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My fellow Americans... bug law in the land of the free

legal law laws ant law

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Poll: Ant Law Poll (67 member(s) have cast votes)

Is US ant law fine as it is?

  1. yes (11 votes [16.42%])

    Percentage of vote: 16.42%

  2. no (44 votes [65.67%])

    Percentage of vote: 65.67%

  3. uncertian (12 votes [17.91%])

    Percentage of vote: 17.91%

Is US ant law keeping the hobby from growing?

  1. yes a lot (22 votes [32.84%])

    Percentage of vote: 32.84%

  2. yes a little (26 votes [38.81%])

    Percentage of vote: 38.81%

  3. not really (15 votes [22.39%])

    Percentage of vote: 22.39%

  4. don't know (4 votes [5.97%])

    Percentage of vote: 5.97%

Are ant keeping hobbyists dangerous to the environment?

  1. Yes, and something should be done. It's a huge problem. (1 votes [1.49%])

    Percentage of vote: 1.49%

  2. To a small degree yes. Concern is merited. (17 votes [25.37%])

    Percentage of vote: 25.37%

  3. Rarely. It's just a few people who make bad choices. The concern is overblown. (42 votes [62.69%])

    Percentage of vote: 62.69%

  4. Not at all. The concern is totally misplaced. (7 votes [10.45%])

    Percentage of vote: 10.45%

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#1 Offline futurebird - Posted July 15 2021 - 5:35 AM

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Laws that protect wildlife are important. And those laws should be reviewed by informed scientists who understand the ecology, they should be reviewed by farmers and people in industry who may have concerns about pests and they should be reviewed by the public who may want to enjoy that wildlife. 

 

The legal situation with ants in the USA isn't a disaster, in my opinion, but the hobby of antkeeping is rapidly making the currents laws less than ideal. It's piecemeal, and can feel capricious and arbitrary. It's fine to buy a stinging desert ant queen by mail, but going to my friends house in CT to collect non-invasive queen native to the Bronx isn't. But, if I get that same queen from distant Niagara Falls ... well that's fine since it's the same state... Even though it's a different ecology. 

 

I feel bad for those of you who live in really little states. 

 

There is also a lot of confusion over what is and isn't legal. If you search of "ant keeping law" ... this forum is the first five results. The permit process seems designed for university scientists doing studies. 

 

I'm not expert enough to outline what the ideal laws would be or how they would work, but I do know lawmakers are lazy. If we want change we need to basically write the laws for them, have legal and biology experts look at them and then send out the changes we want. 

 

Has anyone tried to organize to do this? 

 

I'm managing to have a lot of fun with ants with things as they are, but I'd cheerfully support some legal changes that would make the transport of common, native, non-pest species within their natural region legal in more cases. And possibilities for discouraging collecting wild mature colonies of uncommon, native species. (this seems like what people should need a permit to do) ... some clarity on the difference between collecting queens and digging up the forest. 

 

And most important clear regional lists about what's good to keep and what isn't. Maybe we could even have some exotic species allowed. But, I leave that to biologists to decide. 

 

I have questions about keeping massive invasive colonies as pets. It just feels like a bad idea IMO.

 

I have some questions more than anything:

 

 

1. Should it be legal to keep invasive pest colonies?

2. Should it be legal to sell or hand out invasive pest queens?

3. Should it be legal to sell and move native species within US regions?

4. Should it be legal to sell and move native species anywhere in the country?

5. Are there any non-native species that it should be legal to keep?

6. Should it be legal to collect mature wild colonies under any circumstances?

7. Should wild colony collecting be legal for any native species?

8. ... for less common species?

9. Should we just leave it alone?

 

 

When I was a kid I caught a carpenter ant queen (camponotus pennsylvanicus) at my house in Cleveland. I didn't know how to take care of ants at all so she didn't live long. But I did bring her in a mayo jar (with a jam jar placed inside of it so that it formed a thin layer of dirt for the colony I expected to form) to my grandma's house in PA for the summer. I was a criminal. I hope the statue of limitations has expired. The queen died after a few weeks.  IDK turn me into the police I guess. 

