Here is a summary of Myrmica rubra.
Temperature: Nest - 21-24°C; Outworld - 20-28°C
Humidity: Nest - 60-75%; Outworld - 30-60%
Hibernation: October - March 6-10°C
Colony Form: Polygynous - sometimes over 100 queens.
Polymorphic: Queen 5-6mm; Worker 4.5-5.5mm. Rubra have two queen forms, a "normal" size macrogyne form, and a smaller (closer to the size of a worker) microgyne form. The microgyne form is more likely to mate in the nest and join the parent colony, presumably because their smaller size makes them less successful at founding a new colony on their own.
Sting: Yes - about the strength of a nettle sting.
Note: They are very very aggressive and will swarm anything that crosses their path - making for some fantastic viewing and growth is quick.
I purchased a colony of 15 Queens & 150-200 workers from TheAntLady and after a short delay due to Royal Mail, they have now arrived. I later tried to count the queens and it turns out that TheAntLady has included an extra 5-10 queens for me, free of charge. Thank you very much!
It boggles my mind how they manage to pack so many ants into such a tight space!
I put them in a Gen 3 Large Acrylic/Gypsum Nest and an S3 Outworld by Wakooshi.
Please ignore the heating cable. That has now been removed. Myrmica rubra do not need any additional heat above room temperature, and it has been suggested that it could even be harmful for them.
Due to the delay in transit, they had been pulling at the cotton and were very keen to be free.
And even keener to get at the ant nectar...
Trophallaxis (food sharing) was happening all over the outworld as the ants made sure that everyone got a share. Here is a picture of some three way trophallaxis with a queen:
Even though they don't have any brood, I gave them some protein in the form of a few fruit flies and a small mealworm, in the hopes that it will encourage the queens to lay more/sooner.
Now that most of the ants have moved into the nest, it is shocking how little room they take up, and it is clear that I have given them far too big a nest. Hopefully, with 20-25 queens, they should produce a lot of brood and they should quickly start to utilise more of the space. But if they start dumping rubbish in it, I may need to transfer them to a smaller nest.
One thing that scared me was the way the workers sometimes transport the queens. When I first saw it, I thought the worker was carrying a dead queen about. The workers pick them up by the neck and the queen curls up to make it easier for them:
I will now leave them to settle in.
A piece of Ant keeping history has been made this weekend the worlds first dedicated Ant convention has been held in Carmarthen Wales, in the United Kingdom, hosted by Ant Antics and Wakooshi check out the official ANTCON website!
An incredible line up of influencers! I'm not just saying that, because I'm slightly bias hahaha!
Ants Hood documented much of the action through the day with various live streams!
The day was filled with things to do, lots of guest speakers, professionals in the field of conservation, sciences and education, Ryan from AntScapes had a build your own what I'm coining as "Myrmetariums" the created natural set ups were then raffled off with the proceeds going to conservation projects, to the Bug Farm if your in wales check them out they have a leaf cutter ant display colony, at the farm and are doing amazing work to protect wildlife in the UK.
It has been 17 days and I haven't even peeked in at these ladies since my last update.
Lets see how they are doing...
As you can see, they have a healthy pile of brood. It could be a little bigger but I am not going to complain. There appears to be 3 pupae and the rest look to be a little younger. I assume that they ate most of their original eggs in transit and these 3 pupae are what remained. Still, starting with only 3 workers will be better than having to wait another two weeks for any to hatch.
I was nervous that the light would stress them out, but they didn't seem bothered. In fact, they didn't even seem to notice!
Having not checked on them for over two weeks, I thought I would offer them some more food... and try to make a better job of it than I did with my first attempt!
This time, I opted to place a few tiny drops of Ant Nectar onto a small sheet of kitchen foil. I also pre-killed a fruit fly in the hopes that a boost in protein would encourage the queens to lay more eggs. I was able to remove the cotton, and, using tweezers, carefully slide the foil plate into the tube, then slowly replace the cotton. All without any noticeable reaction from either of the queens. They just continued standing over their brood as they had been doing.
So, even if they don't touch the food, at least I know that they have been given the option and I haven't stressed them out.
