Guides on general ant keeping
User avatar
By Jim
I am eagerly awaiting a solenopsis invicta delivery of two queens.

Question, how long should I wait before attaching test tube to set up?

FYI it is an ants2formacaiums test tube set up.

Should I wait for queens to lay brood or atta h it straight away?
User avatar
By scarletAsh
Wait for workers, quite a lot to be honest, with S. Invicta I would personally wait till about 50 workers as they're quite small. Solenopsis invicta shouldn't take too long to pump out what you'll want.

Keep them in the dark by wrapping tinfoil around the test tube and keep them at the appropriate temperature. If they're happy and content you won't need to check on them much at all and they'll get to founding a colony. Once they have workers put them in a container, line the container with PTFE (I wouldn't use alcohol & Talc for early colonies as even though it's excellent I swear it also kills ants when the talc is powdered on the floor) and supply sugar water, occasional pin heads of honey and water. Once they're at a good amount then I'd move them into a a formicarium.

Moving ants into a formicarium at too small a colony size just encourages the ants to use the remaining space as a tip and won't manage the waste and that encourages fungal growth and just a pretty nasty view in general.

That being said I and I'm sure most others are naughty and move ants into a formicarium at too early a stage and typically it's fine. But you'll definitely want a decent few workers in my opinion.

Also you may find trying to do it too early that the queens just won't budge out of the test tube at all (Even when the test tube is full they may be reluctant).
User avatar
By Jim
Thank you. Although I understand this species grows fast I have not really found any information as to how fast as in weeks or months etc. How quickly will workers reach 50 time wise, also what about myrmica rubra? I have had a queen for almost a fortnight and all she has done is pull cotton wool about!
User avatar
By scarletAsh
I can't say for certain as I have never kept them, only know of their reputation but that being said queens can be iffy regardless of species, Solenopsis invicta probably will be the same as most species in that respect I image and take a little while. First will come nantics, nantics are smaller ants than their later counterparts and their role really is to be quickly pumped out to obtain resources for the queen. She certainly won't pump out a 100 or so workers straight off the bat. I would give her about 6 - 8 weeks for nantics, it depends on how comfortable she feels which is why it's important to almost ignore queens during the founding stages.

Take all this with a grain of salt, like I said though I honestly can't answer that question accurately as I have never kept S. invicta. I'll have a look and see what information I can find on them online for you in the mean time. Sorry if I'm telling you stuff you already know or could guess yourself.
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User avatar
By Jim
Thank you for your reply. I am keeping my myrmica rubra at room temps the moment. Covered today and left alone for next fortnight. I have ordered heat cable ready for new tropical colony and for area is prepped.

I am looking forward to this exciting challenge.
User avatar
By scarletAsh
Trivial information I found about Solenopsis invicta which may be of interest to you without me just dumping tonnes of info, only used 3 sources and
(Most relevant = The new queen lays 10 to 15 eggs that hatch in 7 to 10 days. - I'm assuming become larvae. For full development "Eggs take around 1 - 2 months to become workers")

Info from:
  • S. invicta worker size ranges between 1.5-4 mm
  • The red imported fire ant Solenopsis invicta and the black imported fire ant Solenopsis richteri are capable of successfully interbreeding (Potential increased risk of successful establishment of alien species)
  • "Reproductive swarms of virgin queens and males occur during the spring or summer but can occur at any time of year when the temperature is above 72°F." (22°C)
  • "Fire ants do not forage when the temperature is below about 65° F" (18.3°C)
  • "They also forage very little during the middle of the day when temperatures are high (>85° F)." (>29.4°C)
  • "Healthy nests often produce two or more nuptial flights a year."
  • RIFA (Red Imported Fire Ant - Solenopsis invicta) colonies can participate in simultaneous nuptial flights when local weather conditions are favourable. (22°C etc...)
  • "Most nests produce both male and female reproductives." - It is also noted that usually males occur just before females and the males will take to flight before the females.
  • Mating occurs in the air
  • "Multiple queens will share a cell, but often only one survives to establish a colony."
  • Both monogyne and polygyne colonies have been documented in the RIFA’s native habitat (South & Central America) but the dominant colony form
    is monogyne. - This and the above bullet point should lead you to expect one queen to be killed by the colony. May want to consider separating queens with some workers each before this occurs as queens may end up fatally hurting one another however as shown by several keepers on youtube, they have a well established colony with multiple queens so it's just something you may wish to take into consideration.
  • The new queen lays 10 to 15 eggs that hatch in 7 to 10 days.

