy Links

Posted by Crystals on October 11 2014 - 9:00 AM

Here is a list of various links that many ant keepers find handy.

Ant keeping Guide for Beginners

Ant Mating Chart

Picture of Formicariums and Outworlds

How To Find And Catch Ant Queens

Preferred Food by Species

Escape Prevention Barriers

Various Setups for Founding Queens:
Guide to hibernation
Tutorials and How-To's

How to Build a Formicarium out of Grout
http://forum.formicu...icture +journey

How to Build a Picture Frame Grout Formicarium with Advanced Hydration

How to Build a Formicarium out of Firebrick
http://forum.formicu...icture +journey

How to build a Formicarium out of a Bead Container
http://forum.formicu...icture +journey

How to build a formicarium with clay

How to build a horizontal sand formicarium

How to Build an Ant Waterer or Liquid Feeder

How to Build a Foraging Area

Cullturing various insect feeders:

Techniques for successful anting

How to move your ants

How to clean your Foraging Area:

Ant Food Recipes:
Etherwulf's cricket and whey recipe
Chromerust's chicken and nectar recipe
Specimen Preparation and Labeling


Tips for Taking and Posting Pictures

Photographing Live Ants (Wayne's Word)
Ant photography thread
Other Interesting Links

Ant Keeping Census

Pictures of Members Ant Keeping Areas

Live ant video streams

Substrates and Materials for Building your Formicarium:

Various methods to color an ant nest:

Materials and Equipment Purchasing Guide:

List of Favorite Ant Videos

Map of members locations

Anting, IDing and Keys 

Anting How-To

Click on the Regions dropdown, and you location may be on this site (Nearctic is US and Canada).
This site will provide a list of known ant species in a given area. It is possible to see side views and descriptions of the ants.

Ant Wiki

North American Ants (Myrmecos)

Taxonomic List of Ant Genera (Alexander Wild)

General Ant Keys

How to distinguish Lasius, Formica, Camponotus, and Polyergus

Ants (Formicidae) of the Southeastern United States
A very useful resource for many ants along the Atlantic coast.

Ants (Formidicae) of Alberta, Canada
Camponotus key for United States Southwest

Taxonomic Notes on Nearctic Species of Camponotus, Subgenus Myrmentoma

Key to Myrmecocystus species

The Taxonomy, Distribution and Ecology of California Desert Ants

New World Army Ants

Alphabetical Index of [Southwest] Ant Genera by Subfamily (Wayne's Word)
Harvester Ants of the Pacific Northwest, and beyond. Some other ants, too...

Hymenoptera Glossary

Hymenoptera Online
An excellent resource for tracking down descriptions and other scientific literature, especially when a description is unavailable or inconclusive.

Bayer Environmental Science Ant Identification Guide
https://www.backedby...t ID Guide.ashx

Ant Identification Key 1-node Ants

Ant Identification Key 2-node Ants

FMC Professional Solutions Ant Identification Guide

Antkey | ID guide | introduced ants

Navajo Nature
Great for ants in the "Four Corners" states. An intersection of Navajo ideals and binomial classification.

Key to Identifying Common French Ants
Very helpful for identifying European ants

Dr Eleanor's Book of Common Ants
  • James C. Trager, Jonathan21700, islandants and 7 others like this

#57278 A PSA about terminology and formatting in myrmecology and taxonomy

Posted by Batspiderfish on April 11 2017 - 8:29 AM

In no particular order:


The binomial (two-part, genus-species) species name for any organism is always written in italic font, although other levels of classification, such as subfamily, are not italicized. The first letter of the genus is ALWAYS capitalized, and the first letter of the species is NEVER capitalized. ONLY the genus may be abbreviated to the first one or two letters, but ONLY after the name has been spelled in full at least once. (i.e. Lasius alienus, L. alienus, Pheidole bicarinata, Ph. bicarinata)



is an abbreviation for "species", describing A SINGLE, unspecified member of a given genus (i.e. Lasius sp.)



is an abbreviation for "species pluralis", describing MULTIPLE, DIFFERENT, unspecified members of a given genus (i.e. Lasius spp.)



is an abbreviation which roughly translates to "comparable to". It goes between the genus and species of something that is comparable to your specimen, but is not proven to be that species. Any specimen we call Lasius cf. neoniger could possibly be Lasius pallitarsis, unless we can prove otherwise.

