Ant Keepers United

MBargo

Woo hoo!
Backer
Beta Tester
#1
Ant keepers, show yourselves.. and your colonies too! :D


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Let me introduce myself - I started keeping ants 11 years ago. I had (and still have) plenty of species from Poland. I prefer smaller ants, but have also some aggressive and/or bigger ants too.

Currently I keep:
- Camponotus herculeanus - colony from ~2013 (started with a single queen), sits inside cork nest so I'm unable to count them (at least 200+) :p
- Formica rufibarbis - colony started in 2012 from a single queen, sits in sandy nest so I'm also unable to count them (at least (400-600 ants)
- Formica cinerea - two small colonies, one 1,5 year old and second only half year old
- Solenopsis fugax - colony started 1,5 year ago, they are so small that it is hard to count them too. I presume there are 400-500 ants in the nest or even more
- Leptothorax acervorum - small colony gathered in a stick in coniferous forest (a few dozen of ants and 2 queens)
- Lasius brunneus - first successful attempt of establishing a colony of that species. I think I caught the queen in 2015. Currenty it has ca. 25 workers ^^
- Lasius flavus - just cuaght, I will have to hand it over to someone (no, I'm not trading ants here! :x)
- Camponotus fallax - I traded a colony of T. caespitum for her. Have the queen from two years, and the colony never started to grow.. only 1 worker :<

My ideas for formicariums and some photos of my colonies (current and old ones) can be found at:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/zielona-mrowka
 

MikeSlugDisco

Community Manager
Staff member
Community Manager
#2
Man, one of the things I've been blown away by following the development of this game is how it's attracting the REAL ant fans - people who keep colonies in their homes for fun. That's a really humbling thing and I know the guys were a bit humbled by how real enthusiasts were getting excited for their RTS game.

BTW, you're as excellent a photographer as you are an ant keeper. That Flickr page is astonishing.
 
#4
I have very basic ant-keeper experience: Lasius niger and Lasius flavus. Always been mesmerised by Atta colonies though, has long been my dream to keep one.
 

myrmex

Larva
Backer
Beta Tester
#5
Hello,
i have a Messor barbarus colony since 2009. I had many ant species befor but Messor is my favorit :). I like species with big polymorphic and not aggrassiv.
 

Brosencrantz

Larva
Backer
Beta Tester
#7
This is amazingly cool! Did you build all those formicaria yourself?

I've been wondering about keeping ants of my own for a while, probably starting with some lasius niger at home. Are there any good ant-keeping resources and sites you recommend?
 

MBargo

Woo hoo!
Backer
Beta Tester
#8
Brosencrantz said:
This is amazingly cool! Did you build all those formicaria yourself?
In my case, I do mostly parts of them. I buy a tank (acquarium) or another container and them modify it to my needs.

Brosencrantz said:
I've been wondering about keeping ants of my own for a while, probably starting with some lasius niger at home. Are there any good ant-keeping resources and sites you recommend?
Of course they are :) It mostly depends on in which country do you live (or more if you live in temperate zone, tropics, etc what indicates a bit different behaviour of your local ants).

For example, for English users:
http://antfarm.yuku.com - forum for antkeepers and myrmecology amateurs
http://www.antscanada.com/starting-your-ant-colony/ - how to start
http://www.antfinity.com/articles/ant-keeping-guide-beginners/ - how to start 2
http://www.antnest.co.uk/miscantstuff.html - some details about ants
https://www.antstore.net/shop/?language=en&switch_country=DE - one of the oldest shops
http://www.antscanada.com/product-category/starter-kit/ - another shop
http://www.antcat.org/references - a huge collection of monographies and articles about ants
http://www.antwiki.org/wiki/Welcome_to_AntWiki - AntWiki
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossary_of_ant_terms - some terms
http://antkey.org/en/lexicon/43 - another glossary
"Journey to the Ants" -E.O.Wilson and B. Holldobler is a nice book to start your hobby and where you will get some knowledge about ants
http://rcin.org.pl/Content/40295/WA058_24248_P4753_Mem-Zool-45.pdf - a short script about laboratory methods of rearing ants - a bit old but most of information are still up to date

I would advice you to start with popular, eurytopic species able to find in your area which queens create a nest in a claustral way. Simplifying - find a species that is easy to catch by yourself or easy to buy from other antkeepers, can stand your mistakes and queens of this species do not need any special care while they are waiting for first ants.

