Working with ants is wonderful in many ways but there is one interesting drawback/advantage: you can’t breed most species in the lab. Instead we need to go out and collect newly-mated queens just after they do their mating flights. Ant mating flights are rare events! They typically happen only one or a few days per year in the summer, so we need to be ready to quickly spring into action. These mating flights are also very linked to local temperature and humidity conditions, so the date of the flight varies from year to year and for a given year, from neighborhood to neighborhood. Then, even further, whether you’ll find the species you are looking for depends on the local population: are they enough mature colonies?
Considering we just set up shop in Fribourg, we didn’t know where/when the local ants would be flying, but we knew we wanted to collect some Lasius niger when they flew in Fribourg.
Well, yesterday was the day! The Lasius niger were flying just outside the door of the lab. It doesn’t get any more convenient than that! We had a guest visiting who went outside for a think and he popped his head in, “Is this a queen of the species you are looking for?” Yep! And as Marie-Pierre was putting the queen into a tube, he came back again, “I think I found another one…” And before you know it, we have 100+ queens ready to start their colonies.