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Goons Are Great
Jan 1, 1970

Well yeah, but honestly..



No worries, chances are they are still alive and were just moving, which takes a while. If you see ants carrying brood, it's best to just let them be, they'll be gone very soon and are just trying to move stuff as quickly as possible. They won't steal food or hurt anyone during that.
They probably still settled elsewhere and they sort of expect to suffer casualties, so you probably didn't eradicate them over it!

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Per
Feb 22, 2006


Hair Elf

Can you talk a bit more about sleep. How often/for how long do ants sleep? Can they force themselves to stay up much longer than usual if needed?

How old do individual ants become?

When was the ants' use of pheromones discovered? Was it a huge game changer in myrmecology, like the Rosetta stone in Egyptology?

Goons Are Great
Jan 1, 1970

Well yeah, but honestly..



Per posted:

Can you talk a bit more about sleep. How often/for how long do ants sleep? Can they force themselves to stay up much longer than usual if needed?
In general most invertebrates or actually even most non-mammals sleep regularly, but not like we do in big blocks of sleep bound together over many hours, but split up over many, many moments of sleep across the day, combined with times of simple inactivity. Arachnids for example, especially Tarantulas and Scorpions (I also own a scorpion, hence why I take this example) are famous for their incredible inactivity throughout the day, just sitting there, doing literally nothing until hunger kicks in, they sleep a lot during that time, but not all the time, as you can observe when they react to you coming in, or moving a rock or whatever. Inaction is usually almost equal to sleep for many animals, especially invertebrates, so sitting around doing nothing is almost as good as sleep and a lot safer, as you can still react to stuff.
Ants do it just like that, too, they usually just sit around when exhausted and do nothing, which you can see inside the nest a lot. During those periods of low activity they also fall asleep from time to time, usually not for more than a few minutes, wake up again without doing anything, then fall asleep again etc.
They can adjust this almost freely in all directions, including sleeping and sitting around a lot when there's nothing to do, or being active for many hours at a time without any break. As long as the overall energy level is fine and there is enough food intake to generate energy (as with many invertebrates, ants cannot get fat or store food inside their bodies, so eating is a vital necessity and key to their ability to be active), they can but don't really have to sleep, however will still take every opportunity they can get just in case there is a time where this choice is no longer given.

Per posted:

How old do individual ants become?
The oldest ever recorded ant queen made it to 29 years in a Formicarium, that one was a Lasius Niger queen. An individual worker ant usually can get two to five years old, highly depending on the species, their activity and their ability to hibernate during winter. Tropical worker ants rarely made it beyond 8 to 12 months (however they also only take a few weeks from egg to adult ant), temperate ants (who require one or two months for egg to adult) with a winter break usually have more time with a few years each.
Entirely generalized and on average, with huge ranges between the species and disregarding the time before they are adults and disregarding non-natural causes (predators, diseases etc.):
For temperate queens: ~5-8 years (once they made it through their first year, that is)
For temperate workers: 2-4 years
For tropical queens: 1-3 years
For tropical workers: 8-24 months
Male adult ants absolutely always only live for one to ~5 weeks tops and always either die from the injury they suffer during mating with a queen, or will be killed by their sisters if they didn't leave the nest.

Monogynious colonies with only one queen always only can get as old as their queen, plus maybe a few months or a year or two before they inevitably die out due to the lack of new babies, polygynious colonies with more than one queen are always theoretically immortal, as long as at least one queen stays alive or they acquire the ability to get a new one.
In contrast to bees, ants are unable to replace a queen once she died, there is no ant gele royale that creates new queens and paired with a monogynious' colony intolerance towards other ant queens, they pretty much never make it beyond their queen's lifetime. There are few exceptions where a queenless colony gets absorbed by another monogynious colony without massive killing, but in general it doesn't happen.
Polygynious colonies always have some sort of ability to become polygynious in the first place, often by having more than one queen in the founding phase (this also happens for monogynious ones, but there a single queen will at some point start killing the others and whoever wins the bloodshed gets the kingdom), or by being able to absorb foreign queens into their nest and even merge with other existing colonies to form a supercolony. Another option for some species is that new born queens fly out to mate with foreign males, but then come back home and instead of founding a new kingdom they join their existing one as another queen. Those colonies thus have ways to replace fallen queens and can live forever. There are (super)colonies out there that are estimated to live for hundreds of years, despite their queens each only making it for a few years.

The largest and oldest supercolony we know of is from the Argentine ant, Linepithema humile. This colony is an estimated 400 years old and spreads from Galicia in northern Spain to Venice in Italy in Europe across an almost uninterrupted area of around 6000 kilometers, although in 2011 it was discovered that this specific supercolony is actually a part of a global megacolony spreading (with gaps in between) from California to Texas, Mississipi to Florida, scattered across a few islands in the Atlantic to Europe across said European supercolony to Italy, then with a huge gap from Iran, across Afghanistan and Pakistan to northern China and then ending up in Japan.
Originally from Argentina, this ant was brought to Europe and North America by ship and then made its way through Asia over the past few hundred years. It's the largest and probably oldest society of animals living together apart from human settlements and is made up of many billions of ants and hundreds of millions of queen, although any and all numbers regarding this colony are nothing but a wild guess and it's impossible to count.

Per posted:

When was the ants' use of pheromones discovered? Was it a huge game changer in myrmecology, like the Rosetta stone in Egyptology?

The science behind pheromones is not an old one, even though it was assumed chemicals had something to do in insect behavior for a few hundred years, we never had any proof of that. The pheromone itself was discovered in 1959 by German biochemist Adolf Butenandt who extracted the pheromone Bombykol from Bombyx mori, a Chinese butterfly. The term pheromone was then coined by German zoologist Martin Lscher and German chemist Peter Karlson, who defined it as "a substance, that is excreted by an individual and causes a specific reaction in another individual from the same species" (note that by this original definition the already noted propaganda pheromone used by slaver ants is thus not a pheromone, but a repellant).
In general it was basically the holy grail of insect behavior to have scientific proof that they do it via chemicals, although it was assumed to be true for a long time already, and thus it had an enormous impact in Myrmecology, yes. Since then the majority of scientific research on pheromones was done on insects and especially ants, wasps and bees, as their numbers and dependence on pheromones made it comparably easy to research. Other pheromones used by non-insects, like fish, mollusks and also mammals, were hardly looked into and thus the science behind those is still very new and hardly understood. However, at least for ants, we have a relatively good idea what's going on and the discovery and evidence that they use pheromones has ever since been a huge milestone in Myrmecology and also has been used widely for practical uses, like breeding ants, influencing their behavior and fighting ant pests.

