How to Catch a Queen Ant

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When building an ant habitat, you can either capture your own ants or purchase them. In the United Sates, it is illegal to ship queen ants across state lines. Your habitat can be filled with all worker ants, or have a queen. A habitat without a queen dwindles in size as the ants die off, whereas a habitat with a queen grows in size. Here is how to catch a queen ant for your habitat.

  • Locate an ant colony outside and watch for the mating flights when drones and young queens come out of the colony. You can identify drones and young queens by the fact that they have wings.

  • Look for those winged ants that return to the ground and shed their wings after the mating flight. These are the young queens. The drones die after the mating flight.

  • Catch one of the young queens after she sheds her wings and place her in your habitat. After adding the queen to the colony, it might be a couple of weeks before you see the worker bees come above ground.

  • Acquire a queen for your habitat by capturing one from an existing colony instead of waiting to spot a young one. Overturn rocks and logs until you expose an ant colony. Look for the ant that has the largest thorax, to locate the queen. The thorax is the middle part of the ant's body. Capture some workers from her existing colony to make sure there are enough ants in your habitat to take care of her.

  • Find a small colony and use a shovel to dig up the entire colony. Put the colony into a pail and sift through the dirt to transfer the queen and the rest of the ants to your habitat, if you prefer to start with an already functioning ant colony.

Tips & Warnings

  • When you are catching your own ants to put into your habitat, you might want to put them in the refrigerator for a couple of minutes before transferring them to the habitat. Cooling their body temperature down slows down their movements briefly so you can transfer them without them getting away.

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