Antroducing: Big and beautiful Brünhild (Camponotus ligniperda)

Following Stroomschok's antroduction of our smallest ant, the acorn-dwelling Temnothorax nylanderi, I am now presenting you our largest - Queen Brünhild. Her species, Camponotus ligniperda, is the largest in Europe, together with its cousin Camponotus herculeanus. They are part of the carpenter ant family and usually live in rotten wood, such as tree stumps and fallen logs. While large, they are not particularly adept hunters, nor are they adept warriors. What they do very well, however, is chewing through things; given enough time and the right incentive, they will happily nom nom nom their way through solid wood and even through concrete (the kind used for inner walls in buildings).

Queen Brünhild and her brood, with banana cat for scale

Another distinctive trait of the species is the colour of their brood - while usually ant eggs and larvae are white, the Camponotus went for yellow. Brünhild's brood will likely not hatch until after the winter, as not only do they have a very long development cycle (twice as long than most of the smaller ants), but she is also preparing to enter hibernation. However, they are worth the wait, as the Camponotus possess a trait called polymorphism - their workers have distinct castes with different sizes, called minor, median and major. The majors will reach dimensions close to the queen's herself, and act as nest defense, heavy digging machinery and can openers for larger prey. And, of course, they look awesome and suitably imposing.

Brünhild's size (she has a respectable 15-16 mm in length) caused her some problems upon arrival, as the test tube that served as her housing was too narrow and every time she tried to turn around she would get stuck. This caused her discomfort and distress, so we decided to move her into a larger and more comfortable tube. At first, we opted for a gentle method of persuasion - placing her tube partially on a heat mat and connecting it to the other tube, then turning the heat mat on in the hopes that the increased temperature will convince her to move into the second tube. After more than an hour of babysitting this setup and measuring the temperature every 2 minutes (we didn't want a repeat of the overheating incident!), it became quite clear that Brünhild was actually enjoying her spa experience and had no intention of moving.

Despite her new tube having her name on it, Brünhild doesn't take the hint.

Time for more drastic measures. Using a very soft brush, I sneak into her tube and steal her brood, very conveniently clumped together in one big, sticky yellow ball. The disappearance of her babies sends Brünhild into a frenzy and she bites on the thieving brush, almost getting dragged out of the tube as I try to retrieve my implement. Not wishing to distress her further, I connect the two tubes and tilt the one she is in, gently tapping on it until she slides into the new tube. Aside from more space, the new house features a cork "door" which we have successfully used previously in the Spice Girls tubes. The cork disk fits the inner diameter of the tube and provides a small chamber which is more feng-shui to claustral queens (such as Brünhild), while at the same time allowing passage to the rest of the tube via a small opening.

Dem mandibles!

Brünhild chilling in her new tube, happily reunited with her brood.
Note the distinctive shape of her head: all muscles.

And that is all for now. She is not the most active of our queens, as Camponotus are notorious for their slow growth, but she is very, very beautiful. Stay tuned for our blog post detailing the adventures of another Camponotus colony!

I liek big butts and I cannot lie
Brünhild being pretty.