Sometimes people will use the informal formicine, myrmicine, ponerine, etc. to describe their ants, based on subfamily. These do not need to be capitalized or italicized, but note that these words ARE ADJECTIVES. Saying "this is a myrmicine." as opposed to "this is a myrmicine ant." is akin to saying "this is an interesting." as opposed to "this is an interesting ant."

Polygyny refers to ants which are polygynous, supporting more than one queen in a colony after it is founded. Polygyny is typically not a universal trait for a given species, but is often expressed through branching genetic lineages (it is only advantageous to be polygynous when there is heavy competition from your own species and little available space to found a new colony.) In many instances of polygyny (particularly with polydomic ants who have multiple, allied nests) the extra queens are daughters of the foundress queen who have rejoined the colony.

Monogyny describes ants which will only ever support one queen after their colony is founded. Species which exhibit polygyny will likely also have a monogynous strain, and the two strains tend to be intolerant of each other.

"Mono" and "poly", "monogamous" and "polygamous" refer ONLY to human partnerships! <3

"Mono" is also appropriate to describe infectious mononucleousus, caused by the Epstein–Barr virus.

Pleometrosis refers to a founding strategy wherein a colony is started with more than one queen, although, later, all but one will move away with or without a portion of the workers (or else be killed off). The adjective form is "pleometrotic", not "pleometrophic", which would mean "eats queens".

A NAN-I-TIC is a morphologically distinct caste of worker found at the beginning of a colony's founding stages. Nanitics are usually smaller, short-lived, and may be a different shape or color.

I'll probably be adding more to this later. Glad to get that off my chest. :D

  • Reacker, gcsnelling, Jonathan21700 and 7 others like this

#46189 Why Does Mikey Bustos Hate Gamergate

Posted by Reacker on December 16 2016 - 9:42 PM

To those of you expressing unhappiness with Mikey being "publicly attacked" in this thread I would point out that while the original poster was hyperbolic in expressing his sentiment, drtrmiller's post contained not a personal attack but rather a well composed criticism of Mikey's actions in administering a public forum. The concerns iterated by drtrmiller seem to be shared by others in the ant community and it is quite reasonable to expect that Mikey should answer to these criticisms.


No one should be immune from critiques of their actions when they affect everybody in the larger community regardless of how nice a person they are



And to Alabama Anter: If you are unwilling to stop being toxic in threads that actually have relevance to you, please do the rest of the community a favor and stay out of the threads that are unrelated to you. Your attitude and general conduct are an embarrassment to yourself and to anyone else that has the misfortune to have their names and text appear anywhere near yours. 

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#25326 Materials and equipment purchasing guide

Posted by dspdrew on August 14 2015 - 1:47 PM

This is a list of the most commonly asked about items and where to purchase them or what specifications to get.
None of these companies or websites are advertisers here, as we don't have any advertisers. These are just the places that most of us have found to have the best product at the best price.
If anyone has any items to add or other purchasing locations, OR disagreements, this would be the place to discuss it. We will continue to add on to this list.
Anting equipment:
http://www.roseentom... Aspirators.htm
Ant keeping equipment:
Test tubes (Glass is recommended, as it does not scratch and fog after repeated cleaning. 16mm diameter will be fine for most ants. 150mm length is recommended to give most ants the space they need, and a large enough water reservoir to last until their first workers eclose)
Foam that can be used as test tube holders
Formicarium building materials:


BoxBox Stackable Containers
Amac Boxes
Test Tube Foraging Containers.

Mesh (100 micron mesh will keep ants of any size contained)
http://www.ebay.com/...ef sieve filter
Grout (Polyblend brand works well)
The Complete Ant Juice Ant Food Supplement
Rainbow mealworms.
Pesticide-free Kentucky Bluegrass seed
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#58920 Ant theft in Germany

Posted by Subverted on April 23 2017 - 11:38 AM

I would love to know what the police thought about having to handle this case.


"He stole your what???"

"My ants, officer."

"Your aunt? How did he do that?"

"No my ants, sir."

