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Camponotus singularis

Camponotus singularis

     This is an attractively coloured Asian species with a red head and black/grey body. They are large ants with queens that are 17 - 20 mm and workers between 11 - 13 mm, and they have a very large impressive major caste that is a similar size to the queens at 17 - 18 mm. Interestingly they also emit a distinct sweet floral type aroma when handled or threatened.

     While searching for more information on this species I noticed that although there are plenty of journals regarding their keeping, very little information is available on their natural wild nests and habitat. From what we know their colonies are quite large often between 1000 - 2000 individuals with a single queen. Some researchers state the workers tend to forage in the upper story of large forest trees, where they seek out the secretions of sap-sucking insects. Confirming this I have seen trails of workers ascending trees at night, but have also found them foraging over the ground where they will take live and dead insects.  

     It has been stated that they usually create nests in trees in old dead wood, however, I have found colonies nesting in the gaps between large rocks on cliff faces, and on the ground in very rocky areas in the cracks between large boulders. The nesting sites chosen are usually between boulders so large that they are immovable and provide the ants with good protection from would-be predators.

     They are mainly nocturnal and tend to forage at night when day predators like birds are not active. However, in low light conditions, they will also show activity during the day. Keeping their artificial enclosure in a low light location will encourage them to forage during the day. In captivity, they will feed on a sugar/water or honey mix and dead insects. They are active year-round and do not need a rest period, and they seem to prefer a temperature of between 25 - 28°C, although in their natural habitat there is a distinct cool season in December/January with night temperatures of around 12 - 15°C which lasts for about two months.

     C. singularis is also notable because unlike many other species it has distinct minor and major worker subcastes without any intermediate forms. The majors differ from the other workers by their very large heads and by the relative lengths of their appendages, having shortened legs and antennae, so as to reduce the danger of injury in combat. They may therefore be more accurately termed as true ‘soldiers’.  The ratio of these soldiers to normal workers in an established colony is about 1 in 20.

     The high nutritional investment necessary for producing a distinct soldier subcaste suggests that these must serve a function greatly beneficial to colony survival and fitness. In many other ant species, the tasks of major workers or specialized soldiers do not only include nest defence, but also storage of food and liquid within their bodies, and this is also probably true in this species. This allows the colony to draw on stored food reserves when other food is difficult to find.

     Previously most of the queens and colonies of this species reached the trade from the Chinese wholesalers and the stocks fertility was a bit dubious, with many reported infertile queens and colonies failing to rear any new brood. The queens and colonies I am offering are all collected from Thailand and as such will bring a new gene pool into cultivation. They have all been kept in captivity for a minimum time of one complete brood cycle, some much longer, confirming that the queens are fertile.

     This species is not easy to establish from new queens as they are a bit temperamental at the foundation stage, and will frequently consume their brood if disturbed. With this in mind, we would recommend you consider buying a small foundation colony to ensure success. They are initially slow to progress but once they have a workforce of about fifty, they will develop quickly.

     Due to their slow development in the initial stage foundation queens are only recommended for the more experienced hobbyists. Young colonies are easier to care for and should respond well for the average hobbyist.


     Summary: This is another quite stunning species that is much sort after because of its large size and distinct very impressive soldier caste. It has attractive colouration and gives off a pleasing sweet scent. They respond well in captivity, take to most types of artificial nests and are easy to feed.

     They are however not easy to raise from single queens and are best purchased as young colonies, and because of their size require a large foraging area.


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