Register a SA Forums Account here!
JOINING THE SA FORUMS WILL REMOVE THIS BIG AD, THE ANNOYING UNDERLINED ADS, AND STUPID INTERSTITIAL ADS!!!

You can: log in, read the tech support FAQ, or request your lost password. This dumb message (and those ads) will appear on every screen until you register! Get rid of this crap by registering your own SA Forums Account and joining roughly 150,000 Goons, for the one-time price of $9.95! We charge money because it costs us money per month for bills, and since we don't believe in showing ads to our users, we try to make the money back through forum registrations.
 
  • Locked thread
OneTwentySix
Nov 5, 2007

fun
FUN
FUN




There's been some interest in the Critter Quest thread and over PMs of people wanting to start an ant farm, so I thought I'd make a thread. I'd post in the invert thread, but I figure a good OP might be useful, and a lot of people interested in keeping ants might not be looking in the invert thread.

Getting Started

Obviously, you're going to need some ants. For the most part, when people get into keeping ants, they don't mean grabbing some workers and sticking them in a farm; these colonies don't last long and you don't get to see many ant behaviors, just digging. If you want a long term colony, you're going to want to find a queen. You can either find an established queen, or you can find a mated queen.

To start, it's important to be able to identify a queen ant from a worker. The easiest way to tell a queen apart is wings. In ants, only the reproductives have wings, and when they do, they're called alates. The male and female alates will leave the nest and will mate in the air. The males die shortly afterward, while the females land and search for a place to start a colony, removing their wings shortly afterward.

If you see a winged ant, it's either a virgin queen, a mated queen, or a male. Males are generally easy to identify, since they'll have a tiny head and often a smaller body than a queen of the same species . They'll also die within a day or two. If you see a queen alate and it isn't flying or in a nest, she's probably mated, and if you collect her she'll probably drop her wings within a day or two.

If the queen has already dropped her wings, she's a bit harder to identify, but will still be fairly easy. Queens will tend to be quite a bit larger than their workers. They'll generally have larger thoraxes with prominent wing muscles, and will always have a wing scar, little marks where the wings were. Her behavior will also be different; she'll move around randomly and alone, whereas workers will generally be foraging in groups in set paths.

You can also find new queens under rocks or in logs, starting their own colonies. They'll be alone, often with brood, and will often be more or less sealed off from the outside world. They'll rapidly try to scurry away, but you can generally collect them; just be sure to collect any eggs, larvae, or pupae with her.


The other way to get a queen is from an established colony. This is generally much more difficult since it relies on more luck, though it depends on the species. In the spring or during a cold spell, you may find the queen when you flip a cover object as she may be near the surface with the brood to keep warm.

Alternately, you can try digging up a colony. This works best with small colonies, but is very labor intensive and difficult to pull off in most cases. You'll want to dig up the whole colony, placing it carefully in a bucket, and then manually sorting through it with a spoon, searching for the queen. When you consider than some nests can be over 20 feet in diameter, and even small nests can be 3-5 feet, this can be very difficult.

Wood-dwelling queens can be easier to find, as you may come across them in a rotting log. The log will often be easy to take apart to find the queen, peeling back bark and so forth will sometimes reveal her. Unfortunately, this can be a bit ecologically destructive, so try to limit yourself if you end up doing this, or stick to firewood.

A few species will have queens that leave the nest. Apparently, you can even occasionally find Linepithema humile (Argentine ant) queens foraging in the lines of workers. I've also heard that you can flood out Argentine ant nests with a hose and find the queens that way as they leave the nest. This is helped by the fact that Argentine ants are polygynous and often have multiple queens, up to 30 or more in one nest.

Make sure you collect some workers and brood, as the queen can't survive alone after the initial start up period, where she has her communal stomach full of food, as well as her wing muscles to draw energy from.

Types of Farms

Now that you have your queen, you'll need to set up a formicarium. There are a lot of ways to keep ants, some better than others.

For the most part, commercial ant farms don't work well for long term colonies, as you run into problems with mold and humidity control. The Uncle Milton ant farms and the gel ant farms both fall into these categories; they're designed to be cheap and easy and aimed at children looking to watch them dig.

A test tube setup can work really well for new queens. Fill a third of a test tube up with water, and then place a piece of cotton inside to keep the water in place. Add your queen, and then plug the other end with cotton or a suitable plug. The cotton and water will keep the humidity optimal and you'll be able to watch the queen without disturbing her too much.

Once the pupae eclose (the worker comes out), you can rig some airline tubing to connect the ants to another setup, more test tubes, or to an outworld, and expand as needed.

The only disadvantage of a test tube nest would be that they're kind of boring.



