Thursday, January 22, 2009


When keeping ants people have it idea that Hibernation is absolutely necessary. They blame this on the fact that most queens fail. Actually I've the same amount of queens eventually fail that have been hibernated as the ones who haven't.

So here are the facts as I understand them.
The earth's rotation around the sun is elliptical, not a perfect circle. So when winter comes the earth is actually farther away from the earth. This means ant activity even in the tropics slows down, but relative to the temperature in the area. As you go farther from the equator it gets colder and colder and you find ants that have more seasonal habits. Hibernation is done specifically to survive the cold temperatures.

So here's the thing though. We have a few species in America such as Lasius neoniger that is found in areas where they do not need to hibernate, and they do hold multiple nuptial flights multiple times a year. Where colder climates occur though they hibernate like all the other ants, but when they hold these always hold nuptial flights in August or September. But this begs the question Why? Why send out their young queens in a time when the cold of winter is only two months away (longer than then it would take for a colony to get up and running).

For this question I don't have an answer but I suspect it's lead lots of people to think Hibernation is required. Another possibility is the European influence. People in Europe take this hobby to all new levels. They have places like Ant Store selling setups I'm very interested to try out someday. Sadly though they don't ship to the US and it would cost a minimum of $50 to ship last time I checked.

Now I don't mean to put the people of Europe on to high a pedestal. They're taking way to much advantage of their nations' lack of importation laws, or at least they're not following them. But that's another topic.

In Europe they have a species called Lasius niger that seems to be very similar to our L. neoniger. But in Europe they are under the influence that you HAVE GOT TO HIBERNATE THEM! I read things like Queens will shrivel up and die, they'll never lay eggs, or they'll just die after first workers. And I've got to say this sounds like every queen that I've ever had that failed. Not laying eggs, and dying after first workers are things that happen to queen ant normally. A 1% success rate tends to be true, hibernating or not.

So here's a few things I'd like to point out. Lasius niger and Lasius neongier are different species. For Geographical reasons though Lasius neoniger has access to semi-tropical environments where Hibernation isn't needed. I don't know the distribution of Lasius niger completely but it seems to me you aren't likely to find it in Egypt or anywhere in Africa. The tip of which is on par with the US states Florida and Georgia.

So while Lasius niger probably has a much higher success rate with a period of cold, out US. Lasius neoniger at least has a few populations where it's not needed. And the genes for these populations tend to circulate their way slowly upward. And I believe that's why I find things like Lasius neoniger queens who lay their eggs well before hibernation. And with a little feeding do just as well.

Actually I've had quite a few colonies be successful with No hibernation at all. Solenopsis molesta, Crameatogaster cerasi, and Camponotus chromaiodes all don't require hibernation to start a colony. Now that is not to say they won't die later of something like flooding test tube, workers not foraging, or some other catastrophe. But apparently hibernation isn't "needed" to start a colony, at least not for all ants.