Aphaenogaster tennesseensis (Tennessee Thread-Waisted Ant) Care Sheet

This guide was compiled and written by cheetolord02 and Kylori of the 'Ants and Antkeeping' discord server, which can be found here. https://discord.gg/YbZGvtR3 

This guide has been posted with the permission of the authors. The original article may be found here. I have also made some edits based on my own observations 

Caresheet - Aphaenogaster tennesseensis

Aphaenogaster tennesseensis can be found in the midwestern United States, as well as in some parts of southern Canada and the southern US. It is one of the most uncommon aphaenogaster species due to their queens being temporary social parasites. They are very well adapted to survive in woodlands and forests, or general areas with dense vegetation. Mature Aphaenogaster Tennesseensis will almost always choose to nest within wood, particularly dead and rotting stumps or dead parts of still living trees. This species of ant will not raid or nest within homes.

Aphaenogaster tennesseensis colonies are generally beneficial to most ecosystems that they live in. Generally, colonies are able to reach a couple thousand workers, meaning that they generally keep to themselves and don’t tend to wipe out other ant colonies. A large Aphaenogaster tennesseensis colony has even been observed to share a stump as nesting space with a young colony of Camponotus pennsylvanicus.


-Familia: Formicidae

--Subfamilia: Myrmicinae

---Tribus: Stenammini

----Genus: Aphaenogaster

-----Species: A. tennesseensis

Basic information

Origin: Temperate/subtropical North America

Habitat: Prefers warm and temperate climate, avoids open spaces with sparse foliage. Is well adapted to rural environments and can be generally found in forests.

Colony form: monogynous, mildly aggressive, mildly territorial and dominant over its area.

Colony size: several thousand workers

Colony age: 6-10 years

Founding: Parasitic, queens take over A. rudis, A. fulva, and A. picea colonies.

Workers: monomorphic

Nesting sizes: Young colonies have been found with shallow nests in soil, however mature colonies prefer to nest in rotting wood.

Feeding: Nuts and seeds, as well as occasionally previously dead arthropods and even other ant queens. Colonies generally do not kill insects for prey.

Hibernation: late October-early November. 10-14 degrees celsius is preferred, although young colonies may skip hibernation the first year if kept warm.

Diapause: See above

Reproduction: Nuptial flight in late July - mid August, extends to  early September

Nuptial flights are generally small due to colonies remaining at a small size and lack of excessive numbers of colonies in a given area. However, flights are larger than most other Aphaenogaster species, with close to 150 female alates at a time.


Workers: dark maroon/brown head and thorax with bright, shiny, amber-colored gaster. No hairs. Two spines located on the end of the thorax arch over the petiole. Newly eclosed workers have tan heads and thorax with a gold-colored gaster. Coloration slowly darkens over the course of 2-4 weeks

Queen: bright, shiny red head and thorax with bright, shiny, amber-colored gaster. No hairs. Two spines located on the end of the thorax arch over the petiole.

Males: dark, flat black. Small, diamond shaped heads with large beady eyes. Generally large thorax and small gaster. Extremely long, skinny peitole Skinny, light grey legs.


Workers: 6-7mm

Queen: 6-7mm. Hardly larger than workers due to their social parasite nature.

Males: 4mm

Development time

at 25°C

Workers: 4-6 weeks

Egg - Larva: 9-16 days

Larva - Pupa: 9-13 days

Pupa - Worker: 9-12 days

Antkeeping information

Recommended for beginners: No. Founding a queen with A. rudis, A. fulva, or A. picea workers is incredibly difficult, as the host workers will usually kill the queen once the parasitic brood reaches the larval state. Still unknown why. Small colonies can be readily found nesting in small rotten branches with older colonies preferring larger trees. Afterwards, this species is farily easy.

Temperature: Outworld: 18 - 30°C, Nesting area: 20 - 26°C

Humidity: Outworld: 40 - 70%, Nesting area: 65 - 85%

Nest types: captive colonies have thrived in acrylic nests that are well-soaked. Captive Colonies also thrive in Tubs and Tubes setups with no real preference to test tube size. Watering tubes will likely be taken over as brood chambers however.

Formicarium size: Should fit the current colony size.

Formicarium accessories: Optional heat source (heat mat, heating cable or heat lamp), but isn’t entirely necessary. Substrate type: This species can walk well on almost any surface. Glass, vinyl tubing, acrylics, sand, clay and grout pose no issues. They can also climb vertical and upside down on glass.


Aphaenogaster tennesseensis colonies in the wild have been noticed to scout areas around their nest frequently, and larger colonies will have a large group of workers constantly patrolling a small area around the nest.

Aphaenogaster tennesseensis tend to move into their wood nests once worker counts reach triple digits. After they pick a suitable wood nest, they are fairly unlikely to move unless the nest or area around the nest becomes unlivable.

Additional antkeeping information

Very adaptable species that can thrive in a broad variety of nests and nesting conditions. Does still well even under less-than-ideal conditions.

Generally not bothered by excessive vibrations, but is very sensitive to direct, bright light. Can get used to daylight though.

Colonies grow decently quickly, but tend to cap out at over 1000 workers after 4-6 years.

The workers are pretty slow-moving and docile, so test-tube feeding is very viable, if not recommended. Aphaenogaster ants do not have social stomachs, meaning that all food needs to be brought back to the nest. Feeding colonies in the nest or right around the nest makes it so the ants don’t have to drag food back to the nest.

Test tubes of around 15x150mm are great starter nests. These tubes feature a large enough water tank for several months which means you won't have to move your ants before the colony grew to a good size. It is recommended to upgrade to 20x150mm test tubes as the colony hits the triple digit marks as the brood pile will begin growing significantly.

Aphaenogaster tennesseensis are also often observed around colonies of Camponotus pennsylvannicus in the wild

Diet & Nutrition


Aphaenogaster tennesseensis readily accepts solid sugars in the form of granulated brown sugar and cane sugar.


Nuts are an excellent source of food for Aphaenogaster tennesseensis. Peanuts and pecans are readily accepted, and cashews and almonds are a favorite. Germinating seeds are also eaten on occasion. Colonies have also been observed to eat dead isopods and dead queens of other ant species. Mealworms and crickets are also readily accepted as staples. Isopods are left alone unless the colony is starved, and springtails are outright ignored as a food source. Workers have been spotted moving springtails to moldy food sources however.

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