How to...: August 2011 Archives

Hi Antweb,

I am a PhD student in Synthetic Biology and I've read that you talked about artificial insemination trials in ants, which have not be very successful. Would you mind giving me the references of the papers talking about that?


Hi Xavier,

Thanks for your question! As you have read in this post on "How to breed ants", artificial insemination in ants has not been very successful and only been tested on very few species. Cupp et al. (1973) conducted an experiment in which the authors decapitated males. Queens were anesthetized with CO2, and stroked against the males to induce ejaculation. This experiment was done using fire ants (Solenopsis invicta). Read here to find out more about the red imported fire ant.

In a study by Bell et al. (1983) instrumental insemination was conducted, also using the fire ant Solenopsis invicta. Virgin queens were induced to fly, anesthetized with CO2 and inseminated with either a mixture of sperm extracted from the male seminal vesicles and accessory gland contents or sperm alone. Of the females we artificially inseminated 65% produced workers. Artificial insemination techniques have also been carried out using Atta leaf-cutter ants (den Boer et al. 2010).

A recent review article on the copulation biology of ants has been published by Boris Baer (2011) in the journal Myrmecological News. Here is a link to the pdf. In this paper, some more references to studies conducting artificial insemination in honey bees and bumble bees are given.

All the best,
Steffi Kautz & the AntAsk Team


Ball DE, Mirenda JT, Sorensen AA & Vinson SB (1983) Instrumental insemination of the fire ant, Solenopsis invicta. Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata 33: 195-202.

Baer, B (2011) The copulation biology of ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Myrmecological News 14: 55-68.

Cupp EW, O'Neal J, Kearney G, Markin GP, (1973) Forced copulation of imported fire ant reproductives. Annals of the Entomological Society of America 66:743-745.

den Boer SPA, Baer B, Boomsma JJ (2010) Seminal fluid mediates ejaculate competition in social insects. Science 327: 1506-1509.