Plaster nests are also common. The idea is to take a pane of glass (either cut special, or you can get it cheaply by buying a picture frame of a suitable size) and finding a form; a sandwich box may work well. Place the glass down, and then take modelling clay and attach it to the glass to make little chambers and tunnels. Keep in mind that ants like small, close spaces. Then, place the glass (clay side up) in the form, and pour your plaster over it. Regular plaster works fine, but hydrostone can work even better, since it sets up much harder.

After the plaster has set, remove the nest and flip it over. Carefully remove the glass pane, and then remove all the clay from the nest or the glass with a knife or other object. Usually it mostly will pull up in one piece and you just need to scrape around the plaster a bit.

Now, you can return the nest to the form if you like, with the glass/tunnels facing up, and drill holes in the side for expansion, water, or outworld tunnels. You'll want to tightly affix a piece of plastic tubing (you can get these at petstores or at stores like Home Depot, in various sizes to fit your species) in each hole. Fill one tube with water surrounded by cotton on both sides, like the test tube setup, to help hydrate the ants and keep the nest from drying out. Another can be blocked off with cotton or some other plug, and then used to expand the nest at a later time. The third should lead to an outworld. Be sure to use hot glue or some other object to seal the tubes in; you don't want the tubes to pop out and release all your ants into your room.

Optionally, you can add a few other elements. I've seen plaster nests where a reservoir of water was formed with clay in the same fashion as the tunnel. This reservoir isn't connected to the tunnels, and is just used to keep wet; the water will wick out into the nest to prevent the ants from dessication.

I've also seen small holes made for a syringe, so that small amounts of water can be injected into the hive at various points (it soaks into the plaster right away).

The main disadvantage of plaster nests is that they tend to dry out (the syringe and reservoir are attempts at solving this) and they often mold after a year or so. Hydrostone is supposed to stay mold free for longer than regular plaster of Paris.

They're also a bit labor intensive, but fairly cheap (under $20, usually around $10).

Here's an old photo of the second plaster nest I made. It was pretty simple, but I had problems hydrating it and lost the queens I used it in (the wick/dixie cup solution was a bad idea and didn't work, and I'd do better if I tried again now).



You can also use an old aquarium or a glass jar filled with dirt. This is simple and easy, but you won't be able to see the queen.

Finally, you can buy a nest from a site that sells custom made Formicariums. These generally work really well, but will often cost $30-60 or more.


You'll need an outworld, regardless of your setup, once your first workers are a few days old. This is a separate container where the ants can forage for food or bring their dead/waste. An aquarium or plastic bin works well for this, attached to the nest with a plastic tube. You can leave it open if you coat the top with vegetable oil or Vaseline, though these solutions aren't completely fool proof. Regardless, it doesn't have to be complicated, though you can do neat things like planting food for aphids that the ants might tend (depending on species), and so on.

Basic Ant Life Cycle

Once your queen is set up, hopefully you'll find eggs within a few days to a few weeks. Eggs will be round and will often clump together (depending on species) to make them easier to carry. After a few days, they'll hatch into larvae; they won't look much different, but you may see them moving a bit, or they'll have more of an elongated, bowling pin, or "c" shape. They go through several instars, growing larger each time, while the queen feeds them from her social stomach. Eventually, they'll turn into pupae; some primitive species (like carpenter ants) will spin cocoons. Eventually, they'll finish transforming and will eclose (ants don't "hatch" from a pupa, since they're not in an egg) as workers. Generally, the first workers will be nanites, or very small workers, due to the scarcity of food. Once they start foraging and feeding the queen, she'll be able to produce normal sized workers. The whole process generally takes 40-60 days, though it's faster at warmer temperatures and may vary depending on species.

Feeding Your Ants

For the most part, ants will eat sugary things (sugar water, honey, candy), along with bits of protein (bugs). However, their diet depends on the species. Some ants prefer seeds, others eat and grow fungus. A few groups are specialist predators on centipedes. Generally speaking though, sugar and bugs are accepted by most species.

I like to take a piece of Q-tip and dip it in honey, and then offer this to my ants. It works well for the species I've kept, and doesn't tend to leave a mess. You'll want to supplement this with various bugs. It's generally best to freeze any bugs you feed before giving them to your ants, to minimize the risk of disease transmission or the ants being injured. If you have to feed live insects (and really, most people want to watch their ants taking down something once in a while), fruit flies are often a good choice (provided your culture does NOT have mites). The main problem with bugs as food comes from mites, which can decimate a colony, or from various parasitic fungi.

For the most part, ants eat all sorts of things, so they shouldn't be to difficult.

FAQ

- Should I feed my queen when she's founding her nest?

There are three groups of ants; claustral ants that seal themselves away during founding, semi-claustral ants that partially seal themselves away, but will still do some hunting during this period, and social parasites.

