If you have never kept ants and know little about them, to understand my dilemma you must first understand, adult ant workers live on a primary diet of carbohydrates, provided in the forms of sugars.
I find myself constantly torn between the socially accepted and what is actually best for my ant colonies, for instance the socially accepted in the hobby is to mix up some cane sugar or honey in water and offer this to your colonies for their carbohydrate needs.
In the wild, this is not naturally a common occurring type of sugar that most species will be interacting with, unless your colony is from one of these major sugar cane producing regions, South Africa, Brazil, India, Mauritius or the West Indies, its unlikely they would be accessing natural cane sugar which is primarily Sucrose, knowing the effects sugars have on humans, our ability to digest them, I wondered how ants cope, especially species that have not evolved to primarily consume these types of natural sugars, not including the diet of Urban ant colonies who often feed on human food waste & products.
Often pondering, does feeding these types of sugars have a negative impact on the colonies long term health?
Speaking to people who had experimented with providing their colonies different types of sugars, I asked if they had noticed any difference in activity or foraging with prolonged use of any type of particular sugars, many reported seeing changes over a week when trying different sugars, improved activity or workers becoming docile & less active, it is commonly advised within the community to rotate using honey or sugar mixes on a regular basis for your colonies best health.
I've been looking at pre-made sugar solutions for ant colonies from retailers and these all fall into the same category of providing the ant colony with one or two types of sugars with no evidence to how they effect the colonies health in the long term, they are not wrong in providing these types of products, there is not much in the way of study on this subject, simply they are following the norm within the hobby, many add vitamins or protein powders to provide the colony additional benefits and still work as part of a healthy balanced diet for your colonies.
Finding better results with some, than I have with others,
I really like the range from AntBoyUK his Honeydew contains added ingredients that are beneficial to a colonies over all health.
Byformica is probably one the most known products, with their Sun Burst Nectar available in the UK & EU from Ants Davey. this is quite a basic and simple sugar solution, it does contain preservatives to balance the shelf life. Despite being advertised as natural wholesome ingredients free from preservatives it contains Less than 0.5% of the following: sodium hydroxide, sodium chloride, potassium chloride, FD&C Yellow #5, FD&C Yellow #6 colourings.
Its primary sugar ingredient is Sucrose, which is the least common type of sugar found in an ants natural diet.
I'm not bashing the company they have a great tried and tested product, ants will consume sucrose when it is offered, it is widely fed to captive colonies, but through the research I am beginning to under take, sucrose is not a good primary source of sugars for your ant colonies carbohydrate needs.
I plan to take a journey to discover the types of sugars that Ants naturally consume in their wild diets, I will be reaching out to institutes and universities, manufacturers & ant keepers.
I want to discover what the best types of sugars should we be feeding our colonies for their best health.
So that as keepers we are best informed to give our colonies the best life.
Explosive growth & Trouble in the Out world!
The Messor Colony, has exploded in numbers, it numbers into the hundreds! In just 4 months from entering their acrylic nest, their out world, has been expanded twice already, the third large out world was given to them, v1 was a half natural set up, they decided to build a satellite nest! This was fine until i saw brood being moved, i knew i had to act.
I created another identical large out world, this time without the ability for them to nest in it,
i got the shock of my life when i was finally ready to make the transfer.
Disconnecting the out world from the nest, and having the new out world ready to accommodate the troop transfer of these ladies.
At my last count the colony had just over 100 workers of varied size, transferring the out worlds i discovered this colony had grown to over 3x that last count! well over 200 workers, carefully transferred using various methods, the cotton ball pick up, the tube placed so they can walk into the new out world but not get out, moving them on the decorations, it was a painstaking process that took in excess of 6 hours to complete!
The transfer complete, the new out world hooked up to their acrylic nest, it wasn't long before i found the colony trying to escape! workers in their droves trying to chew through the pipe connectors! It hit me, they need more space, the satellite nest, the colony was overcrowded.
I had a spare acrylic nest & out world that i could take apart and use sections of it, so they could have a controlled satellite nest, Messor Majors are very destructive, i find its best to keep an eye on them, to ensure the colony is contained!
This will safely give them further housing, they can collect and process seeds in the satellite nest, whilst keeping the Queen, brood & workers vital to nursery duties, can remain within the main acrylic nest.
From such humble beginnings, this colony is truly growing into an impressive empire!
Successful Feeding List -
unsuccessful feeding list -
In Testing -
The Hobby Taboo, Keeping Exotic Ants.
I've been asked a lot if i would recommend it to everyone, across the world?
Quite simply, No.
Many live in countries where it may be against the law, or requiring a permit, or even have a delicate eco system.
I would always recommend those new to keeping Ants as a hobby, to start Native, local species, never run, before you can walk, before those steps, you must learn to crawl.
It also in my opinion relies heavily on the maturity of the keeper, the reason they wish to keep these exotic species, its a big commitment to make, as you can't release these species if you decide to change your mind, down the line.
However if the laws permit, the trade is legal, your responsible, experienced, confident you can care for and most importantly contain these species. If all the pieces of the puzzle fit together with your finances and commitment.
Then by all means, enjoy these amazing species as i do.
In the UK where i am from the exotic pet trade, is a huge part of our culture, the laws are pretty relaxed, I've kept and bred many species of reptiles, before stepping back into the keeping of ants and beginning my journey into Exotics.