"I think we have some spray for that somewhere here..."

"But I want them back!"

"You WANT ants?"

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#57520 Hobbyist Ant Keeping Myths

Posted by Reacker on April 12 2017 - 6:08 PM

Over the course of the many years that I've been actively involved in the English speaking ant keeping community (circa 2000) (if the high turnover set of often feuding members (mostly young children) of various forums run almost invariably by neurotic or otherwise deeply flawed administrators can be called a community) I have seen the same ant keeping techniques repeated over and over again by different members as though they are established ant keeping canon despite a seeming lack of evidence supporting them. With the very recent exception of some particularly dedicated members such as dspdrew and some of owners of the many ant keeping supply companies that are actively striving to turn ant keeping into a commercial "industry" as some of them have called this once casual and cheap hobby, there has been a dearth of users who were doing detailed trials of new techniques and rearing methods and most importantly posting their methods and results online. Some examples of these myths that I have seen but do not recall seeing any detailed evidence for one way or the other:


  • Refrigerating workers/queens makes them more receptive/acceptable to foreign colony fragments/queens.
  • Ants like darkness. Do they? Has anyone done any comparative experiments with the same species in the same conditions with controls and isolated variables? I haven't seen any. I've seen photos of lab colonies where colonies with a red square of plastic sheeting above a certain section will be where the queen is consistently found, but not any evidence that it makes the slightest difference in colony success. 
  • Stress kills ants. Dr. Buschinger once created a post or thread on this very subject sometime in the last ten year s on Yuku pointing out that stress is a catchall term that keepers use when their ants die for reasons that they do not understand. For a while I remember the usage of this term died down but it seems to have made a comeback.
  • You should bake/boil/sterilize wild media before introducing it to your ants. There are many examples of people doing this and advocating for its usage, but I haven't seen anyone do a detailed comparison of raw and cooked media in otherwise similar conditions. 
  • The efficacy of Bhakter's diet--though this is (if I recall correctly) printed in the back of what is possibly the most prestigious ant book to amateur keepers, The Ants, user drtrmiller claims that during his commercial research and investigation of ant nutrition he found the diet to be completely worthless and claimed that the diet is spread in a similar fashion to the myths that I am discussing. (hopefully I paraphrased him correctly) I certainly do not remember any examples of someone going through the effort of making this diet to try it out and then posting the results.
  • Do insects need to be frozen/boiled/sterilized before feeding them to captive ants? Lots of people claiming to do this and advocating for it, but no one providing results from trials where they tried this for some colonies and not for others. 



I'm sure there are other myths/unsupported techniques that I do not recall but which should be on this list. I also freely admit that there could be some detailed threads providing support/opposition to these ideas in a trustworthy manner that I have not seen, and it is also quite possible that the other language based communities have answered these questions and that information has not diffused into the English speaking community. What I find most interesting about these myths is how they seem to be spread. As I see it, it's mostly the brand new users that typically don't stick around for more than one season who perpetuate these ideas. They join, read a ton of old threads, get some advice from equally new members with no experience to speak of and then in turn perpetuate this information by 'helpfully' doing the same for even newer members. Then as is usual with the high turnover of members in the ant keeping community they disappear completely leaving nothing but a few incomplete colony journals and some posts containing recommendations to use these techniques that next year's crop of new ant keepers will find to repeat the cycle. No contact with reality is required to perpetuate these ideas, only the fleeting enthusiasm of children and a laptop. 


I have seen some of them like the refrigeration method since around 2004 but I have yet to see a single instance where someone performed extensive testing of it to determine its efficacy one way or the other, only anecdotal results from some random new ant keeper sloppily going about mixing queens and workers when they can barely even keep groups of a few dozen workers alive under optimal conditions. I started this thread originally intending to ask if anyone had seen evidence for it but it morphed into the text above. 