 

I didn't find any queens in CT that day, but discussing it later multiple people were like "oh that's illegal you could go to jail" that scared me so I won't be doing it again. But I think it's kinda stupid to be honest. If it isn't I'm willing to be convinced otherwise. I know that that no one is chasing 7 years olds to toss them in prison for keeping bugs in jars... but it's just bad to have laws on the books that need to be enforced "sometimes" based on... what? It's confusing. 


Edited by futurebird, July 15 2021 - 5:42 AM.

Starting this July I'm posting videos of my ants every week on youTube.

I like to make relaxing videos that capture the joy of watching ants.

If that sounds like your kind of thing... follow me >here<


#2 Offline TennesseeAnts - Posted July 15 2021 - 6:12 AM

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I would support it if the part about collecting mature colonies was excluded.
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#3 Offline futurebird - Posted July 15 2021 - 6:38 AM

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I don't have a strong stance on what should be included. I just think that the confusing laws make people wary of joining the colony. It has turned off a few other science teachers I know who wanted to get colonies for their classrooms. "I don't want to show the kids something that could get them in trouble" "why can't I just buy a queen?" (I mean you can but there are limitations) etc.

 

If there is a consensus that collecting wild colonies of more rare native species isn't harmful ... why not? I don't know the answer to that. 

 

I think it's important to realize that if the hobby really grows, however, such practices would grow. There have been cases with other arthropods where it's been a problem such as with "pill millipedes" -- 


Starting this July I'm posting videos of my ants every week on youTube.

I like to make relaxing videos that capture the joy of watching ants.

If that sounds like your kind of thing... follow me >here<


#4 Offline TennesseeAnts - Posted July 15 2021 - 7:00 AM

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Usually a species of ant regarded as "rare" are just uncommonly found due to cryptic lifestyles, miniscule colony size, and playing dead upon disturbance. 


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#5 Offline NickAnter - Posted July 15 2021 - 7:46 AM

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Yes, the rarity, or lack thereof of a species is entirely dependent upon how many, or how frequently scientists find them. If their methods are flawed, and they find very few, it is regarded as "rare". I think that if a species is established in your state, you should be able to collect it in other states. That would be my main wish for a legal change.

 

Be warned, there may be some debate insanity on this thread.


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Hi there! I went on a 6 month or so hiatus, in part due, and in part cause of the death of my colonies. 

However, I went back to the Sierras, and restarted my collection, which is now as follows:

Aphaenogaster uinta, Camponotus vicinus, Camponotus modoc, Formica cf. aserva, Formica cf. micropthalma, Formica cf. manni, Formica subpolita, Formica cf. subaenescens, Lasius americanus, Manica invidia, Pogonomyrmex salinus, Pogonomyrmex sp. 1, Solenopsis validiuscula, & Solenopsis sp. 3 (new Sierra variant). 


#6 Offline futurebird - Posted July 15 2021 - 12:04 PM

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I think we should focus on whatever most of us can agree on. There have to be some things. Is there some other kind of pet whose laws we might use as a model?


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Starting this July I'm posting videos of my ants every week on youTube.

I like to make relaxing videos that capture the joy of watching ants.

If that sounds like your kind of thing... follow me >here<


#7 Offline JamesJohnson - Posted July 15 2021 - 12:19 PM

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I think that if a species is established in your state, you should be able to collect it in other states. That would be my main wish for a legal change.

 

Personally I think considering the fact that there a lot of species of ants that are probably a group of closely related species not to mention just genetic diversity in general I disagree. Additionally this doesn't really change the problem people in small states face. 

 

I think a simpler and easier to apply for PPQ526 permit would be good. The current PPQ526 permit has to account for some very agriculturally-damaging critters, so if you want to apply for less-damaging animals such as most species of ants it's pretty painful. The streamlined permit would allow the USDA to track these non-native ants*, but it would still be very accessible for most people. 

*I think the USDA tracking exotic ants is a good thing. If you get reports of invasive species a in state x, and someone who lives in state x has a permit for invasive species a, then maybe it'd be a good idea to give them a visit. Now tracking non-exotic ants on the other hand I strongly disagree with, too invasive with no benefit.


