Ever since I can remember, I've had a general, amateur-level interest in ants. As a child, I would watch them in my grandparents' garden and feed them communist biscuits (growing up in Eastern Europe in the 80s I didn't have much else to give them). Later, I read Bernard Werber's trilogy The Ants, which was a sci-fi work that presented ants as intelligent. I was rather skeptical about that claim, as well as several of the ants' exploits throughout the books, but there were a few nuggets of fact in there that ratcheted up my interest a notch. After I met Stroomschok and found out about his childhood myrmecology ambitions, I had a vague idea that we might get an ant farm, but in my mind they were big aquariums filled with dirt, where most of the "action" was hidden from view.
Fast-forward to July 5th. Walking home from the train station at the end of a work day, I notice a large ant scurrying on the pavement in front of me. Thinking to show it to my boyfriend, I pick it up. Halfway through, she jumps off my hand and runs for the hills (the metaphorical ones, Netherlands is extremely flat). However, when I look down I notice more of these big ants, milling around. Oh well, I'll just capture another one then. Triumphantly displaying my achievement on a leaf, I walk into the house announcing that I found a big ant and my boyfriend should come look at it. Obviously, him being the expert, it is immediately identified as a Lasius Niger queen.
A D&D dice box is emptied of dice and filled with some dirt from the garden, and the queen is promptly housed within. I guess we're committed to this ant business now, so I start searching for ant farms online, coming across the beginner antkeeper's bane - the gel farms. Because I like overdoing things, I order two. Also because I like overdoing things, I accept the offer of more queens from my boyfriend's youngest brother, who delivers a "modest" catch of 6 queens. Then I catch two more on my way home a couple of weeks later, because they looked cute.
We are now up to 9 Lasius Niger queens. The initial one has been moved to a smaller box after a failed attempt to transfer her into the gel farm (rookie mistake, fortunately she recovered and laid a fresh batch of eggs). The 6 ones from my boyfriend's brother are housed in spice tubes, and named accordingly - Anise, Ginger, Saffron, Cinnamon, Rosemary and Thyme. The 2 most recent ones are housed in tubes that used to hold Greek spices. I tentatively name them Lamb and Moussaka. Moussaka is extremely fussy and won't settle down, so we move her to a dice box with humid sand in it. She is still fussy, won't burrow or lay eggs or even sit still for a minute. Maybe she doesn't like the sand. We put her in another dice box, this time with some rich black soil from the garden. She still won't settle, so I give up and store her on a shelf, wrapped in tinfoil. Lamb, on the other hand, is being a good girl - laying eggs immediately and not making any fuss.