The Lone Badger
Sep 24, 2007



How do monogynious colonies go about founding new colonies? Does the newborn queen lay her own escort, or does she take a tithe of her mother's workers?

Organza Quiz
Nov 7, 2009




Goons Are Great posted:

In general most invertebrates or actually even most non-mammals sleep regularly, but not like we do in big blocks of sleep bound together over many hours, but split up over many, many moments of sleep across the day, combined with times of simple inactivity. Arachnids for example, especially Tarantulas and Scorpions (I also own a scorpion, hence why I take this example) are famous for their incredible inactivity throughout the day, just sitting there, doing literally nothing until hunger kicks in, they sleep a lot during that time, but not all the time, as you can observe when they react to you coming in, or moving a rock or whatever. Inaction is usually almost equal to sleep for many animals, especially invertebrates, so sitting around doing nothing is almost as good as sleep and a lot safer, as you can still react to stuff.
Ants do it just like that, too, they usually just sit around when exhausted and do nothing, which you can see inside the nest a lot. During those periods of low activity they also fall asleep from time to time, usually not for more than a few minutes, wake up again without doing anything, then fall asleep again etc.
They can adjust this almost freely in all directions, including sleeping and sitting around a lot when there's nothing to do, or being active for many hours at a time without any break. As long as the overall energy level is fine and there is enough food intake to generate energy (as with many invertebrates, ants cannot get fat or store food inside their bodies, so eating is a vital necessity and key to their ability to be active), they can but don't really have to sleep, however will still take every opportunity they can get just in case there is a time where this choice is no longer given.

Huh, this got me thinking about the difference between sleep and death (bear with me okay...). Like for mammals there's a huge difference between being asleep and being... switched off, since we have tons of internal functions that tick along and require energy even when we're not conscious. You mentioned already that ants take in oxygen passively and I think something about their blood-equivalent pretty much just being around inside their body rather than being pumped through vessels like mammal blood? How much of their internal body processes are actual processes that require energy to keep working? It seems like if they aren't moving they can basically just be in standby mode like a machine.

aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

kiss kiss



Pillbug

There's this colony of probably lasius niger where I park my bike and today they were going absolutely apeshit. Big commotion and a chain of winged ants hustling up the steel bike stand to take flight. It was amazing.

Do they somehow coordinate when to take flight so they meet other ants in the air or is it just eh season is right, weather is good, someone else is probably also launching? Also is there sexual selection taking place in flight where they do a little dance before mating or does it just work via the number of fliers you manage to produce where if you produce a lot you are probably doing well?

StrixNebulosa
Feb 14, 2012

You cheated not only the game, but yourself.
But most of all, you cheated BABA


Goons Are Great posted:

The largest and oldest supercolony we know of is from the Argentine ant, Linepithema humile. This colony is an estimated 400 years old and spreads from Galicia in northern Spain to Venice in Italy in Europe across an almost uninterrupted area of around 6000 kilometers, although in 2011 it was discovered that this specific supercolony is actually a part of a global megacolony spreading (with gaps in between) from California to Texas, Mississipi to Florida, scattered across a few islands in the Atlantic to Europe across said European supercolony to Italy, then with a huge gap from Iran, across Afghanistan and Pakistan to northern China and then ending up in Japan.
Originally from Argentina, this ant was brought to Europe and North America by ship and then made its way through Asia over the past few hundred years. It's the largest and probably oldest society of animals living together apart from human settlements and is made up of many billions of ants and hundreds of millions of queen, although any and all numbers regarding this colony are nothing but a wild guess and it's impossible to count.

God this is so cool. The only thing things I know of that have this same kind of mega-colony thing going on are mushrooms/fungi and even then I only know generalities. Can you tell me more about this super/megacolony?

Goons Are Great
Jan 1, 1970

Well yeah, but honestly..



The Lone Badger posted:

How do monogynious colonies go about founding new colonies? Does the newborn queen lay her own escort, or does she take a tithe of her mother's workers?

Not at all, ants never take stuff with them when they leave the colony and apart from noted supercolony behavior where they return home, they always leave their home for good and take nothing and no one with them.
Regular, claustral founding monogynious species always do it a rather simple, but also a very hard way:
Once they are fertilized with at least one, usually up to 15 males (for genetic reasons I can go into details later for), they land somewhere where they feel somewhat safe and remove their wings, as they became redundant and annoy in their coming quest. They then search the surroundings for a specific spot, at best a small, humid hole in a wall or beneath a stone, anything that's wet and dark. If they can't find one, they search for a suitable spot and start digging such a hole.
Whatever they find, they seal it up with whatever to make sure it's secure, humidity can stay up in there and it's at best somewhat water resistant, so they don't get flooded with the first few rain drops.
The queen then starts digesting her wing muscles and tears apart any leftovers the wings were attached to and eat it and she starts producing eggs, which will be laid after a day or two in that hole. Then she waits, approximately one or two weeks for regular temperate species, until the babies hatch as small, white, vulnerable larvae. She feeds them with whatever she might have left from before leaving her home nest (if anything) and licks them with antibiotic saliva to keep them clean, stacks them on top of each other, separates them from other eggs she has laid in between and, if necessary, feeds the eggs that haven't hatched yet to the larvae so they can get anything to eat. After a while, probably around two to four weeks, or if in danger of starvation, the larvae will enter their pupae stage (either with a cocoon for less developed and into naked pupae for the most advanced and "newest" ant species) for another one to two weeks. Afterwards the pygmae, the first workers, hatch and immediately start giving back the love she has given them during their baby stage, by cleaning her, sorting the nest and after a day of hardening the exoskeleton, they open up the sealed hole and search for anything remotely edible to carry it home and nourish their mom. A new colony is born this way and this goes on until they go into hibernation in October/November for temperate ants, or never for tropical ones.

This is the way for so called claustral species, which is the most modern variant in ant evolution, the queen never leaves the nest and rather eats herself or some of her babies instead of leaving the safety of the nest. There also are semi-claustral species around, usually evolutionary older species with less adaptations, where the queen does leave the nest and goes out to hunt for herself during that time, leaving the eggs behind. A very dangerous endeavor, which is why it was reduced by evolution over time, except for species where it wasn't necessary to do so or which were able to develop alternatives (like a thick exoskeleton, enhanced and stronger mandibles and in general better combat abilities).
Polygynious species do essentially the same, either claustral or semi-claustral or even both mixed in one go, only with more than one queen in such a founding tube. As noted, sometimes also monogynious species lay the cornerstones for their new colonies together, however at some point they will kill each other, or wait until the first workers that hatched will do so for them. This is usually a more effective way to get started, as then the winner can eat the loser without leaving the nest.

