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Where can I get queen ants

Page history last edited by Ant 12 years, 1 month ago

2003.09.19 Where can I get queen ants?


a. You can dig her nest up and find her. This is a tedious and difficult method and may not always be successful. The queen is very difficult to get. --Ant


I have done this numerous times. For Formicas (larger small mound building species) I use:


  1. Spade shovel
  2. 2 five gallon buckets
  3. 2 covers for buckets
  4. Metal spoon.
  5. Newspaper (a section will do)
  6. Jars/bucket with 1-2" inside near rim treated with oil


The process I use is to locate less developed nests (smaller). Then I carry shovel, buckets, and covers to site of nest during mid to late day (when sun has warmed upper soil).


Next, I cut a circle around colony usually about size of bucket or smaller if possible. Think of this like cutting a 6" deep hole of sod; but don't pull up the section until you have made your circular cut. When your ready lift the whole section out of ground -- intact if possible -- put in first bucket. Then while the nest is disturbed, begin to quickly dig the rest of the soil following chambers and tunnels until few ants are found or bucket(s) are full. As buckets get full, place covers on them.


Now, take the bucket(s) home and begin to manually sort (using spoon, newspapers for the refuse soil and jars/bucket to put the workers, pupae, larvae, eggs in while looking for the queen(s). Once the queen is obtained, then one can decide whether to keep sorting to obtain more workers or eggs, larvae pupae, etc. I have found eggs are very difficult to spot in many species unless they are still in wads of multiple eggs.


Under large rocks mid-day or there about: Similar process as above, but usually one doesn't need to get as much soil and one may see immediately the queen. I've turned large blocks many times and seen huge colonies -- with a queen scrambling for cover. --Mr. Ant



b. Rotting boards are good candidates. In West Virginia this summer (1999), I found three species all with queens under a rotting dog house we had to move.


Carpenter ant queens, at least in Michigan, can relatively easily be found in late fall or early spring (in cool temperatures) by locating a large tree stand with a fair amount of downed and rotting logs. By carefully peeling off the bark one should easily be able to find a carpenter queen with her first brood (in some stage) in a egg shaped chamber between bark and wood of tree. Being prepared with collection jars (large mouthed mason work great) and sharp long knife. One places a small section of bark over the 1.5" oval chamber and cuts into the tree to extract completely the 1.5" oval chamber and surrounding wood. --Mr. Ant




c. Wait for the nuptial flights during the spring and summer seasons. The new queen ants usually fly away after a rain storm during a warm temperature. It depends where you are, and the development of the colony. Most species of ants will mate in late spring and summer (June through August). --Ant and Angelo Scott


Nuptial flights are the best time to get queens. Many times I seem to miss them for various reasons. The best reason to get nuptial queens is they are MUCH less sensitive to light than full blown native colonies (which I have observed take some time to acclimatize to light). Also, you get to see the full development cycle. It is important make sure to feed your queen before she enters the chamber as this will give her a much larger first brood than otherwise would have occurred. She will greedily gorge herself and then you can finally put her in your terrarium. --Mr. Ant



d. Finding colonies with queens is best done during the first really warm weather of spring. At this time, queens come near the surface to warm up (just as they later retreat into the depths to keep cool once hot weather fully sets in). Placing covering objects such as flat bricks, stones, or old boards over known nest sites will help induce the ants to come gather under these in a few days or a week, making it easier to capture a whole colony. When you find the queen, capture her FIRST in a small container, and THEN go about scooping up the rest of the colony. Queens are very shy, and hide quickly at the first disturbance of the colony. --Dr. Ant



e. I have noticed in past messages from incipent ant keepers' methods of collecting that will in some way harm the habitat in which they are collecting. ie: tearing apart old logs and dead trees. This is not an environmentally sound or acceptable practice in my mind. By tearing these old hunks of wood apart, not only will you destroy a portion of the colony you are after but you will destroy the living quarters of a great many other animals. Is it acceptable to do some limited excavation into old wood, sure it is, but destroy the log, no way. Flipping rocks and other surface matter, you bet, but put it back as close to how you found it as possible.


The absolute best way to start a colony is to collect your own queens and rear them up, not always possible I know, queens can sometimes be hard to acquire. But your reared colonies will do better in the long run than colonies ripped out of a chunk of wood. As naturalists, in whatever form it takes, we are also responsible for maintaining the habitat and creatures we enjoy so much so we can continue to enjoy. --Mrmacophyl

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