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Possible Law Violation in Insect Study Merit Badge Requirments

Hi Everyone,
My Scout was recently doing his insect study MB. We noticed for requirement 10a the requirements call for putting a queen ant in an ant farm. According to my research, USDA regulation prohibit the moving of queen bees out of their hills because they don’t want the ants growing in places they aren’t native to. Why are the scouts calling for this or, am I misreading something?


https://www.nature-gifts.com/why-you-cant-buy-queen-ants-in-the-us/ (this one is a bit out of date, recent changes (March 2020) prohibit taking the queen ant out of the hill)

I would bring this to the attention of advancement.team@scouting.org and/or merit.badge@scouting.org. Odds are, with this being so new (you indicated 2020-03) they may not even be aware of it yet.

Ok good idea. I was a bit surprised about this that I didn’t even think about what you said.

I was thinking about this a bit more, and it just says to observe the formicarium, not to construct/maintain it. There may well be formicaria at nature centers, zoos, or similar facilities which have the relevant permissions to host them. They may also have simply “invited the ants to move in”, so to speak, by providing a suitable nesting site in a formicarium, and therefore didn’t actually collect them, just provided convenient housing.

It’s probably a similar situation with the apiary. You don’t actually have to maintain it, just observe it.

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This is true but it is still illegal to move a queen ant from outside from the anthill.

I guess I’m not sure where there’s a requirement to actually move the queen, though. Just to observe the formicarium, and identify/locate the queen and workers. I suppose there’s the potential implication that the queen was moved into the formicarium in the first place, but it’s not clear that an organization that hosts something like this doesn’t actually have the ability to obtain permission to do so.

Probably still worth bringing up to the folks at BSA in case they want to put the legwork in to investigate further.

I sent them an email. They just need to clarify the requirement a bit more.

We will definitely look into the wording to make sure it is clear that we are not asking anyone to break the law.

But along the lines of the law, I’m interested where you got a PDF of BSA copyrighted material? I appreciate any information you can share with me, as you have well demonstrated that you are very interested in abiding by the law. Thanks very much!

April McMillan
National Director of Program


The PDF linked in the original post is from the Merit Badge page at scouting.org. All of the MBs have similar PDFs. They contain only the cover, requirements and references from the Merit Badge pamphlets. See https://www.scouting.org/programs/scouts-bsa/advancement-and-awards/merit-badges/

And half the time the requirements are outdated anyway @AprilMcMillan1 with 1/4 of MB’s changing each year

As @edavignon and @DonovanMcNeil noted, this information has been made publicly available by the BSA, if I recall correctly, for years.

It’s a very useful resource for scouts who are looking to decide whether or not they’re interested in pursuing the MB, and for potential counselors who may have an interest in an area, but not be sure what exactly they need to know to be able to counsel the badge, at least in terms of the minimum requirements expected from the scouts.

For example, I like to ride my bike, and even do most of my own maintenance, but I’m strictly a road bike guy these days. I would probably not be an ideal candidate for counseling Cycling MB, given the need to serve both scouts who choose Option A and those who choose Option B (which require a counselor ride along for road or mountain biking, respectively) for fulfilling Requirement 7. Knowing that keeps me from wasting council resources by registering for Cycling MB, then discovering I can’t fulfill the responsibilities.

There are minor problems such as this with a number of these merit badges – mammal study, reptiles, insects – because they are out of date either with state laws or just recommended practices. BSA really needs to have them reviewed by field conservation experts outside of scouting. I have written notes for years. Over the years some of it has been changed and updated but there are still problems.

I recommend ask scouts to make and maintain an ant farm (without queen) for 2 weeks.

Do ONE of the following:
(a) Observe an ant colony in a formicarium (ant farm). Find the queen and
worker ants. Explain to your counselor the different chambers found within
an ant colony.
(b) Study a hive of bees. Remove the combs and find the queen. Estimate
the amount of brood and count the number of queen cells. Explain how to
determine the amount of honey in the hive

I’m not sure how this requirement can be interpreted as “putting a queen in an ant farm”. The key word is observe.

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You can’t observe unless it is taken out of the ant hill. That is against the law.

with all due respect if the counsler had a queen ant in the farm like the requirments ask, then he was breaking the law. Not his fault though, he probebly just didn’t know.

Could you point to the governing documents, @AceEifling? I think that would assist people in making their own assessments.

I’m not arguing with your evaluation (it’s outside my field of expertise anyway), just pointing out that the information may not be as easily found by others.

I don’t know if the matters or not but look at the requirement and the fine print:

First, I would do Option (b) and avoid the whole queen ant matter.

Second: From what I am reading is the USDA prohibits importing queens. From what I am interpreting is you can take a queen from a colony say in your back yard and put it into a formicarium for study and as the fine print in the Insect Study MB Pamphlet states is that all specimens should be returned to the location of capture after the requirement has been met…

Of course you can get all of the ant killer you want and put the creatures down!

Er…is that the right link? That document is related to export of animals from the US, required sanitary and safety practices, and applicable disinfectants therefore. It doesn’t appear to have any relevance to the discussion of formiculture within or among the various states.

It seems more likely that the USDA OV group would administer the relevant regulations, but maybe not since ants aren’t considered “vectors”, per se.

I see the requirements for a 526 permit for interstate movement of insects, but I haven’t yet found anything specifically related to collecting within a state.