Organza Quiz posted:

Huh, this got me thinking about the difference between sleep and death (bear with me okay...). Like for mammals there's a huge difference between being asleep and being... switched off, since we have tons of internal functions that tick along and require energy even when we're not conscious. You mentioned already that ants take in oxygen passively and I think something about their blood-equivalent pretty much just being around inside their body rather than being pumped through vessels like mammal blood? How much of their internal body processes are actual processes that require energy to keep working? It seems like if they aren't moving they can basically just be in standby mode like a machine.

That is entirely true and for arachnids even more so than for insects.
They all do have a heart, it's not one like we have, but a long tube, that slowly moves the liquid (that floats around freely in the body, there are no vessels like we have it and thus also no blood pressure as we know it) around by pumping. That, of course, requires energy. Breathing (for insects, not for arachnids, who have a special sort of lung called book lung) is almost entirely passive, they only suck in a certain amount of air by compressing the holes and some other functions that do that. Their nervous system is of course also active and requires energy to function, too, but to a lesser and especially to a more decentralized degree than it is the case for us.
Many animals can lower their energy consumption drastically by not moving, which is the biggest consumer in their body in general as they also have no energy wasted for thermoregulation at all and everything else is depending on how much they move.

The species of scorpions, for example, that I have here next to the ant nest, are known to be able to not eat anything for up to one and a half years before they die of starvation, by not moving at all, digging into the sand and even keep the ability to hunt for potential food while doing so. They always are alive (you can measure it) and they also sleep a lot, but as their usage of energy is so efficient compared to ours, they do not need a lot of intake to stay alive and well. Insects can do the same thing to a lesser degree - not because they wouldn't biologically be able to do so, but because it just never developed like that due to the lack of need. Ants usually find a lot of food and can sustain themselves easily, so they are not particularly careful in how they spend their resources, they just get more whenever needed. This enables an active and extremely adaptable lifestyle, while keeping the efficiency of an insect energy consumption.

aphid_licker posted:

There's this colony of probably lasius niger where I park my bike and today they were going absolutely apeshit. Big commotion and a chain of winged ants hustling up the steel bike stand to take flight. It was amazing.

Do they somehow coordinate when to take flight so they meet other ants in the air or is it just eh season is right, weather is good, someone else is probably also launching? Also is there sexual selection taking place in flight where they do a little dance before mating or does it just work via the number of fliers you manage to produce where if you produce a lot you are probably doing well?

This is honestly one of the greatest mysteries in Myrmecology! No one knows for sure how they coordinate their nuptial flights, often we just assume that it's the right weather that triggers a lot of alates to fly off at once, but this is contradicted by their ability to take flight even in bad weather when other colonies of the same species a few kilometers further away (in good weather) do it then. Might just be coincidence, might be some form of communication we have yet to discover, might be that they coordinate based on something else that we did not think of yet, maybe it's a mixture of it all - we do not know.
We do know that all ants from a given species fly off at the same day and time sometime during the year and meet each other using strong sexual pheromones, which is something they do to overwhelm predators by supersaturate their needs with too many individuals at once and it is definitely coordinated at that point. There often are specific ant-friendly mating grounds they all fly to and meet each other and have sex all over the place, most likely that spot is discovered by the first few queens and males arriving naturally (as in, they like this spot) and then release pheromones en mass.

There is a strong sexual selection happening during that, too, as queens at the same time attract males using a viagra-like substance to make them horny as gently caress and then flee from them as fast as they can, which they usually are very good at as the queens are much larger and stronger than the males. The males then start chasing this queen and once they reached her, she also starts biting and clawing them away, often killing massive amounts of horny males while doing so, so that only the strongest and fastest males get the chance to move their abdomen towards their and then literally explode while releasing sperm, which also has to land in a small, covered genital on the queen's abdomen. Only those males that get the ability to touch their butt and press their sperm accordingly really can share their genes with the queen and even then, once they lost the major part of their abdomen, they fall down and bleed out due to the injuries caused by the queen and the fatal injury they suffered from coming.
Being an ant male is not an easy and a very thankless job.

Goons Are Great
Jan 1, 1970

Well yeah, but honestly..



StrixNebulosa posted:

God this is so cool. The only thing things I know of that have this same kind of mega-colony thing going on are mushrooms/fungi and even then I only know generalities. Can you tell me more about this super/megacolony?

That specific mega colony is the only global one ever found so far, but there is a clear chance of more than this being possible and even likely. Even Darwin already found out that some ants across various continents even are very friendly to each other and it threw him into a skeptical crisis as it endangered his entire theory of evolution to observe this. Until his death he did not find an answer to ants in general and why anything of this was even remotely possible in evolution and it took us to 2011 to find an explanation for a megacolony of this size to ever be possible, too. Chances are there are many more out there and way more interconnected than initially assumed.

In general it's not unlikely for an ant species to travel across the globe, especially if it's a resilient and adaptive pest like the Argentine ant. Pharaoh ants are another example of globally existing ants that can live anywhere, various evolutionary and genetical phenomena and simple coincidence make it entirely possible for the same genetic properties to be spread out across continents.

This, however, is different. In 2011 researchers from Tokyo found that they could even put American ants and Japanese ant next to each other and they wouldn't only not attack each other, they would recognize and feed their sisters, no war, no regular colonial absorption, no temporary peace or parasitic behavior, but actual allies. Hell, Japanese ants formed hunting packs with European ones and they hunted insects the European ants can't even know as they don't even exist in Europe.
You see, this does not happen. Like, ever. Ants hate foreign ants, except when they are related to each other and those two ants are definitely (and it's been proven via genetics) not related to each other. Yet, they share the same colony smell and recognize each other and are allies. This happened across the globe from this specific collection of supercolonies, making it obvious that this is one global megacolony.

Since then researchers have found that they do not exist independently from each other but they meet, too. Using hotspots and breaks, the males and queens of the one supercolony fly towards each other, building colonies in between and across generations they spend many years and many generations of new colonies founded, to meet. Once they did, it was even observed how queens from Afghanistan fly to Pakistan and take a break until they fly further east to China, extending their nuptial flight over many weeks and months if weather allows.
They communicate and exchange genes with each other over at least three continents in a network we aren't even remotely able to understand yet, let alone speculating how this came to be.

Turns out, we humans aren't the only animals that do stuff like this.

