Kicking off this weekend with the Formicast Podcast crossover, unfortunately I was attending a family emergency and was unable to make the show, however it was action packed with Esthetic Ants taking the stage and informing all of his #WEDONTAPPROVE the hashtag to represent current issues within the community, in the hopes of improving the quality and experiences of those within the hobby.
I released a 5 minute special on the movement this Sunday, with many more follow up videos on the topic to follow.
For my part of this movement I have decided to focus on getting gel farms & gimmick nests banned or replaced with products designed for the welfare of the Ants they house.
Stay tuned for that #savetheants
I've started a project to collect data to better understand the populations in my local area, whilst my primary focus is on Formica, I will be recording all the data of formicidae found in the area's of survey.
My hopes are to begin this project by creating a local database, I then hope to expand this project on a national scale, using Hertfordshire and the surrounding area's as my test sites for this data collection project to scope how viable this type of survey would be to replicate and roll out on a national scale.
For reasons I cant yet disclose, I have highlighted Formica rufa due to a research project that is currently underway, out of interest to that project, the database will focus on the genus of Formica, a genus with species in decline, Formica pratensis becoming extinct on the UK mainland by 1988, existing only on the Channel Islands, Formica rufibarbis & Formica exsecta are endangered on the verge of extinction according to UKBAP (UK Biodiversity Action Plan) offered protection as listed under section 41 of the NERC Act for England (E).
The majority of Formica are seen as near threatened, this means they are on the verge of being on the endangered list, as so they are offered protection status under these legislation guidelines.
These are just some of the legislations, schedules, sections & guidelines that offer a variety of ant species across the UK a protected status the full list is as follows.
On the priority endangered lists within these legislations:
On the near threatened list within these legislations:
When they say the law is there to be interpreted, it certainly applies to the patchwork guessing game of what possible legislation could be used for removing these species from protected habitats, a host of infractions, could be levied, your individual case and circumstance taken into consideration, for example removal of a single Queen from a protected habitat or listed species Vs removal of multiples of Queens, then intent, for personal keeping or for profits, the legislation varied depending where in the country your being prosecuted, use of The Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 (As amended) this legislation covers a wide range of protected species and habitats, giving legislative frameworks for designation of sites, such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) Special Protection Area's (SPAs) Special Area's of Conservation (SACs).
Amendments in 1994 implemented two pieces of European law bringing together the designation of "European Protected Species".
At the very least you could find yourself facing a charge of theft or disturbance of wild animals, plants or habitats.
I feel through this journey I have some how become an intern in a law firm, it has not been easy to translate the legislation and track down a concrete answer to the protection status of this species.
Much of the work and data is still to being collected, as part of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 the next major update has been provisionally planned anytime now in the summer of 2021.
I expect the lists may be updated as small surveys began after the 2019 Strategic Plan.
This is pretty much a visual representation of the project that I am proposing, now remember I have no formal qualifications in the sciences, I'm not backed by any academic or scientific institution, I am a hobbyist, certainly I will say I feel I am at the point of my educational journey, that I feel confident enough to tackle a project such as this, voluntarily, in my own time, my way of contributing to these creatures that I adore, In the wider scope hoping to aid a wide spectrum of interested parties, conservationists, ecologists, myrmecologists, those who can use the data collected to make an impact and a difference to the survival of these species.
I will offer up the data I collect from this project for educational & scientific use, a small piece of a much larger puzzle, I hope to contribute to.
If you would like to show your support, for these projects, or the content I create, please consider checking out my Patreon.
The first of the free courses I have started to work through to improve my understanding and increase my professional learning portfolio, my personal ethos over a career compared to a job, a job is something you do to make money & pay bills.
A career is your life, your dedication, your passion, a career can be started from the bottom, where you go is down to what you create, how hard you work, how much you learn, knowledge is a powerful tool, in life I've learnt, its not always the means, the same knowledge taught by a teacher in an academic setting, is available to be found, to be read, studied & understood, I'm passionate about self education, platforms such as the Open university, other academic institutions are a great resource. I honestly recommend checking out what is on offer by clicking the OU logo above.
Professionalism, are the standards you hold yourself to, set the bar high and always set your standards a little higher so that your striving to achieve more.
