Myrm's Captive Ant Colonies

I have kept a variety of British ant colonies in captivity for over 20 years. Here you can read about my current and past colonies.

Keeping an ant colony can be extremely rewarding as I hope my journals will show you. Though I have kept non-UK species of ant before, my passion lies in keeping British ant colonies in captivity. In addition, I have kept a number of non British species. However, my attempts at keeping an ant colony from outside the UK have, with regularity, met with failure.

Lasius umbratus

I obtained this colony on 8 March 2009 from Antstore, a large Germany-based seller of many different species of ant from around the world. The colony, on initial receipt, consisted of about 30 workers of Lasius niger (the original host colony) and one Lasius umbratus queen.  In addition, there was a small amount of brood present in the form of larvae. No Lasius umbratus workers had been produced at this time. Over the next two years the Lasius niger population died out, and the nest became fully umbratus.

The ants currently occupy a set up consisting of two large nesting boxes, connected by a short length of clear plastic tubing. There is also a large foraging tank which is connected to one of the nesting boxes by a longer length of clear plastic tubing. 

They have been my second most successful attempt at keeping an ant colony, and are, to this today, still going strong.  However, it does seem as if the queen is lay fewer eggs these days, as the population is dwindling.  Lasius umbratus queens can live 10-15 years, and this queen is in her 11th year. Therefore, I expect her to produce fewer ants as old age takes its toll.

Update, Autumn 2021 – Unfortunately the queen of this colony died of old age, aged 13-14 years, an average age for this species.  As a result the whole colony died out within a few months of her death.

Myrmica rubra

I have kept several Myrmica species in the past, including rubra, ruginodis and scabrinodis. This, as far as I can recall, is my second or third attempt at keeping an ant colony consisting of Myrmica rubra. I have not always been that successful with this species, even with multi-queened colonies. However, this current colony of mine seems to be doing quite well.

I obtained this small colony of Myrmica rubra, a red stinging ant found throughout Europe, including the UK, from Ants Kalytta on 13 June 2017. The colony consisted, at the time, of one queen and about 50-60 workers, with a few larvae present. I initially kept them in a variety of different types of setup, but have now settled on my preferred kind; the “starter kit”, made of glass.

This species of ant can have more than one egg-laying queen in each nest, but this one of mine has only one.

In 2019, this colony has produced winged ants, both male and female.

They are a good species of ant to consider when keeping an ant colony

Lasius niger

My favourite species of ant, and my preferred choice when keeping British ant colonies in captivity.

I have kept many colonies of this species in the past, and were, in fact, the first species I ever kept. I was about 13 at the time. My best successes have been with them. For instance, my most successful captive colony was one that I started from a single newly mated queen captured in the 2001 mating flights. In conclusion, she went on to produce a colony so successful that they out-grew every set up I owned, including a large fish tank.

However, the colony became too big for me to keep. Therefore, I released them into the garden. Well, if I am honest, they relocated themselves. In other words, they escaped.  I was in the Navy at the time, and had been away for 6 months.  When I returned I noted every ant in this colony was missing. After that, I noticed a very large Lasius niger colony had set up home in my garden.  Yes, these were my ants.

They continued their success and growth in my garden, wiping out several smaller ant colonies. In addition, I actually witnessed them invade and utterly wipe out a Myrmica rubra colony.

That colony died out in 2019, when, I assume, their queen died of old age – aged 18 years!

This current Lasius niger colony of mine is 2 months old at time of writing this (15 Sep 19). I obtained her from this year’s mating flights, and today saw the arrival of her first brood of workers. They currently reside in a test tube, within the foraging tank of an ant farm.

This species is my first recommendation for keeping British ant colonies in captivity.

My ant colony journals (past & present)

In addition to keeping British ant colonies in captivity, I have been writing journals of their progress since 2001. On the previous incarnation of this website, I had their journals in pdf form, which could be downloaded directly from the relevant page on that old site. Similarly, I am keeping journals on this new website, but using a different format.

The journals of my previous colonies are still available to download as pdf files. Some are very lengthy, whilst others are extremely short. You can download them by clicking the appropriate link below.

The journals of my current colonies can be read in blog format on the news and journals page of this site, which you can visit my clicking on the News & Blog tab at the top of this page. Visitors can also comment on the current journals, with no requirement to sign up. You don’t even have to give your name and/or email address when you post; you can do so anonymously.

Though I have kept non-UK species of ant before, my passion lies in keeping British colonies in captivity. My attempts at keeping an ant colony from outside the UK have, with regularity, met with failure.

Please do read the sticky post at the top of the News & Journals page before you post for the first time; it explains the requirements regarding posting your comment.

Read my current journals of keeping British ant colonies in captivity

By clicking on the button below you will be taken to the News & Journals page of this site, where you can read current journals of my keeping British ant colonies in captivity.  They are in the format of blog entries, and not available for downloading.

Download journals of my previous adventures in keeping an ant colony

This is a selection of some of my past journals of keeping an ant colony.  Some are rather short, some end abruptly with no explanation (not sure what happened there), whilst others are long.  Some show disastrous outcomes, others successful outcomes.  However, I am sure that you leant a lot from my success – and failures! – when keeping an ant colony.

Click on the links below to download the relevant colony journal (pdf).

Contact Myrm

Do you have any further questions about ants, or keeping an ant colony, that have not been answered anywhere on this website? Or do you need other facts about ants? Then please feel free to contact me by either clicking the button below, or the Contact button on the top menu of this page. 

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I endeavour to reply as soon as I can, usually within an hour or so, depending on the time of day.

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My Ant Farms (Oct 19)
My current ant farms as of October 2019