A mature ant colony will reach something called sexual maturity which could take a few years to get to. At that time, the queen(s) will start to produce larger than normal eggs. They will enclose to be flying ants, aka alates, which consist of both male and female. When conditions are met (wind, temp, humidity etc.) these alates will fly from their colonies and the alates will mate with other alates. When one colony starts flying, a sweet pheromone will fill the air, alerting the next colony (of the same genus or species) to start flying, becuase they know they have the chance to mate. This will set up a chain reaction, and soon thousands of colonies will undergo this process. This is called a Nuptial flight. When the males mate, they die shortly after. A female alate will usually mate with several males until they fly to the ground and break off their wings. That alate has just become a queen ant, aka dealate (wingless) queen. They will find a good place to start their colonies. (they have the ability to lay eggs now becuase they are full of sperm) Your job is to catch these queens. You can find them wandering around during flight time, or not. I tend to find recently mated queens under logs and rocks a lot too, but just make sure they didn't produce any eggs yet. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXs9BLdgoBY You then want to put your queen into a test tube setup. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=958o2VcABeI Then, you must determine what species, or at least genus you have. If your species is fully-claustral, you do not need to feed your queen until she has workers. If she is semi-claustral, she needs food before her workers enclose. You can either feed her through the test tube (easiest) or attach a foraging area to the test tube (unneccasary imo), or just place the test tube in the foraging area. Ants need both carbohydrates (for the ant itself) and protein. (for developing brood) You can feed your queen if semi-claustral a drop of sugar water, honey water, mealworms, cockroaches, fruit flies, hummingbird nectar, termites and a lot more, just make sure not to catch insects or other food in the wild. (pesticides) Take away whatever is not eaten. Each colony has a different food personality and may only eat certain foods. Make sure to provide a variety however. You also have to make sure to keep your ants in the dark and only check on them once a week. Their founding stage is very crucial and they are easily stressed by frequent checkups. Given we are halfway across the country from each other, I am very unaware of species and their needed themperature/humidity, but do know for a fact that fire ants, most notably the Red Imported Fire Ant (Solenopsis invicta) are pretty common in Texas. They may be aggresive, but that is easily avoided if you wear gloves when dealing with food and all that. They are Very fast growing, fully claustral, and have their flights year round too. When your queen starts to lay eggs, you don't need to do anything different. When the first worker arrives however, you should wait bewteen 3-8 days to feed them if they are fully-claustral. Feeding stays the same if the queen is semi-claustral, you may just have to feed a small bit more obviously becuase the population has grown. Personally, I choose to feed them when they start pulling on the cotton, a sign they are hungry. When your colony is starting to get full in the test tube, or is starting to get difficult to feed becuause of escapees, it is formicarium and outworld/foraging area time! You can build your own formicarium http://www.formiculture.com/index.php/topic/2298-how-to-make-a-picture-frame-grout-formicarium-with-advanced-hydration/#entry28868 http://www.formiculture.com/index.php/topic/88-photo-journey-of-how-to-build-a-grout-formicarium/?hl=%2Bpicture+%2Bjourney http://www.formiculture.com/index.php/topic/88-photo-journey-of-how-to-build-a-grout-formicarium/?hl=%2Bpicture+%2Bjourney or buy some from these well-known, reliable sites https://tarheelants.com/ http://www.antscanada.com/ I personally like TarHeelAnts becuase they have more selections, they are high quality and are not overprised like AntsCanada. I reccomend an Atom nest for a small colonies, and watch how to use them in THA's youtube channel. To move them, shine a light on the test tube, and make the new formcarium dark (will make it look attracting) Forcing the colony into a new habitat is simply suicide. Regardless of whether you are building or buying, always make sure your colony fills up at least 70% of the formicarium. All the extra space will become a trash room that the ants make in which you wan the trash room to be in the outworld, where it is easily cleanable. http://www.formiculture.com/index.php/topic/2274-how-to-build-a-foraging-area/ <--- that method is a little overkill, all you need is to pour in the substrate, no grout or anything needed. Fluon is also ideal so no ants get out while cleaning. https://www.amazon.com/Fluon-Insect-Slip-Barrier-pack/dp/B00UJLH12A/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1484448356&sr=8-1&keywords=byformica The outworld is where you will place all food items. You also can provide a test tube full of water or sugar water into the area, but the humidity SHOULD be enough. Note that ants need a constant supply of water. As your colony grows to a certain size, you can now observe and check on them more frequently, just make sure they are in the dark while not observing though. As long as you provide continued space and food for your colony and keep them clean, they can live long. Some queens can live up to thirty years! Some species of ants are also polygynous, which means the colony can have more than one egg-laying queen (of the same species of course). If you catch a polygyonus species, you can try putting them together in the test tube. When your colony reaches sexual maturity, you can even choose to open the outworld lid, take the ants outside, and if a flight of that species is present, the alates will fly out and mate!
That is the basics. There is a whole lot else to learn though, like species in your area and such. Here are some other links:
Feel free to ask questions!