I'm dyslexic, in life it has caused me to always find another way to achieve my goals and my aims, I may not suit the mainstream route, but with dedication and never taking no for an answer, I have found there are always ways if you apply yourself, think outside of the box, never turn down an opportunity to prove your passions, educate yourself further.
My mum is a great inspiration in my life, she is also dyslexic, she has never stopped achieving, she has always achieved it on her own, she is a very strong person, fearless of the unknown, when one door has closed or a wall in her life has appeared, around it, under it, over it or through it, she has always found a way, when I was born, she was a professional make-up artist for film & TV and even taught in one of the most prestigious schools in the country, but she found she could not keep the career she loved & be a single mother to raise me, she evolved, she turned her skills in special effects make-up and created a successful home business, making garden ornaments, then moved on to making stain glass, she trained and became a reflexologist, then she moved in to her final career studying for an initial 5 years, working & continuously studying for a further 15 years becoming a psychotherapist/counsellor specialising in bereavement and mental health. She taught me that no matter where you are in life, where you go, what you become, its never too late, if you work hard, train hard, find ways to educate yourself, you can evolve, adapt & overcome any obstacle or fear, I owe my mum my ethos on life, work & professionalism, the tenacity to keep going, no matter how impossible or unlikely, it may all feel.
I've decided to keep blogging on a personal level about my journey & decision to change careers, my route, perhaps unconventional, I hope may inspire others to make a change in their lives, I appreciate so much of what I have & the career I been building over the last 8 years, my passions in life have evolved, I am passionate about making a bigger change, protecting & understanding the world we live in, humans have to learn to co-exist, with our dwindling wildlife & ecosystems, I hope my eventual path on this change can lead me to become a myrmecologist, working in conservation, for now I'm focusing on starting this career path, learning ecology, wildlife (flora & fauna) management, I'm aiming at hands on positions such as forest & wildlife or conservation Rangers, I'm confident that I have a solid set of cross over skills, I can bring into my new career one of my strongest sets being my mental attitude & sheer determination, as a close protection operative we say, "We always have to be lucky, the threat only has to be lucky once". Going forward I only need to find that one opportunity, no matter what adversity may be ahead of me, no matter how many set backs or people who turn me away, you have to break a lot of coal to find a diamond, right now I'm mining for my diamond, my opportunity to shine, my opportunity to create and forge a new path in life.
Never let the perception of failure knock you back or stop your goals, take everything positive or negative as a lesson, re-evaluate, plan a new route or try another way, keep focused on your eventual goals, see yourself in your position, in your dream, create it, I have faith I will create mine, one way or another, I have faith you can to.
Influence of queen phenotype, investment and maternity apportionment on the outcome of fights in cooperative foundations of the ant Lasius niger.
Authors - Serge Aron, Nathalie Steinhauer, Denis Fournier.
"Cooperative colony founding (pleometrosis) in social insects is an ideal model for investigating how cooperation and competition shape social behaviour among unrelated individuals. In many ant species, foundress associations are more competitive and the colonies survive better compared with single-queen colonies. However, cooperation among queens breaks down at the time of emergence of the first workers, and all but one queen are eliminated. Because no sexuals are produced in incipient colonies, the surviving queen will monopolize the future reproductive success of the colony, while defeated queens will have zero fitness. We examined factors affecting queens' survival prospects during reversion to single-queen colonies in cooperative foundations of the ant Lasius niger. By combining phenotypic and genotypic analyses, we determined how queen's size, individual investment and maternity apportionment influence the outcome of fights. Larger queens were more likely to survive fights. However, smaller queens survived up to one-third of the fighting. By contrast, neither weight loss at the time of a fight outbreak, a measure of queens' relative investment in brood production, nor maternity apportionment influenced the outcome of fights. Moreover, investment of cofoundresses and partitioning of reproduction were not adjusted to queen's size, suggesting that reproductive competition among queens does not occur before the emergence of the first workers. These results lead us to consider pleometrotic associations in L. niger as a ‘best of a bad job’, whereby the benefits of joint founding and the probability of surviving the conflict might be sufficient for smaller queens to embark on cooperative foundations."
Taking this paper into consideration, I have decided to attempt to measure the Queens that are in the experiment, I am also considering adding another approach to the experiment, Ant Holleufer is currently doing this exact same experiment using Camponotus Ligniperda, should i keep a test colony of 3 Queens individually in tubes, within the same set up, a gap only big enough for the workers to fit through, this means the Queens will never meet, will the workers form a co-operative colony?