I would recommend also to cath a queen by yourself, but if you live in Europe, time for cathing any 'fresh' queens after nuptial flights will start with late spring..

Tell me where do you live and I will try to find a list of species for you :)
 
#9
Hello! I as well am ant keeper, although not as advanced. I currently have Solenopsis Invicta, Camponotus Floridanus, Camponotus Tortugas, and I had a Brachymyrmex (unkwown species) that sadly died. I had like over 100 queens of Solenopsis Invicta that I caught one day after it rained and they all flew. I was trying to sell them on Ants Canada, but it became to complicated so I just cancelled that and gave some away, let some go, kept some, and some others died. It got to much for me so I just ended of keeping one colony of invicta and I have the other colonies of carpenters (one wild caught and the other queen-raised). It's interesting that your into photography, as I am too, but I don't have a macro lens so I don't take ant photos to often. Are you a GAN farmer by any chance?

I use grout for my formacariums. Also, I saw that you said that your carpenter colony only had one worker. I have seen this before. I know sometimes carpenters take a very long time, but I don't think they take that long. I'm not sure but it could be possible. Have you went to the ant yuku about that yet?
 

MartialisHeureka

Worker
Backer
Beta Tester
#10
MBargo said:
Brosencrantz said:
This is amazingly cool! Did you build all those formicaria yourself?
In my case, I do mostly parts of them. I buy a tank (acquarium) or another container and them modify it to my needs.

Brosencrantz said:
I've been wondering about keeping ants of my own for a while, probably starting with some lasius niger at home. Are there any good ant-keeping resources and sites you recommend?
Of course they are :) It mostly depends on in which country do you live (or more if you live in temperate zone, tropics, etc what indicates a bit different behaviour of your local ants).

For example, for English users:
http://antfarm.yuku.com - forum for antkeepers and myrmecology amateurs
http://www.antscanada.com/starting-your-ant-colony/ - how to start
http://www.antfinity.com/articles/ant-keeping-guide-beginners/ - how to start 2
http://www.antnest.co.uk/miscantstuff.html - some details about ants
https://www.antstore.net/shop/?language=en&switch_country=DE - one of the oldest shops
http://www.antscanada.com/product-category/starter-kit/ - another shop
http://www.antcat.org/references - a huge collection of monographies and articles about ants
http://www.antwiki.org/wiki/Welcome_to_AntWiki - AntWiki
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossary_of_ant_terms - some terms
http://antkey.org/en/lexicon/43 - another glossary
"Journey to the Ants" -E.O.Wilson and B. Holldobler is a nice book to start your hobby and where you will get some knowledge about ants
http://rcin.org.pl/Content/40295/WA058_24248_P4753_Mem-Zool-45.pdf - a short script about laboratory methods of rearing ants - a bit old but most of information are still up to date

I would advice you to start with popular, eurytopic species able to find in your area which queens create a nest in a claustral way. Simplifying - find a species that is easy to catch by yourself or easy to buy from other antkeepers, can stand your mistakes and queens of this species do not need any special care while they are waiting for first ants.

I would recommend also to cath a queen by yourself, but if you live in Europe, time for cathing any 'fresh' queens after nuptial flights will start with late spring..

Tell me where do you live and I will try to find a list of species for you :)
Quite a few forums you've got there! I'd add on one major one: http://formiculture.com.
 

Serafine

Queen
Backer
Beta Tester
#11
So nobody added any additional pictures yet? That's kinda sad. Here are mine.

Queen Barbarianna and the lazy horde in their current home, the Great Wastelands:






 

Serafine

Queen
Backer
Beta Tester
#13
The cactuses are actually artificial and just decorations. I wanna make them a soil tank with aphids but that won't happen until the colony is much bigger.

They are six now btw and their sixth worker is a medium one:


This is the most recent picture (April 17th), they are sitting on an ton of pupae.



If you're interested you can find my entire ant colony journal here, it's getting updated very frequently:
http://www.formiculture.com/topic/4167-serafines-camponotus-barbaricus-welcome-to-lazy-tube/
 

Serafine

Queen
Backer
Beta Tester
#15
Here's an update on my Camponotus, they're doing really well.