StrixNebulosa
Feb 14, 2012

You cheated not only the game, but yourself.
But most of all, you cheated BABA




what the gently caress that's so cool

Sharks Eat Bear
Dec 25, 2004

Ain't got half a what you thought you had

Love this thread, thank you GAG.

Are there examples of commensal or symbiotic relationships with other life forms? I know of the famous ant-acacia tree relationship, but it seems like relatively recent research suggests that might not be as mutual as initially thought? https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/11/131106-ants-tree-acacia-food-mutualism/

Non sequitur but one year for Christmas I bought my dad a copy of The Ants by EO Wilson. Its a massive tome with great color photos throughout, and I really thought he would be surprised and delighted given his hobbyist passion for biology and insects in particular. But he almost winced when he opened it; apparently the passion does not extend to ants. He kept the book but I dont think he ever read it :/

Gunshow Poophole
Sep 14, 2008

OMBUDSMAN
Posters' Local 42069





Clapping Larry

Sharks Eat Bear posted:


Non sequitur but one year for Christmas I bought my dad a copy of The Ants by EO Wilson. It’s a massive tome with great color photos throughout, and I really thought he would be surprised and delighted given his hobbyist passion for biology and insects in particular. But he almost winced when he opened it; apparently the passion does not extend to ants. He kept the book but I don’t think he ever read it :/

My girlfriend at the time bought me The Superorganism for Christmas like ten years ago

She's my wife now

Goons Are Great
Jan 1, 1970

Well yeah, but honestly..



Sharks Eat Bear posted:

Are there examples of commensal or symbiotic relationships with other life forms? I know of the famous ant-acacia tree relationship, but it seems like relatively recent research suggests that might not be as mutual as initially thought? https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/11/131106-ants-tree-acacia-food-mutualism/

Oh, there are tons of symbiotic and commensal relations with and around ants!
The fungus living and being farmed by leafcutter ants is symbiotic with them and they are now unable to live elsewhere. A lot of springtails also live in symbiotic or commensal relationship, as they eat up the ants' garbage and in exchange often let them live with them (even I have springtails in my out world). Aphids being herded by ants also are symbiotic, as they nourish the ants with honeydew and the ants protect them and offer or even plant new plants for them.
Less known commensals are a lot of (non-parasitic) mites which spend a certain time of their lives on top of ants to move around and use them as busses, without hurting them.
Atelura formicaria even get their name from living with ants (Formica) where they eat their garbage and sometimes steal a bit of food while the ants feed each other, as they sneak between them and suck up the juices real quick. Those are very careful around ants and move extremely fast, as they want to avoid touching ants due to them being aggressive towards them.
Some beetles, like Flower chafers, lay their eggs nearby ant nests and the larvae often live in or around the ants to feed from stuff they no longer need, but they leave their ant hosts as adults. Most of those larvae also excrete a juice that the ants like, so they bring them garbage and get food in return, very efficient little guys.

There also are some beetles that produce a drug-like substance that the ants get addicted of. It's not really parasitism, but also not really neutral, as the substance is by now proven to cause the ants to basically get drunk and change their behavior drastically, and they really really love it. Up to a point where they take better care of their drug dealer beetle than their own brood. What keeps them in check is the ants tendency to carry the bettle eggs and pupae into the dry spots of the nest, which is good for ant pupae but bad for the beetles that dry out and die. Some Myrmecologists believe that if it wasn't for this accidental killing, many ant species would be extinct by now due to their addiction to the drug.

Again something that isn't unique for humans!

Goons Are Great
Jan 1, 1970

Well yeah, but honestly..



Gunshow Poophole posted:

My girlfriend at the time bought me The Superorganism for Christmas like ten years ago

She's my wife now

That's so nice

cheetah7071
Oct 20, 2010


College Slice

How do leafcutter ants get their symbiotic fungus into new nests? Or are they a multi-queen species, meaning new nests are accompanied by an army of workers who can carry things, rather than a solo queen

Goons Are Great
Jan 1, 1970

Well yeah, but honestly..



It's not a specific species, but two entire genera that do this: Genus Atta and Acromyrmex.
Similar to their incredibly complex caste system of up to 29 different types of workers specialized in one of the step to enable the fungus farming to work, how exactly they get the spores is largely a mystery.
It is likely that a queen takes a few spores with her when leaving their home nest and bring it over that way, or they steal it from other nearby leafcutter ants. Maybe there is some other complex relationship involved, but the exact nature is largely a mystery.
All of those species are monogynious and do not take any workers with them and they create new colonies on their own, so it can't be that. Could be that they eat some parts of the fungus and keep it in their (usually not used for trophollaxis) social stomach and get spores on new substrate, too. There are some hints indicating behavior like this, but research is still on going there and so far we don't know how they do it.

This goes for various symbiotic relationships with ants. Sometimes a new plant that only exists in symbiosis with ants shows up in or around their nest out of seemingly nowhere and as they are unable to live without the ants it's unknown how they got there. Devil's garden ants are another good example of this, where the ants mix up herbicides to clear a good portion on the middle of the rain forest to plant a specific other plant that can no longer exist on its own. The ants then live inside of the plants and keep the place sprayed with plant poison so that only their plant, that has no ability to compete in the jungle on its own, can grow.

AtomikKrab
Jul 17, 2010

Keep on GOP rolling rolling rolling rolling.


Is it possible to "train" a colony into staying away from a certain area? My wife has issues with the local ants coming near her bioactive frog tanks.

Goons Are Great
Jan 1, 1970

Well yeah, but honestly..



Repellant of various sorts usually work very well. Smell-based substances they don't like make them stay away quite easily. There are species specific pheromones available as well as generalized mixtures of those. Also simply stinky chemicals can annoy them into staying away, the easiest one of those is regular vinegar. If she cleans the ground regularly and spreads vinegar or vinegar based cleaning agents afterwards, the ants will not like that as it irritates their smell. Usually they go up to the point where the vinegar is and then stand on it before running away again.

Usually after a while they won't bother coming anymore once they realize that smell is there to stay. Paired with the regular anti-ant measures of not having any food nearby that place it should stay ant free easily, at worst with some single scouts checking if the smell is still there.

Per
Feb 22, 2006


Hair Elf

Can you talk a bit about ant food? Is a balanced diet important to a colony? If you only feed your ant farm, say, sugar for a long time will it somehow suffer malnutrition?

Goons Are Great
Jan 1, 1970

Well yeah, but honestly..



