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How to care for Lasius niger

Updated: Feb 14

Greetings, Ant Enthusiasts!

One of the most common species in Europe, being very widespread and successful at adapting to every environment they encounter, Lasius niger is the most basic yet highly underrated ant species from Europe. When people find you basic because you are so common you know you have done something right! Lasius niger is one of the super stars in the ant keeping world and we got a blog post full with information and cool things about them. 


General Information about Lasius niger


Distribution: Lasius niger is one of the most widespread species on earth! Covering almost the entire northern hemmesphere. Although being native in most European countries they are also invasive in parts of the U.S. and parts of Asia.


Wild Lifestyle: Lasius niger will almost nest anywhere in walls, pavements, tree stumps in open woodland, pasture and open heath just to name a couple. They can adapt very well to their surroundings and dominate the scene by rapidly attacking other colonies fighting hard for their territory. Colonies can get rather large all from a single queen. Up to 10,000 individuals. Queens are observed to found together but later kill each other after the founding stage. 


Lasius cf. niger, tending aphids. Photo by Michal Kukla.
Lasius cf. niger, tending aphids. Photo by Michal Kukla.

For nutrition these ants tend to aphids on leaves. Aphids suck the juice out of the plant and as a by product they sucrede honeydew which is very valuable to these ants. They are like farmers and tend to these aphids with big care, protecting their livestock from predators, herding them around and milking them for their honeydew by taping on the Ahids with their antenna.


Further more these ants drink floral nectar which is sweet and has a big nutritional value. However ants do not help the pollination process and even have a negative effect on it by scaring off larger insects. Next to that they also gather insect remains but the bulk of their diet is sugar sources. One study has shown Lasius niger to bring in aphids during the winter in their nest and take them out again when it gets warmer.

True farmers! Can you for a second imagine that. Ants secure aphids instinctively to benefit again from them during the summer. And all of that without basic thinking just acting instinctively. We oversimplied here a little bit, if you want to read the full study visit the Antwiki linked below.


Fredericton, June 4, 2019

Identification: Lasius niger can be easily identified since they have a more or less brownish-black gaster. They are relatively small, 2,5-5mm in size. There are multiple Lasius species that look very similar to the Lasius niger. L. platythorax and species from the grandis-group have much less hairs on the clypeus (the headshield). Lasius cinereus which also looks a lot like Lasius niger has a more lighter mesosoma (thorax) that the Lasius niger. 




Nuptial Flight: The nuptial flights of Lasius niger are very interesting. As being a very widespread and abundent species Lasius niger usually flies around the same time in late July and August depending on the weather. You’ll see that ants usually fly after a rainstorm when the air is still humid and the temperature is relatively high.


Lasius niger queens throughout Europe fly in the billions. That is billions with a b. Their flights are so massive that when they occur they can even be seen on satellite footage. Their numbers are for a reason as 95% does not succeed to found a successful colony. An even larger percentage makes it true adultery.


Catching Lasius niger is extremely easy. Just take a walk around your neighborhood after a rainstorm and chances are you will find Lasius niger queens very easily.

A Met Office satellite image of flying ant swarms over England Skynews

General Information on How to Care for Lasius niger

Introduction: Lasius niger is one of the most kept ant species in the ant keeping community as they don’t have big needs and adapt to almost every environment. However if you are a beginner we can understand you want some extra information. We have that for you!


Hibernation: Lasius niger does not hibernate but has a diapause from late Oktober to early March. Depending on outside temperatures this can vary and climate change is playing a big part in the diapause cycle of ants. To hibernate your colony put them in a cold environment like a basement or if your mom/partner allows it you can put them in the fridge. If you take good care of them before you don’t have to feed these ants the entire diapause period. However we do recommend feeding them every month or two and removing the food if they don’t accept or take it. 


Feeding Requirements: It is very easy to feed Lasius niger as they accept almost any food source. Note that these ants primarily feed on sugars. You can however feed them protein sources. We recommend going small and feeding them things like fruit flies and small red red runners. Feeding these ants one time a week when the colony is smaller and two times a week if the colony is larger is more then enough. If you inspect your colony you can notice when more workers are in the outworld then normal. This is a good indication that your ants are looking for food. In terms of water always make sure these ants have a drinking source available to them. Make sure to put some cotton inside the liquid feeders to make sure the ants don’t drown themselves.


Temperature: Lasius niger is one of those species you can get away with virtually anything. Want to heat them, fine! Don’t want to heat them, also fine. Heating them greatly helps the brood to develop faster thus making your colony grow quicker. If you don’t want the trouble of heating your setup you can also keep them at room temperature without any issue.


Humidity: So for humidity you want to keep the nest decently humid. This means that you should hydrate your nest often. For the mesh, ytong and acrylic nests we offer this means once a week. You can clearly see where the placement of the brood is to know if you achieved the humidity the ants desire.


Nest: Again you can get away with everything expect wooden nests. That we don’t recommend. Other then that every nest type works for Lasius niger. We have seen them do expeptionally well in our mesh nests as they also allow for a lot of hydration.

Lasius niger colony inside a small Esthetic Ants Mesh Nest

Outworld: You don’t need to go overboard with Lasius niger on the outworld. They are quite small in size so their outworld does not have to be super large. A medium size is decent for a couple of years. If the colony really grows into the 1000+ we recommend upgrading to the large. 


Progression/Growth: With a reputation for rapid growth, Lasius niger colonies can achieve a few hundred workers within the initial years, potentially expanding to colossal colonies with thousands of ants.


In conclusion, the seemingly common Lasius niger unfolds as a captivating species with intricate behaviors and straightforward care requirements. Whether you're an ant-keeping novice or a seasoned enthusiast, the charm of Lasius niger awaits your exploration!


Check out this video about Lasius niger and how to take care of them



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