Planemaster said:
I'd love to keep a small ant colony or two although I'd think my parents would have something to say about that ;D
Antkeeping is actually a really cheap and easy hobby. They're way cheaper than any other animal, don't cause medical costs (if they get sick they either deal with it on their own by sorting out the sick colony members or die off), don't eat much and require very little maintenance.
All you need is a few test tubes, some cotton, a plastic container, some sand and whatever works as barrier so the ants can't crawl out of the container (baby powder and rubbing alcohol or fluon).
Most ants eat dead insects - you can buy these at pet stores (you can even catch some spiders from around your house) and just put them into the freezer before feeding them to the ants. Some ants like the Harvester ants of the Messor and Novomessor genuses eat seeds like grass seeds, dandelion seeds, bird food and canary bird food as well as nuts and almonds, which makes caring for them even easier - just dump them a handful of seeds into their container once per week (they even store them in their tubes and nests) and make sure they always have enough water. Harvester ants also like dead insects (which leads to much faster colony development) but it isn't needed.

Something important to know is BIGGER ANTS ARE EASIER TO CARE FOR. Ants like Serviformica, Camponotus and Messor are WAY easier to contain than Rainbow ants or Pheidole species that can squeeze through tiny gaps or even walk over many barriers that work fine for larger ants.
Also bigger ants develop slower which means they won't explode out of their setup within a few months like Solenopsis fire ants or Crematogaster acrobat ants like to do.

And you need to make sure that the queen you've caught isn't a parasitic one that cannot found a colony on it's own (a parasitic queen invades a colony of another species to kill the queen and seduce the workers into tending for her brood so she doesn't have to).

https://youtu.be/SDrUr0gvP90
https://youtu.be/T3Kd8IqAiRI
https://youtu.be/WErTN2e2eUk
https://youtu.be/JiD5Sx60CVA
https://youtu.be/8edRYbn65Oo
 

MBargo

Woo hoo!
Backer
Beta Tester
#16
Serafine said:
And you need to make sure that the queen you've caught isn't a parasitic one that cannot found a colony on it's own (a parasitic queen invades a colony of another species to kill the queen and seduce the workers into tending for her brood so she doesn't have to).
And that only applies to unexperienced ant keepers for whom they might cause problems (like searching for pupae of a proper host or adoption of old workers of that host). After gaining some skills and knowledge (or buying released game) parasitic ants can be kept as well ;)

I can't also fully agree that
Serafine said:
BIGGER ANTS ARE EASIER TO CARE FOR. Ants like Serviformica, Camponotus and Messor are WAY easier to contain than Rainbow ants or Pheidole species that can squeeze through tiny gaps or even walk over many barriers that work fine for larger ants."
I agree with the part that they are easier to contain, but not maintain. First of all, I should point that I'm writting about middle-european species (I understand that Serafine is from North America<?>). Camponotus here are sometimes really hard to start when you try to do so from a single queen. It sometimes take half or even a year for the queen to start lying eggs. Then, if you are a lucky one, they will develop to 3-6 workes up to 20 in 1,5-2 years. If you are unlucky before first batch or seond bath (or both) of imago workers appear there will be a half year of stagnation. So, in case of Camponotus generalisation is not a good thing.

There are also Sevriformica, or just Formica (as Serviformica is a subgenus of Formica) which require hibernation every year to develop further. Ommiting hibernation may cause them often to fall into stagnation (half year or even a year!). They develop quite fast and grow to large numbers.

I did not keep them yet but I have friends who did/still do - Messor requires a nest that does not mold. As far as I know they do not develop well in all kinds of formicariums (especially cork ones), can dig through plaster of paris and ytong, etc etc. As the new antkeepers usually have tendecy to overdose water it might be a problem for ants to stay their food away from mold.

IMO, Lasius and Tetramiorium (both very common in Europe and N. America) are the easiest, most resiliant and idiotproof ants. Tetramorium are smaller ones that will escape if they find a small gap but if you keep the queen in, they will just return after sacanning nearest surroundings. Possible escape is the only problem here. Those genus are interesting (L. niger creates pheromone trails, Tetramorium is also garnivorous), develop quite fast and are easy to catch/are cheap.

