From Pests to Pets - How do I care for captured queen + workers?

Questions from those who are just starting or considering getting into the ant keeping hobby. If you’re intimidated or confused by the in-depth posts of the other sections of this forum, feel free to post here, and we'll start from square one!

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From Pests to Pets - How do I care for captured queen + workers?

Post: # 68642Post Enigami
Thu Apr 02, 2020 6:46 pm

I was having ants roaming inside my kitchen for a couple weeks before yesterday, and yesterday I traced a line of ants to my cutting board that had been leaning against the wall on my counter. The ants had apparently decided to set up their nest right behind it, so when I removed it I was rather surprised to see a bunch of workers and brood on my kitchen table.

I haven't kept ants before and didn't have any good means to capture them (and doubted I would get the queen), so I opted to squish them instead. I squashed the majority of the workers and their brood. I later checked back on the nesting site and happened upon the miraculously intact queen being escorted away by some surviving workers. Since capturing one VIP in the open would be practical to accomplish, I opted to capture her, and switched gears to try and capture as many surviving workers as I could instead.

I currently have the queen and about 20 workers in a large tupperware container, with no brood. They're quite small, roughly 2-3mm for the workers and 4-5mm for the queen. I've given them droplets of honey and water, and a very temporary shelter made of cotton balls and paper towels. I added a barrier of vaseline to try to keep them away from the lid, though that didn't seem to do much to stop them from just crawling over it.

So, now my pests are pets.

I'd previously attempted to raise an ant colony from a fresh queen, but the captured queens ended up dying in their test tubes, so having an established queen with a batch of workers to start from is an exciting prospect. The ants obviously have just been through a brutal experience, so what is the best way to help them recover and stabilize? They've lost all their brood, will the surviving colony last long enough for a completely new generation of workers to come? The tupperware is not a suitable place to keep them, but I currently don't have a setup for them. What kind of setup would be best to keep them in at this point? They also seemed to have a taste for my Captain Crunch Berries with their nesting area littered with bits of crumbs, is there anything harmful in it that would make it unsuitable as a treat for them?

I'm also trying to identify them in another thread (, so I can get more info on how to take care of them.

Thanks in advance for your input!

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