Over the past few months I have become more and more concerned for my 11-year-old Lasius umbratus queen. I had not seen her all year, and I had noticed that the number of workers and brood within the nest has dropped dramatically. It didn’t really surprise me as, on average, these queens live 10-15 years, so 11 years is a “good innings”.
Today, however, I decided to conduct a thorough search for the queen, which involved removing all of the ant farm’s dark coverings and using my mobile phone’s torch to seek her out. Usually these ants do not mind me peeking into their nest, so long as I do not tarry, but today I had to make sure she was alive. So the torchlight was used, and they were not happy. However, what I saw after about one minute of searching made me happy; there was the queen! She was being ushered away quickly by the workers, towards an unlit part of the nest. As soon as I saw that she was fine I turned off the light, and replaced the nest coverings. There were some brood present, but not a great deal, and perhaps 200 ants – a large drop in colony numbers. It’s possible that the queen is coming to the end of her egg-laying life, and this may account for the low numbers of brood and, ultimately, adult ants.
If I am honest, I do not expect her to last too much longer; a year perhaps, maybe even two. Maybe she will surprise me and last another 3-5 years.