We know the test colonies are expected to have a 66.6% loss rate, from 15 founding Queens in theory, unless a rare decision of co-operation is made 10 Queens wont make it in this experiment.
The experiment is not to compare the relation of loss between co-operative founding and single founding but to gauge the benefits of this process, its effects on the colonies long term survival and ultimate success. the real data will be collected towards the end of the experiment when we find out how they faired over hibernation, we have looked at other studies that boasted a higher immunity to disease when co-founding, a capacity to produce a large work force in a short amount of time, Lasius Niger nuptial flights occur not long prior to the onset of winter, they do not have long to establish a work force and prepare to lock down until summer returns.
I've already had a few comments regarding the losses of Queens, losses over the founding period of Lasius Niger colonies are high, this species has some of the largest nuptial flights recorded, their flights can be tracked from space, pleometrosis is a tactic this species had adopted, the experiment is not forcing un-natural behavior, or creating any higher losses than would be created through the founding process both in captivity and in the wild, if 5 colonies in the wild formed with 3 co-founding Queens, eventually they too would suffer a 66.6% loss of Queen population.
Ultimately this experiment could put an answer to the question which method is better, single founding or co-founding, with hard data to suggest & prove in some cases why it could be the superior method despite the calculated loss, a loss which is negated by nature, and the natural losses this species endures in the continuation of its species life cycle. taking advantage of a process they use for survival.
This experiment is exciting because it seeks to document and collect data that could aid or be taken for other research, documenting, diet through measured portions, brood production & numbers/growth per colony, Queen sizes, temperatures, humidity, this experiment will be carried out over a much longer period than previous studies I have encountered that focus around pleometrosis, to my knowledge of the experiments i have read, none, seem to compare the long term survival or effect post hibernation between single founding & co-founding colonies, I will record the lifespan of the Queens in the test colonies and the single colonies, I expect losses with single Queens, but with so many possible factors it would be impossible to sumise the expected percentage, I aim to document any behaviours in regards to pleometrosis, if I can observe any. or find a way to record the test colonies 24/7.
With the channel growing, focusing so much time into self study, for the last 8 years, I have dedicated to my career, protecting people, It's a tough career, my average work week is 135 hours, our requirement isn't covered by the working time directive, you have to be a very disciplined person, self motivated & driven.
I've often thought about continuing with my medical qualifications, to level 6 becoming a registered paramedic, perhaps even training others, as much as I am proficient in my abilities, its not something, that hits a spark within me.
I'm not the type of person that wants work to be predictable, I like a challenge, I don't want to know what challenge I will over come next, I've been looking into the pathway to study Myrmecology, its not very straight forward in the UK, its not a recognised vocation, merely part of other qualifications, biology, zoology, etc.
I have already signed upto some free open university courses, knowledge is a powerful tool, and simply available in a few clicks.
Wildlife & Nature courses.
Tending and caring for Ants, you become aware of impacts on the environment, to keep them you create mini environments for them to live, tiny changes can have massive consequences.
on the wider spectrum, I have found myself considering our environment, local wildlife, local nature sites, parks & forests, I have made a huge decision, no matter how old you are in life, your never too old to learn, its never too late to change something, you just have to make that decision and keep going until it happens.
I am going to make a career change from close protection to conservation.
If we cant protect the environment, then how can we protect people?
without a balanced, stable, protected environment, people will die, the air we breath, the waste we produce, I have a passion to protect, I see this career move as simply shifting from protecting people to protecting nature.
Things may be sketchy in the coming months for releasing content, through no fault of my own, the position I have worked for the last 2 years will be terminated on the 30/06/2021, I have lined up other work, I will be back to traveling the country, from task to task, the sad reality of my career is it doesn't leave much time for my family or my life.
My hope is to find a position within a local wild life trust within Hertfordshire or surrounding area's, I have started applying for positions, combining my dedication in my career, with the passion for my hobbies, the out doors, its pretty much a dream job, get to spend time in nature, patrolling the local forests, a great way to me to start gaining skills and qualifications, on a path that I had begun to make plans to enter, before this situation inspired me to reach out and see what opportunities, I can find.
Wish me luck!