Per posted:

Can you talk a bit about ant food? Is a balanced diet important to a colony? If you only feed your ant farm, say, sugar for a long time will it somehow suffer malnutrition?

That's relatively easy!
Humans and most mammals or in general animals essentially need the three macronutrients carbohydrate, proteins and fats, plus some micronutrients like vitamins that are only required in trace amounts.
Carbohydrate is used for quickly gaining energy from stuff you mostly do not need to digest anymore, mostly sugar like Glucose, fats are the longer term energy deliverers that require a lot of digestion and proteins are needed to create new cells and structure those that we already have.

This is mostly true for all animals, including ants. They require carbohydrate like sugar (for example from honey or honeydew) for basic energy generation and proteins to generate new stuff, mostly eggs and muscles. Since the latter does not happen in any noticeable way for adult ants, they hardly require proteins for their own and thus focus it for the queen, which has to lay eggs and requires truckloads of proteins every day, and larvae that require them en mass to grow.
Fats are basically not used by ants and many insects in general, as the process of breaking them apart is difficult and usually requires symbiosis with endobacteria in the colon, which hardly happens for most ant species, plus they cannot use fat as a way to store energy either as they have no way to store or digest it.

That means as long as you give a single adult non-queen ant nothing but sugar water or honey, it will mostly be fine. They also require some micronutrients of course in small amounts which for pure sugar would be missing, but honey already fills them up nicely.
I feed my ants regular honey and every other day they get either a few fruit flies as I used to breed those and by now upgraded to crickets due to their increasing hunger. They don't really require anything else and get everything they need from this diet. They cannot digest cellulose at all, so salad or plants are not an option, they just take what they need and suck it out of their prey.

There are some exceptions to this like with baker ants who collect seeds from their surroundings and bake bread from them, leafcutters I have already noted who eat their fungus and also the sweet plant juice (mostly made out of starch, worker leafcutters almost entirely live from that and only to a small percentage eat from the fungus itself, which is reserved for the larvae and queen due to the high amount of proteins), as well as vampire ants who suck out blood (actually hemolymph) from their and others larvae, but the general diet is pretty much just that.

Sometimes ants like the one animal more than the other, like my ants do not really like meal worms but love flies and crickets, but that's just a preference based on what they're made of (meal worms contain a lot of fat) and not really a thing due to their special need for specific nutrients.

ninjewtsu
Oct 9, 2012



What're the most unusual materials that ants are known to construct their nests out of?

Goons Are Great
Jan 1, 1970

Well yeah, but honestly..



Hmm. Depends what you define as unusual.

Basically it comes down to whether a species constructs a nest or rather digs one/uses whatever space they can find for efficiency. Ant hills are classic for most wood ants, usually built out of wood, stones, leafs, whatever they find on the ground. Ants that live nearby humans tend to use whatever they can find as nest. Plastic bottles, inside cracks of concrete walls, in car seats or inside mattresses. Or those ants mentioned itt before that live inside of a mailbox.
My ants lived inside a test tube out of glass for two years now, then they tried to move below a water filled sponge inside of a bowl, now they live inside a concrete block I carved chambers into.
Some tropical ants like to live inside of living plants, sometimes as de facto parasites that hurt the plants, sometimes in symbiosis when they also take care of them.
Abandoned bee or wasp hives are also a nice place for many species, as well as mole hills or even inside of rotting fruits. In Southern Africa it was described how ants constructed vast nests across dozens of coffee berries, each berry containing one chamber for the colony.

In general it depends on the size of the species and their needs. Most ant species grow around 5 to 8mm on length (media workers), the largest ants we know can get up to 55mm though. They have wildly varying needs for humidity, nest size, surroundings etc. And will use whatever they can to make the best out of it. Many but not all ants are excellent at digging, others like to stack up stuff and live inside of that stuff, others just use holes in whatever material works.
As long as the humidity is right for the species, it's safe and dark, at best with a small entrance that they can seal easily, most ants will use that, as they are very adaptive. Those species that managed to survive and even thrive in human settlements, like many Lasius or Tetramorium species, will happily use our trash or what we build to live inside of it.

Before you ask, yes, I've once read about ants living inside condoms, too.

Organza Quiz
Nov 7, 2009




Once when I was a teenager a friend came over to use our scanner, which we hadn't used for a few months, and we opened it up to discover it was now an ant nest! I was sad I wasn't allowed to keep letting them live there, sure we had ants wandering around the study randomly but it was a perfect ant farm, you could just open it up to see the ants living under the glass, queen and eggs and everything.

The Lone Badger
Sep 24, 2007



In nests constructed for observation are there frequencies that they can't see that you can use to illuminate and watch them without them freaking out? Or do you just tend to look for brief periods before closing over the glass again?

Goons Are Great
Jan 1, 1970

Well yeah, but honestly..



Organza Quiz posted:

Once when I was a teenager a friend came over to use our scanner, which we hadn't used for a few months, and we opened it up to discover it was now an ant nest! I was sad I wasn't allowed to keep letting them live there, sure we had ants wandering around the study randomly but it was a perfect ant farm, you could just open it up to see the ants living under the glass, queen and eggs and everything.

Heh, that happens yeah. I once wanted to add a bit of wood into the ant out world while my ants were asleep during hibernation and took a few twigs from outside. I washed them off but didn't break them up, a day later I saw tons of ants being confused and crawling around. Turns out, inside the twig there was an entire ant nest that was also sleeping during winter. I woke them up, but brought them back outside afterwards. Gotta be careful what to take, sometimes ants can be inside of it!

The Lone Badger posted:

In nests constructed for observation are there frequencies that they can't see that you can use to illuminate and watch them without them freaking out? Or do you just tend to look for brief periods before closing over the glass again?

In general, no, there is no specific time of the day during which ants are or aren't active. They schedule precise shifts for morning, noon, afternoon, evening and night times, with each ant having their duty to fulfill throughout the day. That often changes and if necessary they get active at any moment, but there's never a moment where all or even most ants are asleep or resting. That plus the fact that all ants are very photophobic while nesting makes it impossible for an ant keeper to check them out without them noticing and freaking out about it.
Depending on what setups you use, you can just keep them in the dark and only open them up briefly to check what's up. That works fine and isn't really harmful, but it does put the ants into a certain amount of stress every now and then, as as soon as too much light enters their nest, they believe it has been opened up, triggering an immediate evacuation order across the colony. If you're fast enough, they just wander around quickly and prepare to move brood before doing so, but it's still something they do. They get somewhat used to it if you do so for brief moments, but once it's open for too long they'll freak out inevitably.
An alternative (or addendum) to this is to cover the nest (additionally, at best) with red foil or use red lamps to shine into the nest while doing so. Ants are unable to see the color red due to the way how their eyes work, for them it is just as invisible as ultraviolet light is invisible for us, so they cannot tell if they are being shined at or not. However, ants do not have two eyes, but four actually. Two oculus compositus, the two eyes you can see, and another pair of so called ocelli, or eye spots, sitting on top of their head. Those eyes are the same that for example jellyfish use, they can only determine whether it's dark or bright.
This means if you use red light or cover the nest with red foil, as you can see in my setup, too, it remains dark, but the ocelli reveal that they are somewhat being shined at, resulting for them in a lighter-than-usual grey. They do notice this and sometimes react to it if you do it for too long or get too bright, but on a much lower level and without resulting in fear and panic among the ants. This is usually the way to go for ant keepers.

