Ask an Ant Expert: November 2011 Archives

Hi there,

Thanks for your wonderful website and blog! The worker harvester ants that are usually sold for small home ant farms only live perhaps a few months, often only a few weeks! What species of ant would you recommed if I wanted to have worker ants that easily live perhaps a year or longer?

thanks,
keith
*****
Dear Keith,

We are glad to hear you are interested in keeping live ants! We are often asked about which ants to keep in ant farms, how to make your own ant farm, and how to find ants that live longer than the ones sent through the mail.

They only way to insure your ants will live long is to have a colony with a queen. It is illegal to mail queens, which is why most companies that provide live ants to not offer this service. You can also read more about this here. The best way around this is to collect your own colony of ants from nearby.

We have several previous posts that will help with this:

You can read more about collecting your own ant colony on these posts:

- http://www.antweb.org/antblog/2011/10/how-to-find-an-ant-queen-austin-arizona.html
- http://www.antweb.org/antblog/2011/07/questions-on-ant-farm-steve-winnipeg-manitoba-canada.html
- http://www.antweb.org/antblog/2010/07/how-do-you-collect-an-entire-ant-colony-evan-philadelphia-pa-usa.html
- http://www.antweb.org/antblog/ask-an-ant-expert/ant-farms/

For tips and instructions to make your own ant farm see these posts:

- http://www.antweb.org/antblog/2010/04/how-to-make-an-ant-farm-john-leeds-uk-moving-to-us-soon.html

Best of luck and enjoy the ants!
Corrie Moreau & the AntAsk Team

Hi,

I found this in my yard, Western Australia near Perth. It's about 33mm long and I'm intrigued to find out what it is.

thynnus_sp.jpg

Please view the picture here.

Kind regards,
William

*****

William,

Fantastic picture! This insect is in fact a wasp from the family Tiphiidae, commonly called flower wasps or simply tiphiid wasps.

This particular specimen is a female Thynnine wasp. All female species of the subfamily Thynninae are wingless and can often be seen scaling an elevated structure like a flower or a tree (or in your case, a fence) in order to catch the attention of a passing male. Unlike females, Tiphiid males do have wings and will literally sweep the receptive female off her feet for an extended in-flight mating ritual that also involves treating the female to several easy meals along the way (flower nectar being much more accessible from the air).

Winglessness in female tiphiid wasps finally proves useful when, after mating, the gravid female must burrow underground to find a suitable repository for her eggs, namely scarab beetle larvae. Interestingly, winglessness or brachyptery (reduced wings) in wasps often goes hand in hand with this kind of parasitism and occurs in at least eight other wasp families. This frequently leads to confusion with ants, of course, but you can consult our post on one particularly notorious wasp family with wingless females, the mutillids (deceptively referred to as velvet ants), to learn more about some of the differences.

Thanks for your query,

Alexandra Westrich & the AntAsk Team



Dear AntAsk,
I live in Puerto Rico and am wondering about a tiny ant whose bite
continues to burn after it bites and likes to eat cotton clothing. And
scurries in and out of electronic equipment like my comptuer keyboard
and my other electronic things like the dials on my electric guitar.
They also like paper. and books - I see them outside where they like
very dry wood and leaves - and digest dry wood as well. They look just
like ants - act just like ants - How do I get rid of them as I can't
spray my equipment. and my clothes.

Thanks

Sonja

Dear Sonja,

Thanks for contacting AntBlog. Chances are you have one of two species: Wasmannia auropunctata or Monomorium destructor. Wasmannia workers are all the exact same size and their bodies tend to be all the same color (they can be light or dark, but it's usually one or the other). Monomorium destructor are red-brown in the front part of their bodies, and darker in the back. Their workers are different sizes: within one foraging trail, you'll often see workers that are twice as big as the smallest ones, and there will be sizes between those two. Monomorium destructor has more of a tendancy to damage clothing (like you mentioned) and electrical equipment, but both species (and many others) will nest in a variety of small containers like electrical boxes and clothing drawers.

In previous posts (click here, here, here ), we've outlined some general strategies for getting rid of ants using commercially availible poisons like Borax. I would add putting items in the freezer for 24 hours will often kill them in small electronic items (and anything else you can fit in the freezer).

You also might want to check out the website of our friend, Cas Vanderwoude in Hawaii:
http://www.littlefireants.com/
He has some useful tips there for how to get rid of Wasmannia auropunctata, and the research his team is doing to fight this invasive species.

Good luck! Sorry you're having so much trouble with these ants!
Best,
Jesse Czekanski-Moir & the AntAsk Team

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