You can try feeding claustral ants, but most won't accept food. If you do (or try to) feed them, be sure it won't lead to mold developing.

Semi-claustral ants need to forage, so you will need to provide food for them. What this food is depends on the species.

Social parasites are queens that sneak into a nest, kill the queen, and use the workers to raise her brood. These queens are very difficult to raise and aren't recommended to begin with.

- More to come

Resources

http://www.myrmecos.net/antbehavior.html

Really awesome ant photographs, highly recommended.

http://antfarm.yuku.com/directory

An ant forum. Lots of intelligent people very knowledgeable regarding ants. Unfortunately, the site owner is extremely insane regarding spelling and grammar, making the site extremely frustrating to read. Good place to get ants ID'd, though!

http://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=2520457

Jovial_cynic's original thread, from a few years ago. You might need archives to view it, unfortunately.

So, feel free to ask questions, and post pictures of your ants!

OneTwentySix fucked around with this message at 01:29 on Jun 7, 2012

Adbot
ADBOT LOVES YOU

OneTwentySix
Nov 5, 2007

fun
FUN
FUN




Here are some of my ant photos. I currently have two queens that I collected three months or so ago, both Camponotus spp. In this week, both queens had workers start eclosing; my smaller queen has a single worker, and the larger one has three, two of which came out last night.

This is my smaller Camponotus (Carpenter ant) queen. I'd originally thought she was a fire ant queen, due to basic shape, but realize she had cocoons, and fire ants don't spin cocoons.



Queen, worker, and brood.



Here are a couple eggs, some larvae, and a pupa.



Worker with brood.



Queen drinking honey on a Q-tip.


Larger Camponotus queen



The flash kinda washed out this photo, but here's the larger queen when she was still in the original container I had her in.


I posted all those in the Critterquest thread a while ago, and things have developed a bit.

Here's the smaller queen again:



Worker tending the brood.



Queen again. Notice how the abdomen is much larger, bulging out a bit compared to earlier photos. She's well fed now, rather than slowly wasting away, so it feels nice to see that.


I moved my larger queen into a test tube last night, just in time to see a worker eclose. I was able to get a few better photos, too.



Queen tending brood with a worker.



Worker with brood. You can see a number of cocoons, including two darker ones that eclosed later that night.



Worker with brood again. They kept moving it around, so the positioning is a bit different than the previous photo. You can see one of the cocoons is partially open; they were really struggling to get that open!



Here's a blurry shot of the queen drinking. I wouldn't share it, but you can see her tongue in that shot, which I thought was kinda neat. The one problem I have with test tubes is that I ordered plastic tubes, and they were slightly scratched when I got them, making photos harder.

Kerfuffle
Aug 16, 2007

The sky calls to us~


This is an awesome thread. I love ants and the critter quest threads rarely have any any photos. Thanks for sharing.

Somewherelse
Mar 10, 2007

I'LL SAVE YOU!!!!

Agreed when I was in primary school I must have gone through a dozen Uncle Milton farms. Half the time the ants they sent were dead.

Carpenter Ants eh? What part of the states are you in?

Also I would be interested to hear some details about how you caught your current specimens. Also he ones that died/got away?

Kharnifex
Sep 11, 2001
Probation
Can't post for 3 hours!


reposting some of my ant pics

Myrmecia set up she is laying eggs




unidentified black ant - the queen doesn't get along with her workers anymore, who moved out, one seems to be a larger morph than the other ones. queen is laying eggs





OneTwentySix
Nov 5, 2007

fun
FUN
FUN




Somewherelse posted:

Agreed when I was in primary school I must have gone through a dozen Uncle Milton farms. Half the time the ants they sent were dead.

Carpenter Ants eh? What part of the states are you in?

Also I would be interested to hear some details about how you caught your current specimens. Also he ones that died/got away?

I'm in SC, but there should be carpenter ants everywhere. Back home in Wisconsin I kept them a few times, though the species diversity was much smaller.

I caught the smaller queen at a gas station. I looked down and saw her moving on the pavement. Since I keep a small container in my glove box just for that kind of thing, I was able to collect her and bring her home.

I can't remember for certain, but I think the larger queen I collected in one of my salamander tubs in the back yard. She flew into the water and was drowning before I got her out. There were a number of queens out that day, so I'm not 100% sure if she was the one I kept. I see a lot of queens this way, though a lot drown, too, or sometimes I just see the wings and she must have gotten out.

In the past, I've collect queens just by being outdoors a lot and spotting the swarm days. I used to work at a summer school/day care thing, and when we were outside one year I saw the ants swarming. So I started collecting a few, and then the kids really got into it. "If Pete likes ants, they must be awesome!!!" And so for the rest of that year and the next, the kids would look for queen ants; they learned really quickly how to ID a queen. I also brought in Sim Ant for the computers, and they loved that.