In my setup, I have this block made out of autoclaved aerated concrete (AAC) that stores heat well without heating up too much, allows air to pass through very well allowing a good ventilation inside the nest while being too strong for them to bite through. The glass I have covered with dark red foil, which makes it almost entirely dark for them (and, to be honest, for me, too, I need quite some light to really see stuff from outside as you can't see much this way during daytime):


However, I also installed a tiny red LED connected to a small battery, so that I can illuminate the nest from inside and, especially when it's dark, see really well what's going on:


They usually do not react to me lighting them up like this, so I can safely assume it's cool for them, as long as I don't keep the light on for too long.

VictualSquid
Feb 29, 2012

Gently enveloping the target with indiscriminate love.


Ant story: One year there was mouse building a nest in my mother's garden. Then it moved out and the next year there was a wasp nest in that hole. The year after that ants moved in.

Ant question:
The last few days I got a small of small winged ants in my room and getting attracted to my monitor.
They certainly look like ants, they are to small to be queens and they got wings. So presumably they are drones. But what are they doing here?
Are they looking for a place to die after mating, or did they get lost on the way there?
I also saw a fat queen dragging herself over the footpath outside presumably looking for a nesting spot.

Goons Are Great
Jan 1, 1970

Well yeah, but honestly..



Those might also be queens! Queens can vary in size drastically, it's only that in comparison to their media workers they usually are around twice the size. Given that some ant species don't even exceed 1 or 2mm in length, the queens don't go bigger than 5mm either.
Might as well be males though, you're right there, they usually are much smaller than queens and around the size of workers, always winged of course. Given we are in nuptial flight season, both seems likely here.

Depending on what monitor you're using, they might get attracted by the light shining from it. Alates get attracted by ultraviolet light and some monitors or settings you can use tend to have a lot of those. Maybe they crashed into your room by accident, a few other followed and now they are going to the only spot they feel attracted to. This could go for both males and virgin queens.
It's unlikely they came there to die, as then they would have already done so. After mating males do not live longer than maybe an hour or two, injured and hardly able to move, so they probably got lost. You should be able to catch them in a glass or something and throw them out, they should be able to get back on track in a bit. Chances are they lost their opportunity to mate and will just starve to death (males are unable to feed themselves, they have no mouth and only a small opening other workers can fill food into) or die from predators, especially other ants they meet during their journey.

Feel free to post pictures if you want! Doesn't really matter if it's queens or males as this goes for both, but might be interesting to see. Males are not a common sight for most people.

Free Market Mambo
Jul 26, 2010

by Lowtax


I can report nuptial flights in Ostrobothnia.

The Slack Lagoon
Jun 17, 2008



I posted in DIY about ant control for in the house, and I was pointed to this thread. Ideally I'd like to avoid poison, as we have a dog and also I used to spray herbicides for work, and I'd rather not use such harsh chemicals if I can avoid it.

Do you have any recommendations for how to deal with them? I believe they are carpenter ants (I'm in Massachusetts). It looks like they may be coming in from outside, but it's hard to tell since they are coming in through a crack in the floor moulding, so I'm not sure if they have a nest in that wall or are just coming in. There had been a few all summer, but the last week they got really bad - I assume they are looking for water?

I thought about tossing some diatomaceous earth into the gap between the floor board and moulding.

StrixNebulosa
Feb 14, 2012

You cheated not only the game, but yourself.
But most of all, you cheated BABA


Making myself dizzy as I bent over and stared at ants in my back yard was worth it, they're so industrious and cool to look at. Also I'm back from town with two books: "Journey to the Ants" and "The Earth Dwellers: Adventures in the Land of Ants", thank you local library.

Questions:

- How do you ID ants? I live in New York, USA and the ones in my back yard are numerous (SO many little dirt mounds around my yard), are black, and tiny. Now that I'm looking for the mounds they are EVERYWHERE.
- What happens to an ant nest if you step on the mound? I assume they just go "ah this entrance has been collapsed" and use another?
- no question just aaa they're so tiny in real life, pictures make them look big

ninjewtsu
Oct 9, 2012



How many queens does an ant colony make each mating season? Is that mostly determined by how much food they get?

If two queens from the same parent colony both survive mating and set up nests somewhat close to each other, do the colonies recognize each other as being from the same parent colony?

Goons Are Great
Jan 1, 1970

Well yeah, but honestly..



The Slack Lagoon posted:

I posted in DIY about ant control for in the house, and I was pointed to this thread. Ideally I'd like to avoid poison, as we have a dog and also I used to spray herbicides for work, and I'd rather not use such harsh chemicals if I can avoid it.

Do you have any recommendations for how to deal with them? I believe they are carpenter ants (I'm in Massachusetts). It looks like they may be coming in from outside, but it's hard to tell since they are coming in through a crack in the floor moulding, so I'm not sure if they have a nest in that wall or are just coming in. There had been a few all summer, but the last week they got really bad - I assume they are looking for water?

I thought about tossing some diatomaceous earth into the gap between the floor board and moulding.

The absolute top priority here is to remove their motivation to come in in the first place. Even the best poison is useless if they are starving and find food inside. Try to find what they are looking for and remove it, seal it, clean it etc. Ants will literally move mountains to get what they want if they need it.
If they enter in notable numbers (beyond, say, 20 ants at the same time tops, usually way less for most species), they do have a reason for that, even if seems impossible.

To locate this, it's best to follow the tracks they build, observe them closely, try for a while not to disturb them to see their natural route they are taking. Pick one specific ant and follow it where ever it goes for starters.
If you want to be really good or if it's really difficult to keep track, offer them a tiny bit of honey or sugar water and color that with food coloring in a color that does not fit at all to their exoskeleton (fluorescent stuff works!). This color will then start shining through their abdomen after eating, making tracking easier. Since the ants will share the food you offered with other ants, this way you can "infect" an entire colony with color, without hurting them.

