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Temperateants' guide on manually moving small colonies of big ants.

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#1 Offline Temperateants - Posted May 20 2020 - 10:28 AM


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Hi all, 

over this past year I have developed a method on manually moving small colonies of larger ants. I have used the method on smaller ants (tetramorium) but it works a lot better with Camponotous and even Formica. It works better with wider test tubes. It is a modification of this method: 

Feel free to check that out. 

Materials you need:

Multiple "auxiliary" test tubes with cotton obviously


A fresh tube (this is the tube you want everything to ultimately move into)


A clean white surface such as a posterboard (I use one of those thin Posterboards) or even paper works in a pinch. 

Bright lights. 



additional Q-tips

Optional step: If the tube is very dirty and you can't see that well into it, use a wet and dry Q-tip to clean it up. Also best done when the ants are not very full, as you have the least risk of popping an ant gaster and the queen will be easiest to move. Plus they will be more willing to eat honey which is a step later on. 

Step 1.

Isolate the queen and brood, as they are the easiest to work with. You can do this by using a Q-tip and prompting the workers out and into the auxiliary tubes. You can do this by getting the ants to walk onto the Q-tip. Gently scrape it into their direction, and the ants should latch on. If a worker is holding brood, put her into the fresh tube (the tube you want the colony to ultimately move into). Do this until all workers without brood are in the auxiliary tubes. Each of the auxiliary tubes should only have 1-3 workers, since you don't want escapees while isolating more workers, or when at the end you put the workers back. 

Step 2.

Load the queen. This is the most delicate and important step. Do the same thing where you get her to latch onto a Q-tip. Luckily, most queens are a lot bigger, slower and calmer than workers. Load her into the fresh (final) tube. 

Step 3.

Brood transport

This can be the easiest or most difficult step depending on your circumstances. Use your Q-tip to pick up brood. Tip: If the brood won't stick to the Q-tip dab the Q-tip in a bit of water. This is where the clean surface and bright lights come in. If you drop a brood, the clean surface will make it easier to locate it. The bright lights will allow you to transport and locate brood (both if they fall of the Q-tip or if they are still in the tube) easily. If the brood won't fall of the Q-tip and into the new test tube use a toothpick to drop it in. Tip: tap the section of the toothpick that is holding the brood onto the edge of the test tube. It should fall right in. The brood all goes into the new test tube, so be sure the queen is secure and on the wet cotton.

Step 4.

Finally, put some honey on the new test tube. Use your Q-tip to load the workers back in. The workers will eat the honey, both a way to bribe them into the new tube and to keep them still. This makes moving in other workers easier. 

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