I would definitely recommend the foil plate technique as it also prevents the tube getting dirtied by uneaten food.
Since they don't seem at all bothered by the light, and the fact that the pupae could hatch in as little as a week, I don't plan on leaving them as long this time. I plan to check on them again in a week.
Before I begin, here is a quick summary of Camponotus nicobarensis:
Temperature: Nest - 24-28°C; Outworld - 21-35°C
Humidity: Nest - 50-70%; Outworld - 30-50%
Hibernation: None (although some colonies from northern regions do)
Colony Form: Usually monogynous. Sometimes polygynous. There is speculation that colonies from southern regions are more likely to be polygynous.
Polymorphic: Yes - Queen 12-14mm; Worker 5-7mm; Major 7-12mm
Note: Fast growing compared with other Camponotus species. Mainly nocturnal but are an active species and larger colonies often have a constant presence in the outworld.
Today (28/04/22) I received a founding colony of two Camponotus nicobarensis queens in the post from TheAntLady.
Even though they were only posted the day before, they looked a bit shook up (literally). So I wanted to get them settled as quickly as I could. As I wanted to get them in the warm and dark, I didn't have chance to take many pictures. I also didn't have time to have a proper look for any eggs. But as I couldn't see any, I was worried they may have eaten them with the stress of being sent through the post.
Leaving them in the test tube, I wrapped it in tin foil and placed it on a heating cable (near the open end). This helps prevent condensation and gives the queens a temperature gradient so that they can choose the best temperature for the brood.
Normally, in the wild, nicobarensis are a fully claustral species, which means that they seal themselves into a chamber in order to rear their brood and do not leave even for food. However, in captivity, it is not uncommon for them to accept a small amount of sugar water if given the opportunity. Offering them sugar water within their test tube does have some drawbacks, so it is a bit of a balancing act. Firstly, it is likely that opening the test tube to add sugar water will stress the queen(s), which might cause them to eat their brood. Secondly, any remaining uneaten sugar water might cause the test tube to become mouldy. This can be a danger to the queen(s) and any brood. So you are then faced with the choice of leaving them in a mouldy test tube, or moving them to a fresh one, once again causing more stress to the young colony.
I thought that it may be worth offering my queens some food as I am unsure how long they have already been founding for. I wasn't sure what to do, so I decided to let them settle in for the day while I waited for some more experienced ant keepers to come back to me with some advice.
The advice which I received from various ant keepers was very helpful.
@BigRoss suggested that I get a thermostat, as my "always on" heating cable might be getting too hot for them. He suggested this one from Amazon:
He suggested that I set up a dummy test tube, identical to my queen's. That way I could put the temperature probe in that in order to monitor the current temperatures. I have to say, it is ideal! I can now see exactly what temperature it is inside the test tube and the thermostat keeps the temperature between 26-27°C. It is just one less thing to worry about.
Regarding feeding, Tracie (TheAntLady) suggested that I offer them a tiny drop of sugar water, then leave them alone and try to disturb them as little as possible for a week or two.
So this is what I decided to do. However, I had (what I thought was) a good idea. I thought that if I could avoid removing the cotton from the entrance of the tube, it would be less likely to stress them out. So, I decided on a cunning plan.
I would get a tiny drop of sugar water in a small syringe and poke a needle through the cotton wool, deposit a tiny droplet of sugar water and be done in seconds with them barely noticing.
Pleased with my idea, I proceeded to carefully slide the foil down the test tube. I was delighted to see that there was a small pile of eggs! I am not sure if they were freshly laid or if I had just not seen them before (possibly due to them being scattered previously). Either way, it was a great start. I had planned to take some pictures of the egg pile but unfortunately, it all went down hill from there...
I tried to poke the needle through the cotton and it went most of the way but then started to push the cotton further into the tube. After readjusting the cotton (which caused the queens to move toward the back of the tube, leaving their pile of eggs about half way), I managed to get the end of the needle just passed the cotton wool. Now to deposit a tiny droplet of sugar water onto the side of the tube. I pressed the plunger of the syringe so gently, but to my horror, a droplet (not huge, but larger than I would have liked) spat out the end of the needle and instead of it being just passed the cotton, it landed in the middle of the test tube... right next to the pile of eggs! I was so annoyed with myself, but also relieved that it hadn't actually come into contact with the eggs.
