Hello, Internet! For a while now I have looked for ant queens to start ant-keeping. Around my house are very many Tetramorium colonies, ranging from brown-black to bright orange-red. Another common species I see is very small and black, with slightly translucent gasters. That species is smaller than the Tetramorium around my house, and in fact I often see them being killed and carried away by the larger Tetramorium workers. Earlier in the season I have seen them feeding on foxgloves, partially going into the flowers for nectar, and collecting honeydew from aphids. My ID guess is Lasius, but they are impossible to photograph due to their minuscule size. Now I see them collecting the nectar from the yellow sprawling succulents – of course, that isn’t what they are called, but you probably know the plants I am talking about, they are quite common in gardens, and they are kind of going wild in my Washingtonian yard.
At Jun 25, 2017 · 8:30 PM PDT I caught my first queen, which was a little over a week ago, on my patio. She had no wings, and was going across Lasius territory. She looked very much like the Tetramorium queens I have seen on the Internet, but I was surprised at her size. I thought that Tetramorium queens were bigger, because I couldn’t really find their size from the pictures on the Internet, as you can see in the photo below: there is no scale.
Failed Semi-Claustral Setups
Fully claustral means that the queens do not have to be fed in the founding stage, I have heard that sometimes fully claustral queens starve because of not having enough energy reserves, and they can look like semi-claustrals when caught if their true species ID is not known. On the other hand semi-claustral queens need to forage during the founding stage of the colony, and it is natural for them to seem a bit “thin.” An important thing to remember is that all reproductive female (queen) individuals of a given species (at least to my knowledge) all are either claustral, semi-claustral, or parasitic (not to be confused with slave-making ants). The type of queen is varies from species to species, not from individual to individual.
Because of the uncertainty with the ID, I thought that there was a possibility that she was semi-claustral, because she did seem a bit “thin,” so I tried making a semi-claustral setup. First, in a terrarium, then in a double test-tube setup and neither worked. (Note that this part of the entire project I regret most, because there was failure after failure, and I probably bothered the queen far too much. Fortunately, after this period of stress I gave her all the peace in the world.) First I tried a test-tube setup loose in a terrarium, and gave her half a strawberry for some sugar. She went at the strawberry to some extent, but then she was going up the sides, falling down… it was a disaster. Obviously, she needed to be in a sealed setup, such as a test-tube setup, but there was still uncertainty when it came to whether she was semi-claustral or not, so I tried a double test-tube setup to give her foraging space. This was two test-tubes crudely attached with aluminum foil and rubber bands, one of which had a drop of honey on it. This setup leaked, although the queen was unharmed. Finally, I gave up with semi-claustral setups and put her in a standard test-tube setup, at a tilt, if there as a leak, and immediately posted on iNaturalist and the ant-keeping/Myrmecolgy Yuku forum, also known as Tapatalk, but the company has multiple names. If you post on Tapatalk, it will be on Yuku and vice versa. Here are some photos of the queen in her last (and current) standard test-tube setup, the day she was caught:
I first posted it to Yuku, where people either said that I needed better measurements, which is true. I gave the measurement of about 5-6mm. Soon after it was identified as Tetramorium, my gut feeling. Strangely, after doing some research it turned out that the average size was 8mm, which worries me. Maybe her mother colony malnourished her, and she will starve? Although Tetramorium are supposed to be fully claustral not semi-claustral, I have heard that sometimes fully claustral queens starve because of not having enough energy reserves, and they can look like semi-claustrals when caught if their true species ID is not known, as I have mentioned earlier.
After some help from fellow iNaturalist users, I verified the ID of Tetramorium, as I initially thought. If you would like to view my observation which has the photos below, copyright information, ID’s and discussion click here. I would especially like to thank aliashraf and loyzn for their great encouragement and help before and after I caught my queen.
On July 1, I checked up on the queen. She had burrowed into the dent in the cotton where I pushed the cotton in, so it was hard to see what she was doing, but I was pretty sure that I could see two clumps of eggs there, one of which she had in her mandibles and was rearranging. I put her back quickly, not to disturb her too much. The most crucial things with queens is that they need dark, but also they need to be disturbed as little as possible, twice a week at most. Still check on them, but give them patience.
I will be updating you on my Tetramorium queen every time something new happens. Have a nice day, and thank you for reading my post! Please don’t treat me like an expert, this is my first queen, and as you can see, my first post. Stop by at The Myrmecologist soon!