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#8 Offline futurebird - Posted July 15 2021 - 12:43 PM

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I think that if a species is established in your state, you should be able to collect it in other states. That would be my main wish for a legal change.

 

Personally I think considering the fact that there a lot of species of ants that are probably a group of closely related species not to mention just genetic diversity in general I disagree. 

 

 

The things about species not being as cut and dry in the wild as they are on paper is true. But I don't understand what this has to do with transporting ants to be pets with no intentions of intentional release. What do you see as the danger here? (I don't think I need to say this but just in case I'm not being antagonistic with this question I just don't understand. )

 

Is it something like if pogonomyrmex occidentalis variant A that's a popular captive sp. were to wipe out pogonomyrmex occidentalis wild variant B... even though they look very similar and could breed with each other? Just to make up an example.

 

Has something like this ever happened? I guess maybe with domestic cats in scotland... but is this really comparable to that?

 

Me? I'm going to apply to keep "companion ants" like a companion animal but it's my ants. (kidding... sort of)


Starting this July I'm posting videos of my ants every week on youTube.

I like to make relaxing videos that capture the joy of watching ants.

If that sounds like your kind of thing... follow me >here<


#9 Offline DDD101DDD - Posted July 15 2021 - 4:13 PM

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I think that if a species is established in your state, you should be able to collect it in other states. That would be my main wish for a legal change.

 

Personally I think considering the fact that there a lot of species of ants that are probably a group of closely related species not to mention just genetic diversity in general I disagree. 

 

 

The things about species not being as cut and dry in the wild as they are on paper is true. But I don't understand what this has to do with transporting ants to be pets with no intentions of intentional release. What do you see as the danger here? (I don't think I need to say this but just in case I'm not being antagonistic with this question I just don't understand. )

 

 

 

I think the problem is that even if you tell people not to do something, they do it anyway. Like goldfish and red eared turtles are invasive, mainly because people release them(I think). A surprising amount of people get pets as cool little decorations, and don't really seem to care about their well being too much.


Edited by DDD101DDD, July 15 2021 - 4:13 PM.

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#10 Offline Tyr_Ants - Posted July 16 2021 - 12:56 AM

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Q 1 yes as long as you don't release them
Q 2 no it should be illegal to sell invasive queens
Q 3 yes it should be legal to sell and move natives within US regions
Q 4 no like I said it should be like regions only
Q 5 not without a permit
Q 6 it should be illegal to collect mature colonies depending on species and if it's native or invasive
Q 7 collecting native already established colonies should be illegal

These are just my thoughts

Edited by Tyr_Ants, July 16 2021 - 12:59 AM.

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#11 Offline AnthonyP163 - Posted July 16 2021 - 7:57 AM

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Greenhouses move more ant species to more new areas than hobbyists likely ever will. We recently noted Pseudomyrmex gracilis in a greenhouse here in Wisconsin. If the concern is truly of the environment, they should find a way to prevent that.


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#12 Offline PogoQueen - Posted July 16 2021 - 8:03 AM

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You bring up a lot of very good points and this is a very well thought out thread! I just wanted to bring up a common misconception when you said:

“The permit process seems designed for university scientists doing studies.”

This is not true at all and your profession is not taken into consideration when applying for a permit. There are only two things really, 1. Is that you are 18 or older (Your parents can apply for you) and 2. The species you are applying for are native to your state. For species that are not native to your state, “exotics” you can still apply for a permit for those species. You could be accepted but there are some strict guidelines on containment and your facility/home would need to be inspected in order to ensure those species will not escape. I think as the laws stand now they are perfectly fine, it just depends on how much you want a specific species and what you are willing to do to get them. If you are going to keep exotics ants you should be escape-proofing your home anyways. I hope this offers some clarity that you can apply for permits for many species you thought that you could not keep before :)
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#13 Offline CheetoLord02 - Posted July 16 2021 - 8:09 AM

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Greenhouses move more ant species to more new areas than hobbyists likely ever will. We recently noted Pseudomyrmex gracilis in a greenhouse here in Wisconsin. If the concern is truly of the environment, they should find a way to prevent that.