I think a big part of the problem is that by and large the English speaking community is terrible at keeping colonies alive for any significant portion of their natural lifespans. How often do you see new keepers who get queens or whole colonies only to post about how they did something to meddle with their colony because they think they need attention as much as a pet dog would with the predictable result of all of their ants dying? Even with more experienced and careful adult ant keepers you see that their most successful colonies are plagued by massive population die offs, random deaths of the entire colony, termination of brood production, or more mundane things like forgetting to replenish their water supply and letting their colonies die of dehydration. How many long term journals do you see that encompass even half the natural lifespan of the same species in what you would think would be the considerably harsher conditions of the wild (other than some of the extremely short lived invasives) where the colony reaches maximum adult population size without any drastic population declines or requiring brood boosting from other colonies in the wild? It's hard to properly vet ant keeping techniques when almost nobody seems to be capable of keeping colonies alive to properly vet new techniques on them. 


I will note that the only constant exception to this rule has been the participation in forums by actual Myrmecologists, though most of their knowledge that they have chosen to share has been in the domain of taxonomy rather than the formiculturist side of things as we now seem to be calling it. Their presence seems to be diminishing quite a lot as they understandably appear to have not much tolerance for the lowering of communicative rigor (among other factors I suspect) that the English speaking community has adopted in recent years.  

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#49393 Funny little stories about ants

Posted by T.C. on January 25 2017 - 9:34 AM

This seems like a playground topic. ;)


However if you want to hear a funny story, i will give it to you. Well actually it was more stupid. No one pick on me about this. ;) This was a few years back. Like at least 4 years ago when the Yuku forums was active. ( I used to stalk the place :D ). I had wanted to start a ant colony. So I followed some instructions on a you tube video on how to make a plaster formicarium. I made it and it was the saddest, poorest of quality formicarium you would ever see. It looked like like a chunk of concrete I had taken from the side of our dumpy road, put some holes in it with a sledge hammer and stuck a piece of glass on the front.  However I continued on... to the next step. Getting the ants.


So, not even a half hour later,  I did some two minute research, I thought I knew enough to be able to identify and find a queen and her colony. So i wandered about our field, looking for some ants. I came across a colony of them. ( As of today I don't know what species they are.) It had majors and smaller workers crawling around. However i thought the majors were queens. I thought to myself, "Shoot, look at all them queens!" So I gathered as many as I could in the few water bottles i was carrying until my back was fried from the sun, and my neck was stiff from looking down so much. I started heading back and spotted a different colony. So i collected from that one as well.  I was real excited, thinking I had a hundred queens and tons of workers. :facepalm:


So, I get back. Mind you I am super excited. I pop them water bottles open, and ants run everywhere, so quickly I dumped them into the out world, which was still wet and runny because i did not let the plaster dry. However, i continued dumping in these ants from several different colonies. Some got stuck in the wet plaster, especially in the corners where it was still of a tooth paste consistency. However as quick as i could I just kept dumping in my water bottle of ants. into this out world. I had covered the nest part and tube leading from the out world to the nest with a cloth so they would head to the dark spot. I noticed the ants were chewing on each others legs :/ (Because they are from different colonies) but I thought to myself, "They must just be confused and frusterated right now, they will calm down"


Once finished dumping them in, I threw the lid on the out world. I could see from the out world the ants were running into the tube that was supposed to lead to the nest part. I stood there just thinking to my self, "Yes, I have a colony now" However once I stopped day dreaming, I looked down on the desk I had the whole mess on, I noticed there was an extreme amount of ants wandering about. "Sure some got out when I dumped them in, but not this many?" :| Suddenly I noticed, that there was a steady flow of them coming from out underneath the cloth I was covering the nest and tube leading to and from the out world. I quickly pulled up the cloth to find that the tube was not connected the nest. Ants were running from the out world, through the tube and onto my desk. A total mess. So I tried to scoop up all these ants and put them back into the outworld while trying to plug up the tube, and ants were escaping out of the out world as well with the lid off. While doing all this, I knocked it all into the floor. Ants everywhere and my plaster out world not being dry ran into the carpet . So I admitted defeat, and got the vaccum out. I sucked the ants up, threw the nest in the garbage. And didn't touch ants until almost two years later when I knew what i was actually doing.