This happened pretty innocently with a colony of Messor Barbarus. A readily available european species within the UK, i researched heavily into exotic species, the more i learned, i became enthralled, i understand the risks, I'm not willing to keep species such as Argentine Ants, Pharoah Ants, that could harm my environment.
Each species, i have since added to my collection, have been chosen for their adaptation or trait, a personal study, a journey as a hobbyist, learning, appreciating & caring for these colonies. planned, each studied meticulously to get their care requirements right, cost & expenses, to ensure i can make the commitment and keep it.
Its a solid step that you must remain dedicated to and a step not to take lightly.
I do not condone the illegal trade of any exotic species, Arachnids being some of the most commonly traded species on the black market.
Its important to source from reputable traders. No matter what exotic pets your thinking of keeping, do not be afraid to ask for proof of legitimacy.
I do not condone breaking the law or releasing of exotic species into your local climate, the reality is, if a suitable home, can't be found, the Colony must be destroyed, this is the harsh reality of this responsibility.
Where are you currently, in your journey of Ant keeping?
What is it like where your from in the world?
Are you #teamnative or #teamexotic?
I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject in the comments!
Apologies the video's have not been released... I was caught up in a car crash, my car is wrecked, but, I'm ok!
Updates have been a little slow!
Bare with my written update on the Acromyrmex Octospinosus Colony.
I know many of you following have been eager to catch up.
Having ordered some piping to fit the connecting tubes together!
I've had to abandon the water heater, it was just not working, no matter what i tried!
Incomes the heat light & heat cable!
The light a 60w green reptile light keeps the set up between 23°c at the rooms coldest and 24.8°c at normal room temperature with a maximum climb of 26.8°c with the heating on!
Spot testing the substrate the temperature varies less a low of 23°c with a high of 25.4°c
If the temperature falls below 24°c the heat cable will come on, to keep the set up environment stable.
The set up, falls to 95% Humidity if opened for a while, then rises to 99% with the lids in place.
Despite all my efforts the Acro's are determined the pipe on the far right of the set up, is their nest! Its easy for them to control the micro climate to care for the fungus, so for now until they cultivate more fungus, i shall leave them, the cap has been secured, using some blue tac, on the other end i have used a j cloth, over the pipe and then secured the cap.
We are through trial and error getting it right!
Their recent diet has been bramble leaf & rose leaf, they enjoyed half a grape upon arrival which i removed after a few hours, this was a boost for the workers after their journey.
In the picture you can see the set up has changed slightly in decoration.
The far left pod, the refuse pod, orchid bark substrate, a central small pot filled with coco-fibre, this is the pot the refuse is moved to, it will allow them to create a landfill and burial site that can be removed and cleaned as required.
The central pod is the intended fungus chamber, i believe another factor of their move to the harvesting pod, was to be closer to their food source, so for this reason i now place their food source in the fungus chamber, in the centre of the pod is a small pot, covered with red acetate, this is to allow them to move in the fungus and create another micro climate.
On the far right, this is the harvesting chamber, decorated to allow them, to feel as though they are trecking further, a requirement of health for this species, not so important at founding, but certainly as they develop, it is decorated with orchid bark and coco fibre substrate with a root log decorative piece.
On the 8th March the colony of Acromyrmex Octospinosus Leaf Cutter Ants arrived from
The Journey has begun and i will be documenting & blogging, the goings on within the colony.
I shall be keeping a food log and various other interesting data logs on the colony.
Studies have shown the basidiomycete fungus of the Acromyrmex is best kept at 24.5°c data showed this was the sweet spot, to promote, optimal growth patterns within the fungus.
Requiring 80-100% humidity levels.
Introduction to Polyrhachis Dives
Polyrhachis Dives, The lesser Weaver Ant, their larvae spin silk.
Polyrhachis use this silk to weave large nests, using foliage & debris found in their natural habitat. Unlike the True Weaver Ant, Oecophylla which uses the leaf of a live plant to form their nests.
Polyrhachis, however, have a lot more to them, than meets the eye, this species is able to self perpetuate, without the need of males, from another colony of the same species.
Inbreeding, you ask?
Not exactly, the Queen is able to store different genetics, she will fertilise the female alates with one set of genetics and the male drones with another, thus allowing them to mate, without inbreeding, these newly mated Queens are then allowed to return to the Colony, most species will only accept new Queens at founding this is known as Polygyne, due to their nesting habits, being above ground, nests have been found between, floor & knee height, these colonies can contain hundreds if not thousands of Queens, brood at all stages, forming impressive super colonies.
The female workers are monomorphic, meaning they all share the same shape & build, varying only in size by a few millimetres. They do not have workers of varied shape and size to perform different tasks, they have powerful mandibles and are able to produce formic acid, another offence in their arsenal, they have two spikes on their spines a defensive characteristic.
They are not shy of taking down prey of any size, workers will surround and pull apart their victims, while other workers spray formic acid and attempt to cut through limbs and body alike. They are impressive hunters.
Polyrhachis have a brutal social structure, weakness is not acceptable in any form, illness, injuries, age, disputes, often end in death. they produce workers at an incredible rate, they cycle their brood at varied stages, new workers eclose from their pupae's, on a weekly basis, in their droves.
Ants & The Colonialist