Introduction & Overview
This species is one of my favorite species to keep, for a variety of reasons. Firstly, they are one of the few seed harvesting granivorous species present in Northern California. Additionally, they are slightly more challenging to keep than other species, which makes rearing them successfully all the more rewarding.
Some of the challenges keepers face when raising this species include:
- Ensuring founding queens get adequate food due to their semi-claustral nature
- Keeping stress levels for founding queens low to prevent brood consumption
- Maintaining a temperature at which brood can develop properly, especially during founding
These challenges are often faced by keepers of almost all species in the genus Pogonomyrmex. However, in my experience keeping multiple California-native Pogonomyrmex, I have observed that Pogonomyrmex subdentatus requires less disturbances to successfully found in comparison to other Pogonomyrmex species.
Queens of this species are easy to identify, as they have quite distinctive characteristics. The following steps can be taken to achieve a solid ID:
1. Region: ensure that your queen has been caught in the aforementioned range, throughout the southwestern United States and northern states of Mexico.
2. Size: Camponotus fragilis queens will usually be 10-12mm in length. They will also have wide heads, as is characteristic for Camponotus species.
3. Patterning: Color is not a great indicator of species. However if your queen matches the aforementioned characteristics, and is a pale yellow-gold color with patches of brown, it is most likely a species in the Camponotus festinatus species complex. This complex includes C. fragilis, C. festinatus, and C. absquatulator.
4. Within the festinatus complex: Camponotus fragilis can be discerned from Camponotus festinatus through its smaller size. C. fragilis queens will be noticeably smaller than C. festinatus. Sometimes when physogastric, C. fragilis queens can be larger than 10-12m, but typically this is not the case at the time of collection. If it is in the 10-12mm size range and fulfills the aforementioned criteria, then it is most likely either Camponotus fragilis or Camponotus absquatulator. The distinction between the two is that C. fragilis queen swill have stiff hairs called setae along the margins of their head. If these erect hairs are present along the head's margin, and your queen matches all aforementioned characteristics, then you have caught a Camponotus fragilis queen!
There is more than one way to identify an ant, and you can also use a taxonomical key to identify your queen.
75f-85f (24c-30c), ideally in a gradient manner.
Offer a gradient containing areas of high and low humidity. A completely dry area can be provided as well.
This species needs some humidity for early stages of brood development, which is why it is essential to provide a gradient. However, they also have been seen choosing to keep the majority of the colony in a completely dry test tube. For this reason, a gradient with a medium-humidity area as well as a low humidity area works best for these ants. These ants are however quite tolerant and minor adjustments to these conditions will likely be tolerable.
Time to first workers
4-6 weeks unheated, 6-8 weeks unheated