Can I grow medicinal ants in the United States? (Michael, Seattle, USA)



Hello,
My residence is near Seattle, Washington State, Northwest USA.

We are interested in the Chinese Medicine uses of-
Mountain Ant ( Polyrhachis vicina, Polyrhachis lamellins and other species of nutritional Ant)

Is there a USA variety that might have equivalent nutritional qualities?

Is it possible to buy them, and to raise them?

Thank you,
Michael

Dear Michael,

We're so glad you're interested in ants and the way people use them. I had heard people talking about medicinal uses of ants a few years ago, and the results of one study I was able to find do seem convincing. However, a shortcoming of many studies of traditional medicinals is a lack of replication and long-term, controlled studies.

The genus Polyrhachis does not occur in North or South America. Because the chemicals thought to be responsible for the potentially medicinal properties of Polyrhachis extract are not often studied by ant biologists, it is impossible to say if any ants in North America also possess this quality.

Outside of the US, researchers around the world have been experimenting with medicinal qualities of some of their local ants. For example, researchers in Japan studied another Chinese ant, Formica aquilonia, and published their findings here here. They seem to have found some potential for pharmacological activity, although they didn't study effects in living organisms, just in test tubes.

A group from Saudi Arabia found evidence of anti-inflamitory activity in extracts from the ant Pachycondyla sennaarensis. Both of these studies show promise, and it will be interesting to see what other hymenopterans (the group that includes ants, bees, and wasps) might prove to be medically useful. However, we do not recommend you try any of your own experiments unless you are a professional. Remember: the ants, bees, and wasps also can induce anaphylaxis.

We also strongly discourage you from trying to import and breed any ants (or any type of organism) across national borders. Many of the most damaging invasive species are ants. It would be sad if an innocent attempt to learn more about traditional medicine resulted in unnecessary damage to your local ecosystem. Importing ants from other countries (alive or dead) is illegal without the proper permits.

Sorry that we don't have any more positive recommendations. Polyrhachis are among the most beautiful ants, and they are very common in the forests of Northern Australia, Southeast Asia, and Central Africa. Perhaps you could take a trip to learn more about them and see them in the wild!

Best,
Jesse Czekanski-Moir & the Antask Team

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