Formica, the Crossroads Of Diversity.

When it comes to ants, you will never find a more diverse genus than formica. Some nest in soil, others in rocks, a few in trees, and a couple in carfully constructed pine needle mounds. Some are scavengers, some are slavers, and some are farmers. Formica is very diverse, here in colorado, there is 68 species, more species than any other place in the world.

Slaving formica

Some Formica eat the brood of other Formica. while relatively rare most places. In Colorado, where I live, ants that slave Formica are relatively common. they are very interesting and are high maintenance species to keep as they constantly need access to brood of other Formica. there are some creative setups online. I personally don’t keep these when I catch them because finding Formica brood sometimes takes a while so I’ll just let most queens I see scurry past me. All slaving Formica is also parasitic, which makes them even more difficult to raise. But it is not impossible, it requires some more resources and creativity than most Formica, but that’s the challenge! This is a difficult species to keep, if you have a strong experience base you can be able to keep this species.  

A slaving Formica queen (Formica cf. ocustripes) . Photo Credit: Josiah Kilburn 

Regular formica

chances are, if you’ve been keeping ants for a while and you live in Europe or North america, you have kept Formica. Formica (and subsequently Polyergus because they only kidnap Formica) is a relatively easy to keep and very common genus. Formica is a nearartic and subtropical genus, the lowest it ranges is Indonesia, the highest is Alaska/Canada. Most species of Formica are found in the United States. In the united states, the most diverse population is found in my home state Colorado! They are one of the few winter loving ants. with most species building grass, soil, wood, or pine needle nests. Formica is the only genus of ants with species that build their nests entirely out of pine needles and sap. Other than these few species most do implement needles and bark into the entrance of the nest.

Formica ant preforming nest maintenance, you can see pine bark and needles in this picture. I think this is Formica cf. coloradoensis, but I am not sure. 
Photo Credit: Josiah Kilburn

Most Formica is parasitic. this is one of the few genus in which more species are parasitic than are fully-claustral. Although most Formica doesn’t raid other Formica, most queens do kill other queens to start their colonies. While they may be parasitic in the wild, these queens usually can get away being fully-claustral in captivity. For example, I have this Formica colony which I have observed queens being social parasites in the wild which I raised two queens in captivity. One of the queens got all her workers and then died, so I transferred her newly born workers to my other queen with brood and now I have a small colony of this species.

I apologies for the quality, this image was taken with an iPhone 8 and no lens clip through a scratched up test tube.
 Photo Credit Josiah Kilburn
workers of the Formica species mentioned above I apologies for the quality, this image was taken with an iPhone 8 and no lens clip through a scratched up test tube. 
Photo Credit: Josiah

Why Formica is losing diversity.

Formica, unfortunately, is being out-competed for resources by invasive pest/tramp species. Now why is this happening? Well pest species, and the environment around them are both changing. Now I’m not pushing some political agenda, believe what you want to believe. but climate change is happening, that’s just the facts. To what effect, however, is debatable. these changes do increase temperatures in places, making a habitat more hospitable to a species like Tetramorium immigransLinepithema humileTapinoma melanocephalumMonomorium minum, or Solenopsis invicta, all are species which are currently replacing, will replace, or have replaced species of Formica. But there is still hope left of correcting this.

Formica Cf. coloradoensis searching around it’s nest entrance
Photo Credit: Josiah Kilburn

But we can change this by keeping these pests in captivity, and eventually releasing native species to keep their population up. So try and protect your local ant fauna and save species like Formica coloradoensis along the way!

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