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#39437 Crazy anting adventure, I saved a box of kittens

Posted by AntsMAN on September 5 2016 - 4:54 AM

I was walking on the shore line looking at the different species of ants and insects, after a hour or so I was going to stop and have a break from walking the rocks.  I came to a large hill/cliff and heard screaming so I climbed my way up to find five 2 week old kittens in a garbage bag hanging just off the ledge. The hill they came down was about 60 feet, I grabbed them and started walking home (1 hour). I then called every rescue place until I found the great people that took them in. I had to drive them 2 hours and pass them off to be picked up and taken to the help they needed. This was the best adventure I've ever had, the rush of saving a live is so amazing, I had to share.


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#38972 So You're Thinking About Starting an Ant Product Business?

Posted by drtrmiller on August 25 2016 - 1:53 AM

I sent the following to another member as a private reply to some questions he/she asked me, but I also wanted to post it publicly, because there seem to be quite a few here with aspirations of making a business out of selling antkeeping products, and my general advice may be helpful. While I didn't specifically mention it, it should be a given that a working knowledge of ants and antkeeping husbandry is fundamental to manufacturing antkeeping products to be used by others.

So You're Thinking About Starting an Ant Product Business?


Despite their inimitable adaptability, the infinite variety of ants in their various sizes—ranging from diminutive to microscopic—spanning the gamut of environmental and behavioral preferences, from arboreal leaf dwellers, to desert-sun navigators—make designing and manufacturing antkeeping products among the most challenging endeavors a person could undertake—certainly not a job for the faint of heart.  


Firstly, in order to start most any successful manufacturing operation, you must have some control over the means of production. This means you must generally own any tools and hardware used in the manufacturing process, which can include 3D printers, CNC machines, drill presses, screws and taps—anything you might need in order to complete your projects.  Further, you must train yourself to be able to use your tools effectively, as even the best tools are useless in the wrong hands.


In contrast, someone who outsources production in small volumes will incur too many costs to effectively sell finished goods at a reasonable price.  Additionally, outsourced production means that you will have little control over the fit and finish of parts that are intended to work together, and you will inevitably end up with parts that don't fit and must be discarded.  It is often necessary to produce many, many prototypes before manufacturing a final product. 

Starting out, you shouldn't expect to have hundreds or thousands of customers. Therefore, as a general guideline, I recommend that an item you sell for $20 should cost you a maximum of $1 to $3 in materials. If a new, amateur ant product manufacturer sells more than a dozen units of anything in a month, you're doing pretty well—and so, if you were to sell a product for $20 when it cost you $15 in materials and an hour or so to produce, you might as well be working for free.

You also cannot copy the work of others. Try to pass off someone else's work as your own in this community, and you will be condemned and not taken seriously. You must rely on your own creativity and inspirations from your own life in order to create original products.  This does not mean that you cannot be inspired by the work of others, be it architectural, artistic, industrial, or otherwise unrelated to antkeeping—just don't duplicate someone else's antkeeping products.

I have learned that it is of little help to ask for feedback or solicit ideas from the public, unless you are designing a camel. They say "a camel is a horse designed by a committee." If the people here had any idea about what they needed or how to go about making it, then they would make it themselves (and some do just that!). You must design a product yourself, and create a need for it, where no such need existed before. Typically, this means making something that solves a problem you, yourself, have had—and ideally, something that improves upon another commercial product you've personally used.

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, I would encourage you to only continue if you really love spending tens or hundreds of hours making things that will only be enjoyed by a handful of people (or, more likely, not enjoyed), and if you have the financial means to keep going at it without any serious prospect of profitability for potentially years to come. If that describes you, then do more research on your own, don't be afraid to make mistakes and try new things, and do learn how to make things independently, as I and others have done.

All those who have succeeded in making ant products, whether for personal use or for sale, have pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps. Good luck and hard work will get you somewhere, though maybe not to the place you expect, and probably not as quickly as you might want.

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#12615 Formiculture.com growth

Posted by dspdrew on February 19 2015 - 2:39 PM

This forum has been growing pretty fast since it was started less than a year and a half ago, so I thought maybe some of you might like to see this graph.


This is the forum's growth over the last 12 months. :)





Thanks everyone for all the great posts that make this place what it is.

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#59317 Would it be illegal?

Posted by dspdrew on April 26 2017 - 5:18 PM

Why is the concept of crossing a State line so hard to understand? Whether by car, skateboard, horseback, roller blades, pogostick, or even a catapult, it's still crossing the State line.

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