When I first moved to SC, I found a carpenter ant queen when I was flipping logs for salamanders. She had a full colony, so I collected as many workers and brood as I could. The colony lasted a while, but eventually humidity issues came up and they didn't make it.

My biggest problem has been humidity; my plaster nests never seemed to work out right and the ants would die. (Never had any ants get away, setups have always been secure, even when I did have fire ants once with their tiny workers). Since then, I've learned ways to deal with it (syringe, or maybe that reservoir idea), but my original two plaster nests didn't have these things. I also didn't know how cheap test tubes are; I got ten for under $8 including shipping on Amazon. The test tubes are amazing; I've had queens dry out in the starter containers, and it can be tough to both leave the queen alone and water her, so I've really been happy with the tubes so far.

It's generally not too difficult to find a queen if you're looking at the right time. In Wisconsin I could generally find tons of queens setting up their claustral cells to overwinter (I'd need to keep them cold to have them lay in the spring; one year I had 20 queens overwintering, but the tub they were in got moved in the garage so it wasn't close to the house, and that was enough to freeze most of them; the survivors didn't do so well in the spring due to my setup problems, either. Disappointing; I had a really neat thief ant queen, too (Solenopsis molesta)). Peeling bark from firewood in the spring or fall or after a nupital flight can be rewarding for some species, or lifting rocks can reveal a claustral cell. One year I went down near Charleston for reptiles/amphibians, and I was flipping a fire ant queen under almost half of the ties near a railroad. I didn't have a container for them, unfortunately. That same trip I found carpenter queens at a rural gas station; the lights were drawing them in.


Kharnifex posted:

Australian ants

Those are really neat; Australia has some of the coolest ant species. I don't know if it's normal in your species, but I have heard about workers and queens fighting and all sorts of really crazy behavior in Australian ants. The Myrmecia look so cool, too! Are you liking the custom made formicariums?

OneTwentySix fucked around with this message at 19:33 on Jun 7, 2012

Kharnifex
Sep 11, 2001
Probation
Can't post for 3 hours!


OneTwentySix posted:

Those are really neat; Australia has some of the coolest ant species. I don't know if it's normal in your species, but I have heard about workers and queens fighting and all sorts of really crazy behavior in Australian ants. The Myrmecia look so cool, too! Are you liking the custom made formicariums?

yeah I like the formicariums, they are really neat, I am going on another trip to see what I can find in the wild.

I hope I get to see the myrmecia build a bit of a brood, but I'm not confident.

Lava Lamp Goddess
Feb 19, 2007



I currently have a Carpenter queen in a test tube and she's laid a bunch of eggs. It's hard to tell, but somewhere between eight and ten. I've only had her a few weeks but she certainly has been producing well since I moved her into the test tube. She hasn't gnawed one of her wings off for whatever reason.

At this stage, what do I really have to worry about to keep her alive? She has humidity and I've been told she probably won't eat. Just sit back and hope for the best?

OneTwentySix
Nov 5, 2007

fun
FUN
FUN




Yeah, for the most part, just don't disturb her too much and she should do well. Once she has workers, you can start opening things up and letting them into the outworld and so on. In the wild, she'd be sealed into a little chamber in a log or something of that nature, and the workers would open it back up.

I caught a male ant today, but when I went out looking I didn't find any females. I'll try to upload pictures later for a comparison. I kept him just in case I was wrong and he's a she, but I'm pretty certain he's not.

Kharnifex
Sep 11, 2001
Probation
Can't post for 3 hours!


We went camping last weekend and a friend took some photo's of ants I annoyed,

I think this is either a camponatus spp or Polyrhachis from memory it did have spikes towards the rear
http://www.flickr.com/photos/55096385@N00/7379491462/in/photostream/lightbox/

Rhytidoponera metallica
http://www.flickr.com/photos/55096385@N00/7379493176/in/photostream

Iridomyrmex purpureus
http://www.flickr.com/photos/55096385@N00/7379497146/in/photostream

My myrmecia queen is quite active and burrowing etc,

the mystery black queen I have has a bundle of eggs now, and the separated drones are still fairly inactive

Kharnifex fucked around with this message at 13:45 on Jun 16, 2012

Farecoal
Oct 15, 2011

There he go


Would it be theoretically possible to keep honeypot ants? Or driver ants?

WoodrowSkillson
Feb 24, 2005







Does Master of Puppets play endlessly in the Queen's chamber?

Mister Facetious
Apr 21, 2007


You're Goddamned right I support Medicare for all.