Once you removed whatever they are after, you can get started on removing the means of them coming in, too. First off, simply shoo away the ants still walking around, just trampling will do. Then clean their pheromone tracks with (if the floor allows) hot water mixed with vinegar based cleaning agents. Clean it from start to finish, else they can find the ends of the route again. If necessary, you can brush up the entire floor they're infesting this way, it will certainly repel them for a bit due to the stinking nature of vinegar.
Afterwards you can seal the entrances. If it's carpenter ants, this might be difficult depending on where it is, as they can chew through a lot. Wood, plastic, silicone based stuff, they could get through. The point however is that they should not have a reason to do so - putting in effort in chewing through for nothing is a pointless endeavor they won't take.

The last and maybe also the first step to ensure they not only have no reason to get in, but also a reason to stay out, is to offer them some food outside, if this is possible for you based on your living situation. Some landlords or neighbors don't like to see ants being fed, if anyone nearby is afraid of ants or insects etc this might also be a problem, but I can assure you that it will not make their population explode or cause a whole new infestation, it's just a way to motivate them to take this easier food rather than taking the risk of entering your potentially dangerous home. I'm not talking about liters of honey, depending on their numbers a simple bottle top filled with some honey, a small plate with a few milliliters, some you can pour it into works fine. They don't need much.

For most ant species at your place this should be more than enough to make them go away. Carpenter ants are not a pest species and usually easy to get rid of. All of this can be done in a matter of a few hours or maybe a day or two (if you're coloring them, as they need a while to eat), costs you nearly nothing and should be effective. Also you avoid the biochemical horror that is widespread ant poison for your entire local fauna.

StrixNebulosa posted:

Making myself dizzy as I bent over and stared at ants in my back yard was worth it, they're so industrious and cool to look at. Also I'm back from town with two books: "Journey to the Ants" and "The Earth Dwellers: Adventures in the Land of Ants", thank you local library.

Questions:

- How do you ID ants? I live in New York, USA and the ones in my back yard are numerous (SO many little dirt mounds around my yard), are black, and tiny. Now that I'm looking for the mounds they are EVERYWHERE.

Very good choices! Ants are amazing.

-This is not always an easy task and takes quite some training. Often enough I ask my Myrmecologist friend for help and even for professionals it's often just a cf. species.
The general guidelines are size, body shape and structure, numbers, behavior and color, in this order.
Taxonomically speaking you can go from top to bottom to get closer at identifying a species of any animal. Let's do this for this ant:

First off, obviously it's an ant (trust me, there are cases where this is not obvious, as shown with the spiders doing ant mimikry that were posted itt earlier). This means we can automatically narrow it down to a biological family:
Domain: Eucaryota
Supergroup: Opisthokontha
Kingdom: Metazoa
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Now "only" order and species are missing in the big ladder of taxonomy, but we can use the levels in between to further narrow it down. The easiest here is the subfamily: Ants have four of those, Formicinae, Myrmicinae, Ponerinae and Dolichoderinae. All of those subfamilies have unique properties that define them, for the ant above the most important property is the small part between the thorax and abdomen, this tiny and thin thing, shaped like a scale, called Petiolus. Additionally, the abdomen is separated in five segments. This is something only the subfamily Formicinae has, so we can narrow it down to that. Disregarding the picture, if you could find out that they also have Formic acid, this also would be a defining feature for this subfamily, especially combined with the massively enlarged venom organ and the ability to spray it rather than inject it via a stinger.

The size of 8mm for this worker is a hint towards rather large wood ants (Formica) or Carpenter ants (Camponotus). If we can further observe their nest, which is a big ant hill in the middle of a forest in Central Europe, combined with their strong, enlarged mandibles, it hints towards wood ants again. Finally, we can observe them stealing slaves in their nests, which would be a defining feature for the suborder Raptiformica, slaver ants. In the end we can finish this off with their red-brown coloring, the differentiation of colors between head and abdomen and the general dark red color, along with those properties listed above, it makes it quite clear that this worker is from a Formica cf. Sanguinea, the blood-red ant. At this point the genus Formica is pretty obvious and a clear case, at worst the species is to be questioned, hence the cf. (Latin confer, compare) which indicates that the species is not 100% certain, but very likely, while the genus is clear.

So you basically go from top to bottom, looking for various defining features at each stage to narrow it down carefully. You can train this by learning the defining features slowly and try to apply it by looking at ants. Note that species determination is often difficult and might even require a fully fledged lab or even genetical analysis to get rid of the cf.

StrixNebulosa posted:

- What happens to an ant nest if you step on the mound? I assume they just go "ah this entrance has been collapsed" and use another?

Pretty much, yeah. At first it's alarm to check what's going on and hunt down potential invaders, afterwards they just rebuild or make an alternative, usually very fast. It's not something they lose their head over, and as long as you don't hit some brood, it's nothing they will really panic over.



ninjewtsu posted:

How many queens does an ant colony make each mating season? Is that mostly determined by how much food they get?
Mostly, yes, also the species. Some are more fecunt than others.
Usually a colony will start producing alates once they reached one or two hundred workers in total, starting at maybe 10 queens and probably thrice that in males.
Once grown up with, depending on the species, 1000-2000 workers, each season will usually develop a few dozen queens and about twice that in males.

ninjewtsu posted:

If two queens from the same parent colony both survive mating and set up nests somewhat close to each other, do the colonies recognize each other as being from the same parent colony?
Yes and that also happens quite often. It usually leads to a less aggressive approach to each other for a while, polygynious colonies often merge at this stage to one supercolony
Else they will inevitably start an ant war once one side feels confident with their numbers and will not stop until one colony is wiped out.

Akbar
Nov 22, 2004

Hubba-
Hubba.


My girlfriend and I hung up a clothesline between two trees in our backyard. Things were going fine for a few months but now the clothesline is overrun by ants (little black ones) and they crawl all over the clothes we hang up. I tried spraying/soaking the line with a vinegar solution but they came back, happy as ever. How can we reclaim our clothesline?

ninjewtsu
Oct 9, 2012



Are there any quick nobrainer recommendations you would make for someone considering getting their own ant farm?

SouthShoreSamurai
Apr 28, 2009

It is a tale,
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.




Fun Shoe

First: Very cool thread. Gonna watch that Attenborough documentary soon.