This. I've found exotic ants in almost every greenhouse I've been to. Pheidole navigans was found in a greenhouse in central Illinois. Pheidole megacephala in a greenhouse in Wisconsin. The funny thing is that it's legal for antkeepers to collect and keep species that have been imported to greenhouses, since the keeper was not the one to import them and no movement across state lines was done by them.

The laws just clearly don't cover all of the possible circumstances and leave easy loopholes to exploit. It's easy to tell that the laws were not made by people considering hobbyists or really any legitimate transport of ants or other plant pests, and that the band-aid solution is just a flat blanket ban that's hardly enforced at all. I truly believe that regulations have their place, and species that pose a true threat should absolutely be regulated by law, but when you lay out a massive blanket ban it becomes near impossible to actually enforce anything. The law really just needs a blacklist of species that actually serve a threat to becoming invasive, species that are already invasive, or species that would otherwise completely throw off a local ecosystem if introduced. 


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#14 Offline OiledOlives - Posted July 16 2021 - 8:26 AM

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question no 6 isn't a good question. after all, what counts as a mature colony? one that produces alates? it varies from species to species. also, why would collecting mature colonies be illegal, especially if it's an invasive species?


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#15 Offline futurebird - Posted July 16 2021 - 11:33 AM

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I'm just worried that we get new laws that are better then someone starts selling turtle ant colonies online and people realize they can make money on highly desired ants so rather than getting queens and raising them they dig and brood boost using wild pupae or just dig up colonies (perhaps destroying a few for each one they get successfully) and we are left with a hellscape of fireants. 

 

There was an issue with this and Camponotus Gigas, which is protected now, and probably will be fine. Maybe a law isn't the answer here. I just want the unique ants to have a chance.

 

And I totally also want turtle ants. If it were legal. If I knew that it was a queen someone found, etc. 

 

People keeping and loving such ants could, if done right, give them more advocates for protections against more serious threats like habitat destruction and the aforementioned plant nurseries. 

 

That's why I'm asking questions not saying "we must do X"


Starting this July I'm posting videos of my ants every week on youTube.

I like to make relaxing videos that capture the joy of watching ants.

If that sounds like your kind of thing... follow me >here<


#16 Offline NicholasP - Posted July 17 2021 - 4:47 PM

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I'm just worried that we get new laws that are better then someone starts selling turtle ant colonies online and people realize they can make money on highly desired ants so rather than getting queens and raising them they dig and brood boost using wild pupae or just dig up colonies (perhaps destroying a few for each one they get successfully) and we are left with a hellscape of fireants. 

 

There was an issue with this and Camponotus Gigas, which is protected now, and probably will be fine. Maybe a law isn't the answer here. I just want the unique ants to have a chance.

 

And I totally also want turtle ants. If it were legal. If I knew that it was a queen someone found, etc. 

 

People keeping and loving such ants could, if done right, give them more advocates for protections against more serious threats like habitat destruction and the aforementioned plant nurseries. 

 

That's why I'm asking questions not saying "we must do X"

For me the biggest problem with the law on ants currently is that there's lots of ants that are native to your state and other states too. Like for example, I'm currently having trouble finding Myrmeocycstus Mexicanus and Navajo. Other parts of AZ has them. But I am unable to drive to those areas. Myrmecocystus Mexicanus and Navajo are native to CA just like how they're native in AZ. If the law permited ants that are native to the state you live in and the state you want to buy them in or collect them in then it should be legal to do so. I do agree on the fact though that if ants that aren't native to whatever state you live in and you try importing them from a state where they are native without a permit should be illegal. The law isn't very good with how ants should be imported and exported. If I was a member of the USDA or the government then I would change the law to make what I said is legal and illegal above be put into action. Personally I think that there needs to be some changes and I hope the USDA and government takes action.