OneTwentySix posted:

http://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=2520457

Jovial_cynic's original thread, from a few years ago. You might need archives to view it, unfortunately.

So, feel free to ask questions, and post pictures of your ants!

Ooh, I've been looking for that thread, thanks!
Ant farms are really neato.

Kharnifex
Sep 11, 2001
Probation
Can't post for 3 hours!


WoodrowSkillson posted:

Does Master of Puppets play endlessly in the Queen's chamber?

haha snap, didn't even think of that.

physeter
Jan 24, 2006

high five, more dead than alive

What a great thread. As a kid I'd kidnap entire ant nests from our backyard, surround them with a moat and turn them into mini-gladiatorial arenas for whatever hapless bugs I could catch. I was actually able to keep one going for 4 months this way, effing brutal little fire ants would devour anything. But I was a kid and didn't understand stuff like humidity/infection.

OneTwentySix
Nov 5, 2007

fun
FUN
FUN




Farecoal posted:

Would it be theoretically possible to keep honeypot ants? Or driver ants?

I don't know if anyone could keep driver ants or any other army ants; they're probably just too huge. You could probably manage it if you had crazy resources at a university or something, though, but I don't know that you'd want to try it at home if you weren't some sort of insane ant fanatic.

Honeypots are probably a bit tricky, but doable; you'd just need to get a queen and to set up the nest so there are chambers for the honeypots to hang from. I did a quick search and it looks like AntsCanada made a nest for a Discovery Channel honeypot ant thing, so it looks more than possible, if you can get the queens. You could make your own nest fairly easily, too, if you took some time to make a plaster mold.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6WLhAmOyt_w

Kharnifex posted:

We went camping last weekend and a friend took some photo's of ants I annoyed,

I think this is either a camponatus spp or Polyrhachis from memory it did have spikes towards the rear
http://www.flickr.com/photos/55096385@N00/7379491462/in/photostream/lightbox/

Rhytidoponera metallica
http://www.flickr.com/photos/55096385@N00/7379493176/in/photostream

Iridomyrmex purpureus
http://www.flickr.com/photos/55096385@N00/7379497146/in/photostream

My myrmecia queen is quite active and burrowing etc,

the mystery black queen I have has a bundle of eggs now, and the separated drones are still fairly inactive

Neat! The one does look like a Camponotus, but I can't say for sure. Aussie ants are always pretty awesome, though.

physeter posted:

What a great thread. As a kid I'd kidnap entire ant nests from our backyard, surround them with a moat and turn them into mini-gladiatorial arenas for whatever hapless bugs I could catch. I was actually able to keep one going for 4 months this way, effing brutal little fire ants would devour anything. But I was a kid and didn't understand stuff like humidity/infection.

I used to feed bugs to ants, but never tried anything like that; sounds pretty neat, at least! I tried digging up nests to find the queen, but never managed to.


Took a few pictures over the past week or two, but have been really busy and exhausted from helping a field herpetology project.

Anyhow, here they are:



Here's an older picture of my larger carpenter ant nest, where one of the workers was eclosing.



Here's a bunch of larvae and some of the workers. They seem to be doing really well.




Pictures with mom in the mix.

The smaller queen isn't doing the best, but is hanging in there.






I'm not sure what's going on here; it's been a while since I took the photo. I'm not sure if she's helping the ant eclose, or if she's grooming it, or what. I've since lost one of the two workers (both nests have lost a worker, actually), so maybe this is related?



There are my two nests. Right now, I'm up to 6 workers (and one dead), ~3-4 cocoons, and maybe 20 larvae in the larger nest, and 1 worker (and one dead), no cocoons, and 8-10 larvae in the smaller nest. The smaller nest isn't do so well, but she's so much smaller, so some of it could be related.

I also have been looking for ants when I've been out. Here are two males that I found (one was dead in the photo, and the other died the next day).



I had another queen that I found on the field site I was at one night, but didn't have the water and cotton in it and it was dead when I got home, oops. I've found a few others, but didn't have anything to store them in at the time, so there's still lots of flights going on.



Here's an actual fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) queen, at least, I'm pretty sure it is. I found her drowning in a small plastic container in my back yard; I was sure she was dead, but she was still kicking when I got her out. I had a test tube in my pocket (I'd just been in the field and hoping to find something) and put her into it.

Unfortunately, she was wetter than I thought, and when I checked on her, she was almost completely drown in a puddle from all the water coming from her wings. I put in some extra cotton at the entrance and it sucked up the extra moisture. She then went on and recovered completely after this. The next morning, she'd shed her wings and she's since laid some eggs.

Having a bit of trouble focusing, unfortunately.



Here's a wing; the others are in the tube or I removed them on the extra cotton (ants have four wings).



