Ant competition experiment (Alessandro, Italy)


First of all, many compliments for your blog: it's awesome and full of interesting and useful info. Secondly: I'd like to set up a competition experiment of two ant colonies in a formicarium I'd build myself. I'd like to see how the two different ant species will use and exploit the resources and see how competition happens. Could you help me set up the experiment? For example, what two ant species from Europe should I buy and use in the experiment? Can I set up the formicarium so that the food is in a central chamber? Will the ants find their way to the food anyways? What would other interesting things to observe be? Would the "competitive exclusion principle" work? . I live in italy and a local retailer has Camponotus nylanderi, what could i match with this?

Thank you so so so much!

Hi Alessandro,

Thank you very much for your question!

Antweb has a site on the Ants of Italy that you can check out to find out which species occur in your area. There are many ant species that you could try for your experiment. I would suggest that you collect a local species. Ant queens often swarm in the summer and you could get your formicarium ready for that and then start out a new colony.
If you do not want to wait for the queen to establish a new colony, here is a post on how to collect an entire colony. We also have this extensive post on how to make an ant farm with suggestions on how to collect queens and establish a new colony.

You could set up your formicarium with three chambers, which are connected by tubes. The chamber in the middle would have the food and either chamber on the sides could have one of your ant colonies. However, I would assume that in any case, the two different species will kill each other until one colony has been eliminated. For some ant species, fights are one-on-one usually leading to death of both workers involved in a fight. Thus, the colony with more workers wins. Some ant species, particularly invasive species, are often more aggressive than native species and might outcompete them. Small ants sometimes fight in groups. There are so many different ant species, each with their distinct behavior, that it is really hard to predict the outcome. In any case, I assume that such an experimental set-up will lead to fighting ants.

I hope this helps,
Steffi Kautz & the AntAsk Team

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