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Old 09-24-2018, 08:37 AM   #11
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Join Date: May 2012
Location: Alexandria, VA

Thanks! I really appreciate this info you're sharing! The crematogaster queens I found (not sure what species) crawling on a picnic table Labor Day weekend. None of them have eggs yet, and from what I've heard, they won't lay until after hibernation. Would you advise hibernating them in their test tubes in mini-fridge on minimum setting?
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Old 09-24-2018, 06:47 PM   #12
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Join Date: May 2009
Location: New Jersey

Originally Posted by Helianthus View Post
The crematogaster queens I found (not sure what species) crawling on a picnic table Labor Day weekend. None of them have eggs yet, and from what I've heard, they won't lay until after hibernation. Would you advise hibernating them in their test tubes in mini-fridge on minimum setting?

If you're in the north eastern US and they're on par with your Tetramorium queen length wise and all black they're either C. cerasi or C. lineolata. The two species are fairly identical differing only by the number of "erect" hairs on the thorax. (Crematogaster overall is a pain in the ass to ID especially where they're more diverse in the southern states and species become soil nesting).

The process of hibernation is a tricky thing to comment on. In winter there is no humidity in the air and ants need that to survive. Without humidity in the air they would literally dry out to death. It's generally the reason you rarely see ants in homes that have central air. And even in homes that don't you still mostly find ants in the bathroom, kitchen, and around potted plants, rooms with water in them.

Carpenter ants hate digging in pressure treated wood because it wares down the teeth on their mandibles. But they're more than happy to nest in wood that's been water damaged because it tends to be softer.

With hibernation it's a matter of trying to recreate conditions they find in the wild which isn't as easy as it sounds. They should be insulated in larger container stuffed with paper towels, and checked on occasionally to make sure they didn't run out of water. I think this should work with most ant species.

That being said, every Pheidole and Solenopsis species I ever put in the fridge died later that week. I don't know what they're doing in the wild but refrigerators don't work for them.

All the genera in the Myrmicinae subfamily do terrible in cold temps, actually most of them try to nest in sunny places taking advantage of stones and logs to incubate their brood. Tetramorium will survive the method I mention above but why bother when queens don't slow down laying at all.

Alternatively a lot of Formicinae ant genera seem to either benefit greatly or out right require a cold period. All Formica species don't keep any brood over the winter and queens might not start laying again in the spring or will do so weeks later than they should. The Lasius neoniger queens that flew a few weeks ago will go on to lay egg piles bigger than they are after a cold period. Camponotus queens go into a deep hibernation state where they appear dead... I've seen lots of ant keepers throw away their colonies because they assumed the queen died but really it takes a Camponotus queen ~12 days to come out of this state, less if she's in contact with something damp. Prenolepis imparis queens don't lay above a certain temperature, in fact foragers will be out foraging in temperatures far lower than most other ants can tolerate. P. imparis is also the first species to start flying each year, usually on the first warm of the year where temps reach ~70. The earliest I've seen P. imparis fly in New Jersey is February 11th but that same year they didn't fly again until March 11th and then not again until April where flights became far more common.

One reason the Formicinae subfamily might be more reliant on hibernation (diapause) is their association with plant life. These ants tend to focus more on plant sugars and honey dew collected from aphids, mealybugs, leaf hoppers, and such which are tied to specific times of year.
Myrmicinae species tend to focus more on seeds and being general scavengers of dead insects with a few specialized hunters of soft bodied arthropods. A notable exception though is the genus Cephalotes which feed exclusively on plant sugars and are incapable of digesting anything but sugary foods thanks to an adaptation in their digestive system. (Other adaptations like this are likely to be be discovered in the coming years.) Cephalotes are exclusively tropical though and nest in plants that don't go dormant.
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Old 09-25-2018, 10:01 AM   #13
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Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Michigan

I'm not into incubating or collecting ants but am finding this very interesting and informative.
Must have been away and missed the flying of the queens this year.
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ant, finding, queens

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