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

Need some help IDing this queen. Looks too large for the typical Texas fireant but is all red. Location is gulfcoast area. Seen black ants of similar size and wondering if maybe queens of the same type are just red. Thanks for the help on IDing. Ill try and get better pictures in if needed.

Camponotus castaneus?.jpg

Dear MP,

Thank you for including a photo. This certainly helps with the identification. We asked another ant expert, Lloyd Davis, for some help with this since he is familiar with the ants of Texas. He believes this is Camponotus castaneus. You can see a close up photo here.

The black queens of similar size you also see are likely another species of Camponotus and not a color form of this species. You can learn more about the ants of Texas here.

Happy ant finding!
Lloyd Davis (guest expert), Corrie Moreau & the AntAsk Team

Hi there,
I live NW of Stony Plain, Alberta in the country and I have these ants living in the roots of my shrub and bush. The plants weren't thriving after 3 years of trying to establish so, I dug them up only to find ant nests! I've never seen them above ground and when digging the plants out, they didn't bite at all. Could you please tell me what kind of ants these are and how to get rid of them? (Sorry about the picture quality)

Thank you so much, in advance!


Dear Erika,

Thank you for contacting AntAsk at AntBlog. We are sorry to hear that your house plants have not been doing very well. Thanks for sending in the image of the ants you found in the roots.

To help answer your question about the ants you are finding, we asked an expert on several groups of subterranean ants Dr. John LaPolla. Here is what he had to say:

"They are Lasius (probably belonging to the old genus Acanthomyops) ants. These ants are known to enter into relationships with aphids and mealybugs on the roots of plants - so that is probably what is accounting for the decline in the plants - not the ants directly, but rather their cattle if you will. They are formicines ants (all of these ants have lost their sting and replaced it with an acid-spraying nozzle), so they cannot sting, but if you smell these ants they probably smell a bit like citronelle, sometimes the common name for this group of Lasius."

Thank you for contacting AntBlog,
John LaPolla, Corrie Moreau & the AntAsk Team

Dear AntAsk,
I am requesting assistance in handling an untenable situation that has besieged my property over the last several years. Thirteen years ago I bought a home in a new development in the central part of Long Island, New York. The property had previously been a wooded area. Over the last several years, the ant population has steadily increased on my property, lifting whole sections of our yard and killing the grass. We have fortunately not had any problems inside the house. The only issue is the surrounding property. From late April to early August, there are several 3-5 five foot areas that are ravaged with large ant holes. The ants tend to be large, swift moving and will readily climb all over your leg if you stop in the area, leaving large parts of our back yard uninhabitable. They are active during the day and become less active in the late afternoon. They are not ant hill per se, but tend to be large inter-connected holes in the earth with seemingly hundreds of ants scurrying about. The soil is sandy and each passing year, the ants seem to have taken over more and more of the backyard, bringing up sand that now covers whatever top soil we had laid down to grow grass. I have tried the granular insect and ant killers found in stores, but this does little to stop the ants. I've tried some of the outdoor traps that are supposed to supply food that will eventually kill the queen, but the ants merely scoff at such measures. I've tried to research this on the internet, but could never really find a solution. The attached photos do not do justice to my plight. The video is a bit better. If this is not enough info, I will try to supply better photos and video if you would be willing to assist. If not, thanks for reading this far.

With kindest consideration,


Dear Perry,

Thanks for the question. In general, one of the most effective and least chemically-intensive ways of killing ants is pouring a large amount of boiling water onto their nests. This is especially effective in sandy soils. You would probably have the most luck doing this around mid-morning on a sunny day, because ants will often take their brood (eggs, larvae, and pupae) close to the surface to warm up.

If this doesn't work, you can get some tips on a generalizable way to mix your own poisoned baits that these ants might be likely to enjoy here or here. If you know anyone involved in science education, designing a cafeteria experiment, as outlined in the second linked blog post, can be an excellent "learning opportunity."

As a general rule, we encourage you to enjoy watching ants, and attempt to coexist with them in your house and yard. However, using boiling water and/or borax will most likely be much less expensive and have a much smaller environmental impact than most treatments a pest control professional would be likely to try.

I hope this helps!
Jesse Czekanski-Moir & the AntAsk Team