It's quite likely you have heard of the invasive fire ant, or Solenopsis Geminata. This species is commonly featured on the AntsCanada YouTube channel, where it doesn't show the real horrors and hard work it takes to keep them. Solenopsis (with an exception of species such as Solenopsis Fugax that don't really carry these traits), is a fast growing, extremely aggressive genus of ant that causes millions of dollars of damage each year around the world. The possibility of escape cannot be excluded even with the upmost care. Each year an average of 30 people die from Solenopsis geminata stings in the United States alone!
What often happens is that new ant keepers will get a colony after seeing their favourite content creator feature one. This can end up in disaster. Even adults who have a couple of years of experience under their belt face problems. For the first month or two, they find it easy to care for them, up until 200 workers or so. When they get to this milestone the colony explodes in size. The queen starts pumping out fresh eggs at an unprecedented rate. With an egg to worker time of roughly 26 days, these eggs will soon turn into workers. I have seen cases of Solenopsis filling up fresh nests completely in just a few weeks. Furthermore, these ants are escape artists. If they don't have one of three things, they will focus all their efforts on escaping their setup, which they will be able to do in a few hours. Even with a fluon barrier. The three things are food, water and space. In just two hours, your room can be transformed into the stomping grounds for thousands of angry, hungry, stinging ants. If someone in your house is allergic to Solenopsin, the venom that they inject from their sting, they could die.
A Solenopsis Geminata sting feels like a bee or wasp sting, and leaves red lumps which itch for a few days. One sting isn't bad, but multiple can hurt you seriously, even if you aren't allergic to Solenopsin.
When keeping a mature colony of Solenopsis, you will need a lot of food to give them if you want them to keep growing. All this food being purchased for them in the form of feeder insects can really add up a cost. Moreover, the constant need for new nests isn't cheap either, as you need acrylic nests (Solenopsis can chew through most other nest materials), which are very expensive for the large sized ones you need.
However, if you are experienced, have the money free to spend and are confident that you could keep them successfully then Solenopsis Geminata or even Solenopsis Invicta can be really rewarding. Their unique desire for protein, and the massive trails they can form are just some of the amazing things about them.
Picture: My young colony of Solenopsis. Little would I know how fast they would grow.
I have found Solenopsis a real challenge to keep, with new problems that need fixing constantly coming to light. To conclude, Solenopsis is a very difficult species to maintain and contain but easy to grow. However they are also very rewarding and you learn lots from keeping them. The species is also a gorgeous colour of orange.
If you still don't believe how hard Solenopsis is to keep then watch this video from the YouTuber Ants Hood that explains it all!