If you look closely, you can see the eggs. She's laid a LOT of them, which makes sense, since fire ants go completely nuts with numbers.

OneTwentySix fucked around with this message at 04:05 on Jun 20, 2012

Kharnifex
Sep 11, 2001
Probation
Can't post for 3 hours!


wow, that's a great update,

the gauge of wire on the formicariums from anthills.net I have really restricts the size of ants I can keep,

I guess with the plaster/frame one's you have this doesn't become such an issue?

Imapanda
Sep 12, 2008

Majoris Felidae Peditum


Gonna bump this need thread saying that I am in the middle of planning an ant farm myself. I'm thinking about using the plan from the OP in the older 2007 thread, with the carved wood slabs plus plexiglass held down by rubber bands, each connected by a series of tubes. I have a few questions as well though.

I'm not very familiar with ant biology and am eagerly trying to read up as much as I can. I live in the metro area of Minnesota, A snowy hellscape for 6 months of the year and moderate humid weather during the warmer months, local ecology is just wet eastern deciduous forest, I'm assuming carpenter ants will be the most common I'll find across my driveway? What traits and where can I look if I want ants (and a queen) that will last long in my wooden fortresses?

What is a decent way to deal with humidity? I've read about the damp paper cloth option, is there any others?

I'm not a big fan of just tearing apart soggy trees, I'm a big wuss when it comes to dealing with creepy-crawlies and I wouldn't want some man eating spider to devour my face so I've read that there's other options, such as where I can dig around a small colony and pour water into the 'moat', forcing them out towards the top, but I'd imagine this only brings out the queen in certain species and can cause some of them to drown. Any input about this?

And for when I finally get the moment to scoop them up, is there any tools that are better than others, like are there any containers or basters that can catch them and hold them without murdering the ants before they arrive in their new home?

I feel like an idiot, but I really don't want my first colony to die out within two days.

edit: All of the ants near my home are so tiny, I'm never going to find those big black plump ones I see all over the internet.

Imapanda fucked around with this message at 17:00 on Aug 11, 2012

OneTwentySix
Nov 5, 2007

fun
FUN
FUN




I don't really know ants well enough to offer too much advise on what works best, but any species you can get started should do pretty well, assuming you find the queen.

Your best bet is to look for newly mated queens; you can find them most of the (non-winter) year. Now isn't the best time to find them, but you still can, as some species will have spring, summer, or fall (or more than one season) breeding events. Try looking near a light at night; gas stations in the middle of nowhere are often pretty good places. Otherwise, just keep your eyes open; they tend to fly more often after a rain, provided it's been dry.

You can also flip rocks if you think there have been flights; I've seen queens in claustral chambers in the fall in Wisconsin several times, and collected fall alates. They might need to be cooled during the winter, and will wait until spring to start laying, though; I kept a tub of alates over the winter in a container in the my garage; I kept it close to the interior wall so that any escaping heat would keep them warmer, and they did fine until my dad moved the tub away from the protected wall. I lost most of them, but even in freezing temps, a couple survived. You could fridge them, possibly, too.

Using a test tube's worked for me, with the water in one end behind a cotton ball; it seems to keep humidity at the right levels. You could try making a plaster nest with small holes that you use a syringe to add water, too; that looks like it might be a decent method, or you could build a plaster nest with a reservoir hole that you'd fill with water; it wicks out pretty well, or so I've heard.

I've never drowned out a nest, so I can't offer advice. I hear it works well with Argentine ants, but haven't ever done it.

In the spring, you can find queens under cover objects if you look enough; you'll find them when it's sunny but still cool; especially in the mornings, where they're trying to warm themselves under the warmer cover object. I don't have much advice for now, though. Digging up colonies is usually not very productive, but if you have patience, it can be; I've never successfully dug up a queen, though.

There should be the big carpenter ants in your area; the workers are a lot smaller. The black ants you see might be carpenter, or they could be other types like Formica or various pavement ants, etc. Ant diversity is really high, even in WI/MN.

Your best bet is to wait for spring, but otherwise, just spend a lot of time outdoors, and watch for flying ants. Leave the porch light on, if you're in an area that isn't completely light-flooded at night, and you might get lucky. I've found tons of alates when doing fieldwork at night (or when fishing).

Hopefully you'll find something!


My ants haven't been doing the best; I ran into some problems and had some food go bad that killed my smaller queen, and my larger queen's workers all died due to a problem with my tube being too small. She's still alive, but I don't know how she'll do, so that's kinda stunk.

