Inspired by friend and fellow content creator, Ants Holleufer, I was intrigued by his experiments with Lasius Niger, moving forward from his experiment, looking at his data, having read some interesting research papers, I intend to start the project.
I've kept & founded countless colonies of Lasius, always from single Queen, often with high losses, when founding colonies you always know that a percentage of those Queens will not succeed.
Project Lasius Noir, intends to understand how this species founds, in the wild, often recorded,
founding with 3 Queen's, through my research I've discovered, this is in part due to the short amount of time Lasius have to attempt to establish a colony and collect supplies before winter sets in causing them to enter diapause then to hibernate.
Not only do the queens collectively boost their brood production, these Queens share their resources, their presence together gives one another a higher immunity to disease, less stress, resulting theoretically in higher chances of success.
The thesis that begins this experiment, sets out to discover whether, co-founding colonies have a better success rate than Single Queen founding colonies, will the losses of founding through pleometrosis out weigh the losses of single founding Queens, resulting in an overall success and higher survival rate of colonies and the species.
This revelation could rock the ant keeping community, going against all current and understood founding advice for this species, But first we must conduct the experiment to understand get the results to prove or disprove this theory.
This years nuptial flight 2021, I intend to capture test Queens for this experiment, In the mean time, I will continue to tweak and work on the thesis, read and explore more research, that supports or disproves the thesis, my goal is to give better results for keepers, higher success rates for founding colonies and to better understand the natural behaviors observed in this method of colony founding.
The experiment will require 30 Queens -
5 x 3Q Founding Lasius Niger Queens
15 x 1Q Founding Lasius Niger Queens
The experiment will start the day of capture, the results will be calculated 2 months after hibernation next year in May 2022.
To control the environment the Colonies will be housed in 20 Wakooshi Mini Venus Nests, they will be inside an Exo Terra Incubator, providing a completely controlled environment, they will be fed on a diet of sugars & liquidated meal worms, following the diet provided by Kutter, H. & R. Stumper. during their Lasius Niger Experiment in 1969, which recorded a Lasius Niger Queen living to be the longest recorded adult life of any insect: 28¾ years in captivity.
All best efforts will be maintained to provide laboratory standards through out this experiment.
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I've been told to expect hostility regarding these experiments from many in the community, who may see them as cruel or unnecessary, in the long term, experiments like these advance our understanding and success in, rearing the ant colonies we keep. I hope that you see this experiment with an open mind, a curious mind, its purpose is to educate & explore.
Hours of research & consideration have gone into the experiment, all with the aim of maintaining its integrity.
15 test Queens may provide the data that could pioneer our understanding of how Lasius Niger use co-founding as a survival tactic, it may change how we consider founding the species in the future to ensure greater success, less failures, less colonies needlessly lost, over all more colonies survive, the critical founding stage.
"In about 18–25% of cases, groups of 2–5 unrelated queens co-found colonies. However, after the first workers emerge, queens start fighting with each other. Ultimately, only one queen survives, and she alone benefits from the colony’s future reproductive success."
To understand the motive behind this experiment, you must understand the success rate of colonies during the founding stages, losses are high, Queens die through the founding stage for many reasons.
The experiment seeks to understand the comparison of success to loss, between co-founding colonies & single founding colonies, to balance the results we need to extend the results past their first hibernation, to see if co-founding offers additional resilience to surviving, this first major test for a founding colony.
There is no doubt throughout the process and in fact the entire reason this species plays such a massive numbers game in their survival, is due to fatalities being high, survival is slim, nature is brutal, as it is beautiful, Ants do not possess Human sentiments, its all for the greater good not the individual.
"The ability to produce an abundance of offspring or new growth; fertility."
The short title for this research paper is "Benefits and factors of pleometrosis"
This experiment carried out in Germany in 2017, has very similar idea's & deliveries, with interesting results that support my proposal for Project Lasius Noir.
They first collected a cohort of 45 Queens, selecting 15 Queens to be single Queen founding & then 15 Pairs of Queens the experiment was recorded over 53 days.
Well worth reading through these research papers and you will soon find the project is not unfounded, you can find a lot of data to support it.
It is my hope in the long term, to find methods for the captive Ant keeper to lower the chances of losing their colony over the founding stage, could keeping a single Queen, actually be doing more harm than good?
Does this species require, in a manner of speaking, sacrifice for success?
Do the benefits of co-founding outweigh the advised single Queen traditional method of founding?
How dramatically are their survival rates effected between each method?
These are just some of the questions I am seeking to answer in this experiment.
I have wrestled with the ethics involved and I personally feel, the experiment is ethical, the experiment replicates a behaviour, naturally exhibited by the species, the data produced could prove to hold valuable results, that will benefit both the Ants & the community in the long term.
I hope that you all feel the same way and are ready to take this journey with me?
Ants & The Colonialist