Defining characteristics for identifying S. invicta:
"Each antenna has ten segments (starting at the head). The last two segments will be larger than the others, forming a two-segmented club. The pedicel (the skinny “waist” connecting the front of the body to the gaster) has two segments. Finally, the tip of the gaster has a sharp stinger that is easily visible with the aid of a microscope."

Section about stings
RIFA are extremely aggressive and respond rapidly to any disturbance of the nest or a food resource. Fire ants can bite their victims, but they are most famous for their painful sting. A RIFA stings by grasping its victim with its mandibles (jaws) and repeatedly jabs the stinger into the skin while pivoting around in a tiny circle. The result is a small, acutely painful wound that develops into a pustule (small, firm blister-like sore) in 24 to 48 hours. The pustules can become sites of secondary infection or even a permanent scar. A few people are acutely sensitive to fire ant venom and may have intense reactions to stings such as nausea, shock, chest pains, and, on rare cases, even death.
- Would expect the extreme reactions to be referring to allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis when stating death. Article doesn't specify Solenopsis invicta on the page however this linked article specifies S. invicta
  • "A fire ant queen can live for 7 years and produce as many as 1,000 eggs per day."
  • Colonies can grow to 400,000
  • Queens after founding a nuptial chamber lay approximately 25 eggs (This source claims 10 more eggs than other source. Note that this source also includes mention of cannibalising eggs which may account for discrepancy.)
  • Eggs take around 1 - 2 months to become workers
  • Once hatched the queen will feed nantics with protein reserves and cannibalised eggs
Social structure consists of: (Nothing out of the ordinary)
  • Workers - Care for queen and brood, build nest site, defence and foraging. These roles are determined by size and age
  • ----Nurse ants - Younger workers that tend to queen and brood
  • ----Defence and nest construction - Consists of mature ants
  • ----Foragers - Role taken by the oldest workers
  • Worker ants live between 60 and 90 days. In summer heat this can be shortened to 35 days.

Something interesting as well (From here):
One of the best tools used to detect and monitor fire ants and other ant species is the use of slices of hot dogs as a food lure.

Ultimately S. invicta are pretty much up for eating anything and everything but apparently they're especially fans of hot dogs.

You will be able to find quite a lot of papers on Solenopsis invicta as lots of research is pumped into them due to the billions of £ lost globally each year as they're a very destructive and widespread / successful alien species.

From their reputation I gather what makes S. invicta such a difficult species unlike many others is that they're extremely dominant and will demand to be controlled otherwise will just over run.

From what I see with AntsCanada the form of prevention he uses for his mature red fire ant colony (Not sure if his is geminata or invicta) is alcohol and talc / baby powder. I'm not sure if this is favourable to PTFE with this sort of species but may be something to look into. Escape prevention is heavily emphasised with this colony. Have a secure lid, secure edges etc... as their extremely active, very small and very persistent plus they are a notorious, extremely damaging to local environments and I believe I'm correct in stating - the most expensive cost of clean up of ant species in the world.

I'm sure you'll have lots of fun with them and I imagine ultimately they're similar to Pheidole pallidula just with a little more "oomph" when they get going :). Occultusants has a youtube channel (Link here) and regularly covers species like S. invicta. Antkeepingkit UK has videos on species like S. invicta and S. geminata which will give you a good idea on what they're like such as this video about S. geminata.

Sorry that my knowledge on the species is limited and I'm certain there are others on the forums which know far more than I do about this species or species of its ilk, I'm more of a Camponotus person myself and nicely kept with my A. octospinosus :p. Also just remember this is a highly invasive species and may be capable of successfully inhabiting urban areas of the U.K. so you must (Obviously this relates to all species but S. invicta would be one of the highlighted ants in a long list) ensure that they cannot and do not escape.

All the best & very sorry if I ended up just spewing up a load of crap but definitely be excited. Should be a great experience and seems you'll be keeping one of natures truly great industrial species.
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