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.
Ants & The Colonialist