Such an awesome interview, catching up with Ants on a Rock! talking about his channel, how it has grown, his next projects! check the interview and catch it all!
This was such an awesome opportunity, interviewing Miles Maxcer from "The Ant Network".
Still getting in line with the time difference, I had thought I still had ample time when the episode started recording, I thought we was due to record 20:00 (8pm) GMT UK time, of course I get a message at 19:00 (7pm) asking where I was! just sitting down to dinner with the misses thinking I had plenty of time to spare, grabbed the laptop, internet cutting in and out, was loading up the show notes as my part came to speak, I was a bit flabbergasted & tongue tied, but soon got into the swing of things, with so many great questions from the community, literally every question I wanted to ask, had already been in put into the show notes, so many great questions I even missed seeing, Esthetics #wedontapprove question and asking it myself, not my finest of moments, but at least we got it asked!
Moving forward I now have my phone showing both the local time in Michigan USA & in the UK, no more time zone confusion!
Give the podcast a listen, if your an Itunes listener, please consider giving the show a review, it helps the ratings & scope massively.
Lauren Silverman, writing for the National Geographic, has written a very in depth article, about Ant Keeping, the unlikely rise of the hobby, which was brought into the mainstream by Uncle Milton's Ant Farms, the first commercially produced & sold world wide, Ant Formicaria in the late 50's early 60's, In the US these Formicaria were sold with Pogonomyrmex a North American, harvester Ant species, when it reached the EU, they were sold with Messor Barbarus, the European harvester Ant, both species remain to be some of the most popular kept, ant species in their regions.
Certainly the hobby has evolved, it would be unrecognisable to our forebearers, with the choices in formicaria alone, not to mention the growth of the hobby worldwide, aided by the age of technology, the internet, as part of the generation that kept Ants prior to the internet boom, NTL made the internet more accessible for the UK, in the year 2000, with the launch of broadband, dial up was a poor excuse for internet, it would take hours to load a simple Jpeg file.
At that point not much existed in the web, regarding the hobby of ant keeping, really I would say it wasn't until the launch of Facebook in 2004, to put it in perspective, my early years as an Ant keeper came to an end, around 2005.
Fast forward to 2021, we have hundreds of Facebook hobby groups with thousands of members, communities across other platforms, Discord, Reddit, Instagram & the latest craze on TikTok.
Information & knowledge on the hobby is now readily available, youtubers such as Ants Canada & Ants Australia, paved the way for millions into the hobby. I would attribute the internet & technology, to being the biggest catalyst, taking this hobby, from a kid like myself keeping Ants in dirt jars & other home made formicaria, fruitless expeditions to the local library in search for knowledge on how to keep Ants, anything I could find, but content was scarce, to having it all at my fingers tips, through my phone or laptop.
The internet totally, changed the face of the world, opened doors, we have never had so much information readily available to us, now a quick google search can connect you to a whole database of scientific and academia, articles on ants, forums filled with Ant Keepers, video content, more than you could find the time to watch it all.
We have been spoilt by some epic documentary's from the legendary likes of Sir David Attenborough, One of my favorite documentaries to come from the BBC was the Empire of the Desert Ants, narrated by Andy Serkis. Follwing a colony of Myrmecocystus (Honeypot Ants) in the deserts of Arizona, USA.
Its moments like these, when our humble hobby is highlighted to the world, that we as keepers, content creators or ant loving community members, we tend to see an influx of newly emerging keepers into the hobby, perhaps sparking an old childhood interest, others a completely new interest, being left in awe from what they have seen or read.
Articles, documentaries, content creators, inspire people to be a part of the hobby, Its been amazing to see this growth, gaining more and more momentum.
The Ant keeping hobby is not like any other hobby that I have ever taken up, it can be an emotional rollercoaster at times, its certainly one of the biggest learning curves, there is so much to get to grips with, from Latin names, to understanding the differences between species, understanding your local laws, Identifying Queens, capturing or purchasing Queens to start a colony, learning how to create a safe and stable environment, it can feel overwhelming.
My advice to new keepers, join Facebook groups or Discord groups, you can find some listed in the "Our Colony" links page, this will link you into one of your biggest resources & support pools, the community as a whole are very welcoming, most go out of their way to help, give advice or make suggestions, its a unique mix and group of people, from all walks of life.
Ants & The Colonialist