Moving Ants into a New Home

Currently, my 11-year-old Lasius umbratus colony nest in two nesting boxes linked together by a short length of plastic tubing.  The colony used to be quite a bit more populous than it is now.  It is possible that the queen is ageing and, therefore, unable to produce as many eggs as she once was.  Alternatively, she just did not want to produce as many eggs for some other reason.  As a result of the drop in population over the past 12 months, the colony is a lot more spread out within the two boxes.  I believe that they could live comfortably in one nesting box.  A nedw home for Lasius umbratus is needed. But how do I convince them to move out of two boxes into one?  

No spare nesting boxes

I have another slight problem which could temporarily scupper the ants moving into a new home: I have no spare nesting boxes.  Then I had an idea.  My 3-month-old Lasius niger colony, population 1 queen and 20 workers, are still nesting in a test tube. I put the lone queen in it when I captured her during the 2019 mating flights.  They have a nesting box attached to their foraging box (the test tube is in the latter). Yet the Lasius niger workers have yet to discover it.  They seem content to remain in the test tube for now. 

I decided that I would remove the nesting box from the Lasius niger set up, and attach it to the Lasius umbratus foraging box. I attached it to the opposite side of the tank to which their current nesting boxes lead off from.  The Lasius niger would not miss it as they had not discovered it yet. 

Ants set to work immediately.

Within just a few minutes of attaching the nesting box to the umbratus set up, they discovered it, and at once began investigating it. Within an hour, they had started to excavate the soil from it.  A large number of ants are engaged in the task as I tyope this. Could a new home for Lasius umbratus be starting already?

Fast forward one week, and they are still excavating a new nest in the new nesting box.  The ants have been working non-stop for 7 days now.  In fact, this is the 8th day and they still are at it.  The ants have dumped the soil in two mounds within their foraging box, as my YouTube clip shows.

Every morning, as well as at various times of the day, I check the progress of the nest excavation.  I hope to witness the actual colony move.  In fact, I am hoping to film it, with the prospect of capturing the moment the queen moves.  Moving ants into a new home is exciting.

Hopefully, the ants will eventually move out of their two-box nest, into the new single box.  This means I can then clean out the two empty boxes, give one to the Lasius niger, and have one spare nesting box. A new home for Lasius niger, and a new home for Lasius umbratus in one week. What a result that would be.

Different architect?

Interestingly, the ants are building the new nest with a different style of architecture in comparison to their current set up.  The current nest consists of a lot of long horizontal chambers connected via entry/exit ports in the ceiling/floor of each chamber.  The chambers stack like an apartment complex.  However, the ants have made this new nest with a lot of winding corridors and little in the way of chambers.  It could be the case that the winding tunnels are purely investigatory, with the ants learning about the size of the area they have to work within.  Once they have an understanding of that, then maybe they will start to create the new nest, with the same architectural layout as their current nest has. 

Hopefully, the entire process will go to plan.  I just hope they do not try to live in all three nesting boxes.  If they do, I will have to devise a scheme to get them to abandon the current two-box set up.  This will be much easier if the queen and brood move into the new nest. Moving ants into a new home; a new home for Lasius umbratus is, hopefully, going to be a reality. You can get up-to-date news on this, as it happens, via my Twitter feed.

Lasius umbratus soil dumps
The two soil dumps created as the Lasius umbratus colony excavate a new nest

2 thoughts on “Moving Ants into a New Home”

  1. Hi Myrm,

    Good thinking on moving around the ant habitats around!
    Hopefully your Lasius umbratus colony will bounce back after a Winters sleep?
    Are you hibernating any of your colonies?

    Great to see your updates as always!
    Thanks, Mako.

    1. Hi Mako

      Thank you for your comment. I do plan on hibernating the colonies, though that is possibly going to be delayed due to the umbratus excavating a new nest. I’d rather wait until they have fully moved in before I hibernate them. To be honest though, even when I do hibernate them, they often remain a little active, occasionally foraging on mild days.

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