So, now I was left wondering what I should do.
I could just leave them. Would the queens eat some of the sugar water and move the eggs to a slightly safer location? I didn't think the droplet was big enough to drown either of the queens... but I wasn't 100% sure. I couldn't risk it. Fortunately, the droplet was slightly nearer the open end of the tube than the pile of eggs were. So, I carefully pushed the cotton wool into the tube until it was just touching the edge of the droplet of sugar water. Once the cotton had absorbed most of it, I pulled it back into place, leaving the small pile of eggs undisturbed. I slid the foil cover back over the tube returning it to darkness.
I can only hope that my error didn't stress the queens out enough for them to eat the eggs and instead feed on the remaining sugar water.
As I say, I didn't get a picture of the egg pile but here is my current set up:
It is not ideal, but it is only for a month or so until the first nanitic workers eclose, when I plan to move them to a Wakooshi Venus Nest.
I will now leave them for two weeks, completely undisturbed. Hopefully, when I do check on them again, they will have some well grown larvae. 🤞
Hi! I am JC and I am just starting out on my ant keeping journey.
In this first post, I will be sharing a little bit of background about myself, along with my plans for future posts and topics that I hope to cover.
Before that, I would like to say a big thank you to The Colonialist for inviting me to post on his site. I am a big fan, and so when he suggested that I be a guest author, I was honoured but also very concerned that my content wouldn't be good enough. That is still a worry, but if nothing else I am hoping that at least a few of you will benefit by learning from my mistakes :)
I live in northern England and have always loved nature, ever since I was a kid. Perhaps counter-intuitively, this was quickly followed by a keen interest in science and technology. I currently work as a software developer and my hobbies are extremely ecliptic, ranging from computer gaming to jewellery making (see my instagram for more info). I also enjoy listening to a variety of music, from pop punk to country.
I have always been fascinated by social insects and wanted to keep bees at the age of 11. Obviously, my parents wouldn't let me, but they did arrange for me to go and help a local bee keeper look after his hives, which I was thrilled about.
Around that time was also when I got my first ant colony - Myrmica Rubra. Back then, there wasn't half the community or support available to new ant keepers that there is now. The choice of commercially available nests was also a lot more limited. So, not knowing any better, I kept them in an "Ant World" like this:
It was far from ideal, being more of a toy than being designed to meet the ants needs. Despite that, my colony did fairly well and flourished for about 12-18 months, but then they unfortunately started to slowly decline. I now think it was due to me not hibernating them correctly. I moved them into a shed for the winter, but I think it was still too warm as I still saw active foragers, and therefore continued to feed them.
I haven't kept ants since then as I didn't want to risk another colony coming to any harm because of my poor care.
Hopefully, with the resources and support that is available today, my new colonies will fare much better.
I think my posts will be most beneficial to other inexperienced ant keepers. Although, of course, the more experienced among you are more than welcome to follow along, and any tips or advice would be gratefully received.
There are a lot of extremely knowledgeable and experienced ant keepers on Facebook and Youtube, and I highly recommend that new or prospective ant keepers watch or read as much as they possibly can from those people.
However, as a new ant keeper myself, I feel I might be able to offer a perspective that they cannot. It is likely that I will come up against the same problems or questions as others in my situation. And whilst I won't necessarily have the best solution, I will be able to share what I did, and how that decision turned out. So if it goes right for me, you might choose to do the same. Or if it all goes horribly wrong, at least you will know what NOT to do :)
I currently only have a single two queen founding colony of Camponotus Nicobarensis, but intend to add more in the near future. I will try and keep posts for each colony separate from each other, even if that means multiple posts on the same day. I also intend to do some other posts about home made nests at some point, which I will also try and keep separate.
I would also like to apologise in advance because whilst I will do my best to post updates as and when things occur, with work and other commitments, that won't always be possible for me. So please expect some backdated posts.
I look forward to introducing you all to my first colony very shortly.
Please welcome JC Ants! a new author to our colony, with a desire for a space to post about his colonies, his journey into ant keeping, with some interesting and creative idea's.
