As some of you may know, recently a new ant store has popped up in the US by the name of AntsEmporium. Boasting an impressive selection of ant species with permits to sell them across a wide variety of US states, this seems like an amazing thing for the US antkeeping community. Being able to purchase exotic species legally is what everyone has wanted for so long now. So what's the problem?
Well, the main issue with this new store is the man behind the action. Some of you may recognize the name Atta Garrett when I mention it and realize what I'm getting at. For years Garrett has been known to do some fishy business at the least, and straight-up scamming at the worst. He is known for mass collecting ants to sell in huge numbers, both within the state of Texas where he lives and in other states to then sell across the country and even to Europe. This may not seem like a big issue considering he has permits to sell ants out of state, but know these permits are a new development, having only been granted within the last year. His out of state selling has been occurring for far longer than that.
The next main issue is that even if we assume he's completely turned on illegal trade as he has claimed, and is only doing trade under official permits, the problem still comes with his collection. Now, overcollection is one thing on its own, reports say he collected over 3000 Atta texana queens in 2021, but so long as the collection is done legally, there's not much you can do about it. The other issue is illegal collection.
This video on Garrett's personal channel shows an Acromyrmex versicolor swarm in El Paso, Texas. He recently started selling this species on AntsEmporium, so this video explains where he got them. Except there's one key flaw. There is no Acromyrmex in El Paso. The only place in West Texas that this species exists is in Big Bend National Park. Here's some proof:
This leaves two options:
These queens were collected in Big Bend (illegal to collect in a National Park)
These queens were collected in another state, and brought back to Texas for him to sell
If you couldn't already guess, I know the answer.
Curious, he was in Arizona for around 2 weeks, before July 20th.
The Acromyrmex video was uploaded on July 20th.
Ding ding ding!~ These Acromyrmex are from Arizona. Now, I already knew this, but what good is my word without a little evidence. There you have it. The Myrmecocystus that are "coming soon" on AntsEmporium were also collected in Arizona.
Now, I have heard claims by some of his supporters that he has a permit to collect a certain number of species in Arizona and bring them back to Texas. If this was true, why lie about the location on his video? The only way I'll believe that this is the case is if the permits are provided for us to see. Until then, I believe it's relatively clear that AntsEmporium is still very much participating in illegal ant trade, despite becoming a permit holder.
If you're still reading this, just know to avoid AntsEmporium if you can. There's still far too much uncertainty around the legality of the whole thing, so unless you're ok with supporting illegal trade, then know the permits are really just a tool for Garrett to use to get money out of people who won't buy his ants illegally.
Edited by CheetoLord02, February 3 2022 - 8:18 PM.