Lava Lamp Goddess
Feb 19, 2007



My queen is still kicking. No workers yet but there are currently five cocoons and she just laid about 15 or so eggs in the past few days. I really hope a worker ecloses soon. The water in my test tube is only about 1/2 left and I would like to get them moved into a formicarium eventually. I'd rather have a worker move the rest of the brood than have me screw around with it. My queen is getting a little on the weak appearing side, moving slowly and sometimes clumsily. I'm thinking of giving her a little honey but I'm hesitant to get something on the inside of the test tube that would interfere with the eggs, etc.

She also still has one set of wings for some reason. Just wants to be special, I guess.

SchrodingersFish
Mar 9, 2012


Lava Lamp Goddess posted:

My queen is still kicking. No workers yet but there are currently five cocoons and she just laid about 15 or so eggs in the past few days. I really hope a worker ecloses soon. The water in my test tube is only about 1/2 left and I would like to get them moved into a formicarium eventually. I'd rather have a worker move the rest of the brood than have me screw around with it. My queen is getting a little on the weak appearing side, moving slowly and sometimes clumsily. I'm thinking of giving her a little honey but I'm hesitant to get something on the inside of the test tube that would interfere with the eggs, etc.

She also still has one set of wings for some reason. Just wants to be special, I guess.

Post some pictures! I don't know anything about ants so I can't really contribute to this thread, but I think the topic is really awesome and I'd love to see some pictures of people's setups, queens, broods, eggs, queen-finding-expeditions whatever!

This seems like a dumb question and maybe it has already been answered- do you have setups that allow your ants to dig their own burrows? I know some people mentioned that kits you can buy cause a lot of problems, but it seems like part of the fun watching ants is seeing them dig out a big ant city. Some of the ant homes in earlier pictures seemed to have the chambers pre-formed. I guess it's cool to watch the ants move in and set up shop in prefab homes too.

Kharnifex
Sep 11, 2001
Probation
Can't post for 3 hours!


Unfortunately my Myrmecia Queen has died from some kind of fungus. Will try to rebuild in Spring.

Lava Lamp Goddess
Feb 19, 2007



Two of my workers eclosed yesterday! Finally. Now I just have to set them up with more permanent digs. And that's where my problem occurs.

I was trying to buy a formicarium from http://www.anthills.net/formicariums.html , but for some reason their Paypal account is hosed and won't work. I emailed them and I hope they get back to me. I looked around the rest of the internet and it seems most places selling formicariums or farms are located in Europe with questionable international shipping. I would make one myself but I have absolutely zero equipment or handy ability required to work with plaster, ytong, glass, plexi, etc.

In the mean time I'm just going to add on another test tube. Would sugar water be an okay food? I really don't want to give sticky honey to my queen and risk making a mess.

KiddieGrinder
Nov 15, 2005

HELP ME

Odd question, but do ants suffer from loud noises or vibrations?

Basically, I'm thinking of a formicarium on the desk, with some speakers blasting music occasionally. Would that be a problem? Are ants sensitive to vibrations/sounds?

Would that hurt the little guys?

edit: also what's with the red acetate stuff over the viewing window?

edit again: would a basic tupperware type container suffice for a foraging area? Provided it's sealed (except maybe a small vent hole that's protected), is that all that matters, it's a secure place that's for food and connected to home?

KiddieGrinder fucked around with this message at 22:09 on Sep 6, 2012

Desert Bus
May 9, 2004

Take 1 tablet by mouth daily.

Lava Lamp Goddess posted:

Two of my workers eclosed yesterday! Finally. Now I just have to set them up with more permanent digs. And that's where my problem occurs.

I was trying to buy a formicarium from http://www.anthills.net/formicariums.html , but for some reason their Paypal account is hosed and won't work. I emailed them and I hope they get back to me. I looked around the rest of the internet and it seems most places selling formicariums or farms are located in Europe with questionable international shipping. I would make one myself but I have absolutely zero equipment or handy ability required to work with plaster, ytong, glass, plexi, etc.

In the mean time I'm just going to add on another test tube. Would sugar water be an okay food? I really don't want to give sticky honey to my queen and risk making a mess.

Looking at those beautiful formicariums makes me want to try my hand at keeping ants. I hear the words "ant farm" and my mind immediately goes to that cheap green plastic one I had as a kid.

OneTwentySix
Nov 5, 2007

fun
FUN
FUN




KiddieGrinder posted:

Odd question, but do ants suffer from loud noises or vibrations?

Basically, I'm thinking of a formicarium on the desk, with some speakers blasting music occasionally. Would that be a problem? Are ants sensitive to vibrations/sounds?

Would that hurt the little guys?

edit: also what's with the red acetate stuff over the viewing window?

edit again: would a basic tupperware type container suffice for a foraging area? Provided it's sealed (except maybe a small vent hole that's protected), is that all that matters, it's a secure place that's for food and connected to home?

Vibrations are probably bad, though they might get used to it; I wouldn't recommend it, though. Especially with a new queen.

