Ant biology: May 2011 Archives

Hi! I really want to know if there is any chance to breed ants? Can I make the ants stronger over generations like cows, if I give them parents with good genes?
Example: Can I make Messor Barbarus queens head extra red or extra big?

Dear Johan,

This is a question that has bothered ant biologists for a long time. Unfortunately, it is actually quite difficult to breed ants. Ant males and queens will only mate after nuptial flights which occur under very specific environmental conditions that are difficult to identify and have been nearly impossible to duplicate in the lab. You can read about how to identify male and female ants in this blog post. Some attempts have been made to artificially inseminate ants but these have all had little success. Bees are relatively easy to artificially inseminate but these techniques have not carried over to ants. While it is theoretically possible to breed ants for particular traits such as color and size, the methods for doing so have not been developed.

Ben Rubin & the AntAsk Team