Study species and maintenance
This protocol is extracted from research article:
Hard limits to cognitive flexibility: ants can learn to ignore but not avoid pheromone trails
J Exp Biol, Jun 4, 2021; DOI: 10.1242/jeb.242454

We used 16 queenless colony fragments (henceforth ‘colonies’) of the black garden ant, Lasius niger (Linnaeus 1758) collected from 16 different mother colonies on the University of Regensburg campus. Lasius niger derive much of their carbohydrate intake from tending honeydew-producing insects (Eidmann, 1927) but do not show task specialization within aphid tenders (e.g. to guards, shepherds and transporters; Novgorodova, 2015). The colonies were housed in 40×30×20 cm plastic boxes with a layer of plaster covering the bottom. Each box contained a circular plaster nest (14 cm diameter, 2 cm high). The colonies contained around 1000–2000 workers and small amounts of brood. Queenless colonies forage and lay pheromone trails, and are frequently used in foraging experiments (Detrain et al., 2019). As foragers rarely interact with the queen (Stroeymeyt et al., 2018), the lack of queen (but not brood; see Portha et al., 2004) should have little effect on the details of forager behaviour. The colonies were fed ad libitum on 0.5 mol l−1 sucrose solution and received Drosophila melanogaster fruit flies once a week. Colonies were deprived of food 4 days prior to the experiments in order to achieve a uniform and high motivation for foraging and pheromone deposition (Josens and Roces, 2000; Mailleux et al., 2006). Water was always available ad libitum.

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