Lasius niger move home – at last!

Ants moving to a new home

My small Lasius niger colony was started from a lone newly fertilised queen. I had obtained her during last year’s (2019) mating flights. She has been living in a test tube for the past ten months.  The queen was placed into it when I captured her, and she laid her first batch of eggs. Eventually a small colony consisting of only about 20 workers at this stage, had been produced. When the first workers emerged, I attached a nesting box to their foraging box. I was hoping they would quickly find the new box and move in.  They didn’t. For 8 months they didn’t even find it.  But all that changed yesterday I saw when the ants moving to a new nest.

I just happened to be in the Ant Room to gain access to my garden, when I glanced across at the ant farms as I passed. I immediately noticed activity in the tube that connects the Lasius niger’s foraging box to their new nesting box.  They had found it at long last! Boy, were they excited! I could see several ants running about excitedly, and some had already begun excavating.  Soon most of the ants in the colony were engaged in the excavation of the new nest.

I watched this for several hours my camera set up to record a movie of the queen being moved into the new home. I patiently waited for what seemed like an eternity.  Several times the queen appeared to be making her way to the “door” of the test tube. But each time she turned around and ran back into the far end of the test tube.  To the ordinary worker ants, leaving the test tube and venturing outside was not a big deal. They have been doing this day in, day out for the past eight months. But for the queen, this is the first time she has stepped outside of the test tube since I placed her in there ten months ago.  She was, understandably, anxious about leaving the safety of her nest. 

It got to about ten thirty last night and she still had not moved, and so I went to bed.  When I got up this morning the queen was still in the test tube with several workers.  The rest of the colony were still digging their new home. 

During the course of the day I kept checking on their progress, camera at the ready in order to capture her being moved on video.  It came to lunchtime and she still had not moved, and so I went to get something to eat.

Half an hour later I came back to check on how the ants were doing, and the test tube was empty.  The queen had abandoned the test tube and was now in the new nest.  They moved her when I was not looking! Oh, how cruel!

To add injury to insult, the ants have tunnelled against one of the metal sides of the ant farm, away from the glass.  So, I cannot even see the ants, tunnels nor chambers.  This will change as the expand into the nesting box.  But for now, I just have to be patient.  I have waited then months for them to find and over into the nesting box, so I guess I can wait a bit longer. 

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