I personally cant wait to start seeing and reading his content, It will be great to check the website and see some content that I haven't personally created! I will get to experience the same joy you all do, when you see my latest content! I cant wait to learn more about your Journey JC!
If you are an inspiring blogger or content creator and your looking for somewhere to post your content, get in touch and let me know, Ants have taught me, we can do so much alone, but as a colony we are strong! we can achieve! we will become an Empire! Long live Ant keeping!
Email me to discuss further;
Ant keeping is probably one of the most challenging pet related hobbies, I have kept many different species of creatures, reptiles and animals, none have ever felt as intensely challenging and rewarding as keeping Ants.
However this is from my perspective as a collector, I keep various different native and exotic ant species that all require different environments and have their own unique struggles to contend with, some colonies grow into vast empires! Others are able to deliver painful stings, some are calm and mellow with great joy and ease to keep, I experience a wide spectrum of the hobby through my choices to push myself, my understanding and knowledge of Ants and how to successfully keep them, I don't always get it right, I'm far from perfect, but I am determined.
Ants like Messor species mentioned in the linked video, are so enjoyable to keep, these seed collectors are so docile, some species have small colonies other grow to a pretty fair size just ask my friend Ant Holleufer! their behaviour as a species never ceases to be enjoyable to watch, their greatest challenge is in successful founding, often once matured, they are pretty hardy, their long term food solutions make their feeding regime quite generous compared to other species, harvester ants can stores months worth of food resources at any given time, this makes them great if you are looking for a lower maintenance species to keep.
If you have just started Ant keeping and all these things feel totally alien to you, don't panic, you have plenty of time to learn and the ant keeping community, the vast amount of youtube content and of-course my blog, are all here to help you on your journey of discovery.
The everyday life of an ant keeper, can be as complicated or as simple as you would like it to be, often people catch "Antkeepernitis" an incurable infection that causes the patient to buy multiple colonies of ants and bask in their glory! its sadly quite contagious it speculatively infects around 99.9% of the ant keeping community.
For those beginning this road into the Hobby, start small, start simple, its a journey, its more like the hobby of bonsai tree's than go karting, it takes patience, it takes time, but as with any hobby, the more time you put into it, if you have passion, dedication, you both grow together, you feel the amazing feat of taking a colony from a Queen to an empire, seeing your first workers emerge, or the first time they forage, its a hobby filled with curiosity, just in the early days you have to be careful that you don't get too curious and overly stress a founding colony, i think this lesson only ever really comes with time, experience and a sort of maturity into the hobby, there is probably not a soul alive who has made the initiation into this critical error, failure is not losing a colony, it will happen, this hobby presents unusual challenges, with an incredible amount of learning, not just about Ants and their various genus and species, but about the environment, how to master and control an environment to successfully keep your ants, its about nutrition, lets face it you often end up down a scientific rabbit hole to progress, the famous line of a pokemon master, "Got to catch them all" to do this you have to know the pokemon, what it needs, how to care for it, this is where "Antkeepernitis" kicks in, so be careful!
In the beginning you have a Queen and months of little to no changes, She has to lay brood, the brood has to develop, at this stage if the Queen has a few workers, they have a limited capacity as to the workload they can undertake, between the various tasks they must complete, Ants spend an incredible amount of time, cleaning their environment, cleaning and caring for the brood, foraging for food and the labour intensive task of harvesting that resource and bringing it back to the colony, its a lot of work for a small colony to complete, as the colony grows you will experience more and more of the workers, foraging, they use the youngest, weaker workers, as nursery nurses, they have the numbers to keep a sustained work force within the queens chamber nursing the brood, the queen and doing all of the cleaning, the older more mature workers which will most likely number in the majority, will undertake the foraging and resource management roles, you colony is now developing the logistics it needs to really start to grow and become interesting, depending on the species you care for will ultimately dictate the work load, the size of the colony, the size of their out world/foraging area and nest capacity, whether your using additional live cleaner insects, such as springtails, isopods, beetles, etc.
If you have any Questions regarding Ant keeping or would like me to create any content to help explain or for tutorial and learning purposes, let me know in the comments below!
Ants & The Colonialist