How to obtain or buy a Queen Ant or an Ant Colony.
Ok. I have gotten alot of requests from people wanting Queen ants for their ant farms and from people wanting to buy entire ant colonies. I decided to do a bit of research to see what I could come up with and here’s what I found out:
There is always the option of digging up your own colony and queen ant, and I’ve made a how-to-find-queen-ants guide below. For all of you wanting to buy a queen ant, here’s what I know.
Buying a Queen Ant
We all know that The Department of Agriculture prohibits interstate shipment of queen ants. They don't want reproducing ants going into other states where they may start colonies that could damage agriculture or the ecosystem. However, they do issue permits to certain people for the Study of Ants (myrmecology). You can visit their website for info on obtaining a permit for a Queen Ant.
This website, The Sonoran Arthropod Studies Institute does research on Arthropods (which include ants) and they already have all the necessary permits to obtain Queen Ants. It looks like they are always accepting new members and you can find alot of information about obtaining a permit or a Queen Ant on their site or by contacting them.
This site, Antsectopia is based out of the U.K. and has a huge variety of Queen Ants and Colonies for sale. I’m sure they are not allowed to ship to the U.S., but they probably could once you obtained a permit. They likely could tell you what you need to do in order to receive shipments from them as well. There is more information here at their main site. www.antsectopia.com/
Finding a Queen Ant
There are a few possibilities:
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
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