Ants can't see red light, so the red acetate makes it so you can view them without being noticed.

A sealed tuperware would be fine, or even an open one if properly coated with something; some people use Vaseline, though I never have.

Kharnifex
Sep 11, 2001
Probation
Can't post for 3 hours!


Spring weather has hit, and I found these two outside, not sure if it will produce anything.



Bit of an update, the larger ant passed away,

The smaller has eggs

Kharnifex fucked around with this message at 04:24 on Oct 21, 2012

KiddieGrinder
Nov 15, 2005

HELP ME

They look adorable!

Keep us updated!

OneTwentySix
Nov 5, 2007

fun
FUN
FUN




Eggs and larvae, they look like they're doing well!

I just captured two queens a few hours ago; I had the lights on for the dog and forgot to turn them off, and found a pair of ants by it. One of them has since shed her wings, and the other is just grooming herself, but looks like I'll be giving this one more go this year. I just hope that I am far enough south that they won't need a dormancy period.

RoboRodent
Sep 19, 2012



Oh, neat.

I won't lie. Ants creep me the gently caress out, but they also fascinate me horribly. When I was seven I did make myself an "ant farm" with a big mason jar of dirt and a queen I'd found on the driveway. She dug herself down in it, and then Mom threw the jar out a few days later and I was angry.

In her defense, though, it was pretty much as good of a set-up as you'd expect a seven-year-old to make and wasn't exactly proof against escaping ants. Also, I never thought they might need water.

Kharnifex
Sep 11, 2001
Probation
Can't post for 3 hours!


Ok, one drone complete,

how many more do I let hatch before trying to move into an ant farm?

should I still feed them with a drop of honey water?

removed for table breaking*

Kharnifex fucked around with this message at 01:16 on Jan 15, 2013

Kharnifex
Sep 11, 2001
Probation
Can't post for 3 hours!


So I lost a few starter colonies to Mycosis.

I have started another with a wild caught Camponotus Queen, Banded sugar ant.

They are quite large, I have put her into a test tube with water, inside a container with several other tubes like this,

I am probably going to avoid substrate for now as I think it may be the issue or possibly uneaten food.

6 eggs so far.

Kharnifex
Sep 11, 2001
Probation
Can't post for 3 hours!


A small update,

The Sugar ant queen is doing well, she is in a large enclosure and has managed to raise some eggs so far,

probably far off a drone currently as they grow to roughly an inch in length.

She managed to fight off small black ants who got into the enclosure through some small pin holes, and crushed them to bits.

Currently the only food I have added was some sugar crystals, that turned liquid from the humidity.

OneTwentySix
Nov 5, 2007

fun
FUN
FUN




Awesome! Glad to see you're doing okay with ants still! My luck hasn't been the best and I don't have any right now, but I'm looking forward to trying again this coming season!

SchrodingersFish
Mar 9, 2012


Yay! Pictures! Keep posting everyone, I don't know much about ants so posting pictures really helps me visualize what's going on.

Kharnifex
Sep 11, 2001
Probation
Can't post for 3 hours!


Workers, couldn't get a clear shot for fear of escape, working on building this up so it's a multi layer nest with a forage zone.

Basically large plastic box with two smaller ones inside.

Kharnifex
Sep 11, 2001
Probation
Can't post for 3 hours!


So it's starting to cool down here now,

12 drones, no large soldiers yet. Still has more eggs and cocoons though.

One trend I noticed was the workers have piled up the fish pellets I used for protein against the wet cotton bud, I am not sure to what end but I am worried mycosis may kill the colony.

Occasionally the queen and soldiers move to the other test tube.

Kharnifex
Sep 11, 2001
Probation
Can't post for 3 hours!


It's starting to get cold here in Oz, the colony has grown, and moves about daily. I couldn't get a clearer shot if I open the secondary lid to the nest chamber I will be swarmed with ants. A second level may need to be added.

UltraGrey
Feb 24, 2007

Eat a grass.
Have a barf.



That is awesome! Glad that colony seems to be thriving...ants are so awesome.

Adbot
ADBOT LOVES YOU

OneTwentySix
Nov 5, 2007

fun
FUN
FUN




Well, I've got a farm going again, hopefully this year I'll do better!

When I was at work, I happened to find two carpenter ant queens under a garbage can, and then later found a smaller, probably still Camponotus queen in my backyard. My test tubes are all terrible quality, though, so the pictures aren't great.



Nevermind the dirty towel; I can't move that to clean since a very heavy frog tank is sitting on it.



The little guy with eggs and/or larvae.



Bigger queen with a nice pile.



The other queen; her larvae are a big bigger.


How is your colony, Kharnifex; still doing okay?

  • Locked thread