That's my opinion, I understand that you might not agree with that :)
 

Serafine

Queen
Backer
Beta Tester
#17
MBargo said:
And that only applies to unexperienced ant keepers for whom they might cause problems (like searching for pupae of a proper host or adoption of old workers of that host). After gaining some skills and knowledge (or buying released game) parasitic ants can be kept as well ;)
Parasitic queens are always tricky and adoptions can easily fail. I've even read journals where everything went fine until the parasitic workers eclosed only to be murdered by the host workers.
I wouldn't recommend a parasitic species to a newbie.

MBargo said:
I agree with the part that they are easier to contain, but not maintain. First of all, I should point that I'm writting about middle-european species (I understand that Serafine is from North America<?>). Camponotus here are sometimes really hard to start when you try to do so from a single queen. It sometimes take half or even a year for the queen to start lying eggs. Then, if you are a lucky one, they will develop to 3-6 workes up to 20 in 1,5-2 years. If you are unlucky before first batch or seond bath (or both) of imago workers appear there will be a half year of stagnation. So, in case of Camponotus generalisation is not a good thing.
I'm actually from Germany.
Also that is mostly true for Camponotus ligniperda which seems to be the most difficult one of the european natives. Camponotus ligniperda also (unlike other Camponotus) does not benefit from additional heating - they will just drop into hibernation earlier after they're done with their season plan.
But yes, Camponotus take a veeeeery long time to develop, especially the central european ones.

MBargo said:
There are also Sevriformica, or just Formica (as Serviformica is a subgenus of Formica) which require hibernation every year to develop further. Ommiting hibernation may cause them often to fall into stagnation (half year or even a year!). They develop quite fast and grow to large numbers.
Formica s str (the hill-building wood ants that found massive multi-queen colonies with millions of workers) are protected in most european countries anyway and keeping them is prohibited. Serviformica usually don't grow very large colonies (just a few thousand workers).

And yes, obviously all ant species from temperate regions need their hibernation.

MBargo said:
I did not keep them yet but I have friends who did/still do - Messor requires a nest that does not mold. As far as I know they do not develop well in all kinds of formicariums (especially cork ones), can dig through plaster of paris and ytong, etc etc. As the new antkeepers usually have tendecy to overdose water it might be a problem for ants to stay their food away from mold.
Messor are best kept in a nest (or even two separate connected nests) with a dry part (where they can store seeds) and a wet part (where they can raise larvae). And yes, they can chew through Ytong but Camponotus majors can do that as well.
The main issue with Messor (especially Messor barbarus) is that they can be an army of little wrecking balls completely obliterating an outworld by grinding out all the grout, removing or even disassembling all the decorations, pulling cotton from the water tubes so those leak into the outworld (which makes re-shaping the environment even easier) and generally wreaking havoc on anything they can dig up, chew through, carry away or modify in a way that allows for it to be used as a building material.
If I'm ever gonna get a second ant colony it's gonna be those little wrecking balls ;D

MBargo said:
IMO, Lasius and Tetramiorium (both very common in Europe and N. America) are the easiest, most resiliant and idiotproof ants. Tetramorium are smaller ones that will escape if they find a small gap but if you keep the queen in, they will just return after sacanning nearest surroundings. Possible escape is the only problem here. Those genus are interesting (L. niger creates pheromone trails, Tetramorium is also garnivorous), develop quite fast and are easy to catch/are cheap.

That's my opinion, I understand that you might not agree with that :)
I agree that Lasius and Tetramorium are by far the easiest species to care for. Also while they may not be very large they're still by far not the smallest species.
When I think about small ants it's ants like the smaller Iridomyrmex species (rainbow ants), the smaller Pheidoles (bigheaded ants) or the tiny Solenopsis molesta and fugax (thief ants) which all are a pain to contain.

Lasius and Tetramorium are probably by far the best beginner species but I wouldn't say that as a beginner you cannot keep ants like Camponotus or Messor/Novomessor or even ponerine ants. If you do your research, aquire the knowledge you need and have enough patience you may do well with those, too.
 

Serafine

Queen
Backer
Beta Tester
#20
Those fire ant colonies will explode out of their setups very soon. Solenopsis had a ridiculous growth rate, better buy some large plastic containers, you gonna need them.
 
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