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#17 Offline NickAnter - Posted July 17 2021 - 5:47 PM

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Its like saying it would be illegal to carry a rat from California to Oregon. There are plenty of rats in both states, and the border ones are perfectly capable of moving on their own, and they get transported incidentally. Now, Myrmecocystus probably wouldn't be transported accidentally, because they are not hardy. All the more reason to let people collect species native to their state, and the state they are collection from.


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Hi there! I went on a 6 month or so hiatus, in part due, and in part cause of the death of my colonies. 

However, I went back to the Sierras, and restarted my collection, which is now as follows:

Aphaenogaster uinta, Camponotus vicinus, Camponotus modoc, Formica cf. aserva, Formica cf. micropthalma, Formica cf. manni, Formica subpolita, Formica cf. subaenescens, Lasius americanus, Manica invidia, Pogonomyrmex salinus, Pogonomyrmex sp. 1, Solenopsis validiuscula, & Solenopsis sp. 3 (new Sierra variant). 


#18 Offline MysticNanitic - Posted July 22 2021 - 12:09 AM

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Thanks for the interesting topic, consider this perspective:

Non-native things can and have caused real damage to
-property
-native species
-human beings

We decide to limit this damage within the US by
-trying to keep non-native things out
-limiting transport across state lines

As far as it being a patchwork, welcome to the USA! It does seem relatively straightforward for our hobby though, no transport over state lines except by permit.
Things may not be as complex as we’d like to accommodate our hobby, however you can maybe take comfort is knowing that these laws are pretty effective at keeping industrial and research folks in line. An individual hobbyist, with a colony from the next state over in your closet? I doubt anyone has ever been prosecuted for something like that.

Worth noting that ant queens check some pretty major boxes for potential invasive animals to make extra effort to keep in place, I’m shocked by how easily they can be bought and sold on places like ebay.
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#19 Offline PurdueEntomology - Posted July 22 2021 - 1:03 AM

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I'm just worried that we get new laws that are better then someone starts selling turtle ant colonies online and people realize they can make money on highly desired ants so rather than getting queens and raising them they dig and brood boost using wild pupae or just dig up colonies (perhaps destroying a few for each one they get successfully) and we are left with a hellscape of fireants. 

 

There was an issue with this and Camponotus Gigas, which is protected now, and probably will be fine. Maybe a law isn't the answer here. I just want the unique ants to have a chance.

 

And I totally also want turtle ants. If it were legal. If I knew that it was a queen someone found, etc. 

 

People keeping and loving such ants could, if done right, give them more advocates for protections against more serious threats like habitat destruction and the aforementioned plant nurseries. 

 

That's why I'm asking questions not saying "we must do X"

For me the biggest problem with the law on ants currently is that there's lots of ants that are native to your state and other states too. Like for example, I'm currently having trouble finding Myrmeocycstus Mexicanus and Navajo. Other parts of AZ has them. But I am unable to drive to those areas. Myrmecocystus Mexicanus and Navajo are native to CA just like how they're native in AZ. If the law permited ants that are native to the state you live in and the state you want to buy them in or collect them in then it should be legal to do so. I do agree on the fact though that if ants that aren't native to whatever state you live in and you try importing them from a state where they are native without a permit should be illegal. The law isn't very good with how ants should be imported and exported. If I was a member of the USDA or the government then I would change the law to make what I said is legal and illegal above be put into action. Personally I think that there needs to be some changes and I hope the USDA and government takes action.

 

if a nuptial flight occurred on the state line and alates cross the line then let's consider, for the ants their range is their range, our imposition of state lines seems arbitrary.  Upshot, if the species is within its range as observed, and we need to understand how species ranges are determined, it is not exactly an exact science, then there should not be issues with having the same species transported across state lines within its range, the ants do not discriminate, neither should we. 


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#20 Offline PurdueEntomology - Posted July 22 2021 - 1:06 AM

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I plan to just establish an ant room that meets the permit requirements on containment, for me as a working adult with some disposable income it may not be much of an issue, but for many of you younger folks, living at home with the folks, or living on your own in an apartment, you may not have the financial and physical location capacities to even consider permit application as you could not meet its basic requirements.  


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