2nd: Also in Mass, and also looking for how to battle the ants. In my case, they aren't really coming into the house. Instead, they have absolutely infested my yard. I have over an acre of usable land, and it seriously looks like there's anthills across literally 90% of it.

I've been here about 3 years, and they have been never been remotely close to this bad. I'll also admit that in previous years I tried the ant-bait to kill them off... It clearly didn't work.

I don't mind the ants particularly, except that my yard is all anthills and no grass now.

Goons Are Great
Jan 1, 1970

Well yeah, but honestly..



Akbar posted:

My girlfriend and I hung up a clothesline between two trees in our backyard. Things were going fine for a few months but now the clothesline is overrun by ants (little black ones) and they crawl all over the clothes we hang up. I tried spraying/soaking the line with a vinegar solution but they came back, happy as ever. How can we reclaim our clothesline?

Difficult one, as they probably don't go there for a reason other than exploring. Technically maybe the washing powder you use might be attractive for them, changing could theoretically help, but that's a wild guess, as they might just like the humidity and temperature the clothes have. You could try to stop them from climbing up in the first place, depending on where you put the clothesline on. A small pool of water can already stop them from climbing up, a lot of vinegar especially around that spot they climb up on just when you put the clothes there might also work, something like that. Any chance you can try to stop them there already? Might be easier than trying to repel them on such a large surface.

ninjewtsu posted:

Are there any quick nobrainer recommendations you would make for someone considering getting their own ant farm?

Oh that's easy and just the right time for this, as getting queens now is super easy!
In terms of equipment you basically need nothing but a small tube, bottle, whatever goes, at best a test tube. Costs a few cents and can be bought en mass.
Then you also need some sort of box, obviously a specific glass formicarium is best, but a properly setup plastic box can already do the trick, too, at least in the beginning.

If you start at the very first step, just a queen, you just need a test tube, or something similar, a bit of cotton wool, water and either red foil or just some paper you can put around the test tube. That's literally it and will do for at least the first two, three months depending on the species. If you get a hibernating species, it might be even be enough for the rest of the year - last year I managed to do just that with a new queen I collected during nuptial flight.

I can go into details in how to start an ant farm if you want, I recently collected three queens during nuptial flight and can demonstrate it easily with them, but it depends on what you want to start.
Any particular species you have in mind? Any special idea you want to follow through? Do you want to get started with pet ants or rather colonize your garden with them? Is it something you just want to try out for now, or are you interested in actually keeping ants permanently as pets?
The general setup is easy to do in about 5 minutes and costs maybe a dollar at worst. Getting the ants is usually the tricky part, but if you're living in the right area currently mating, it should be easy to do and entirely free. If not, buying queens collected by hobbyists and professionals is right now easier than any other time of the year and usually does not cost more than the shipping and a few bucks. My queen, for example, is right now available on eBay or a sophisticated ant store for 2.90 euros.

SouthShoreSamurai posted:

First: Very cool thread. Gonna watch that Attenborough documentary soon.

2nd: Also in Mass, and also looking for how to battle the ants. In my case, they aren't really coming into the house. Instead, they have absolutely infested my yard. I have over an acre of usable land, and it seriously looks like there's anthills across literally 90% of it.

I've been here about 3 years, and they have been never been remotely close to this bad. I'll also admit that in previous years I tried the ant-bait to kill them off... It clearly didn't work.

I don't mind the ants particularly, except that my yard is all anthills and no grass now.

Oof, I'm sorry to say but this might be a lost cause. Unless you poison and ruin your entire garden and make it uninhabitable for invertebrates for a long time and spend a poo poo load of money, it might be close to impossible to tackle this.
A single ant hill, for example by Formica species, already can contain dozens, if not hundreds of queens and they grow by order of magnitudes every year. We are probably talking about millions of ants here in total at that size of your land.

Depending on the species, your location and government regulations regarding that species (I assume these are more or less interconnected into one or multiple supercolonies at this point, and/or in a permanent ant war with each other), you might be lucky that it's also an endangered species - many ant hill building ones are. In that case there is a certain chance of getting government help in relocating them, in Europe it's known that this can happen to relocate endangered species from private property somewhere safe.
If not, or if there is no such institution, if it's anywhere close as bad as you describe, I see no chance to get rid of them. Unless you break down every single ant hill and kill every single of the probably many, maybe thousands of queens plus also end their nuptial flight that is happening right now (if you're in the northern hemisphere that is), which would involve searching for the probably thousands of new queens currently hiding below rocks and inside holes and across the various nests, there's just no possible way to eradicate the ants. Unless, like, you get yourself a bulldozer and crush down the entire place, which I assume you don't want to do.

Ants that have such a grip on their territory are an unstoppable force, even for us humans and our industrial methods, the only option left is to destroy their space entirely and rebuild from ground up - and even then it will just be a matter of time until either those ants or just any other species that takes advantage of the resulting power vacuum to come back in once more.
Even nowadays we have not found a way to control ants like that. Only if you're willing to spend serious money and get into species specific pheromone warfare you get a fighting chance of removing them specifically without bulldozing everything down, and the science behind that is still new and insecure and certainly not healthy for the entire local surrounding and other wildlife.

Akbar
Nov 22, 2004

Hubba-
Hubba.


Goons Are Great posted:

Difficult one, as they probably don't go there for a reason other than exploring. Technically maybe the washing powder you use might be attractive for them, changing could theoretically help, but that's a wild guess, as they might just like the humidity and temperature the clothes have. You could try to stop them from climbing up in the first place, depending on where you put the clothesline on. A small pool of water can already stop them from climbing up, a lot of vinegar especially around that spot they climb up on just when you put the clothes there might also work, something like that. Any chance you can try to stop them there already? Might be easier than trying to repel them on such a large surface.


It might be hard keeping them from getting up there since they seem pretty established on the two trees anchoring the clothesline, but maybe some diatomaceous earth around the bases of the trees could work? I'm not really sure why they crawl on it since it's not a huge distance between the trees and I don't really see them ferrying food across it, but I'd appreciate insight into why they're behaving this way. It's a cloth line if that helps.

The Slack Lagoon
Jun 17, 2008



Goons Are Great posted:

The absolute top priority here is to remove their motivation to come in in the first place. Even the best poison is useless if they are starving and find food inside. Try to find what they are looking for and remove it, seal it, clean it etc. Ants will literally move mountains to get what they want if they need it.
If they enter in notable numbers (beyond, say, 20 ants at the same time tops, usually way less for most species), they do have a reason for that, even if seems impossible.

To locate this, it's best to follow the tracks they build, observe them closely, try for a while not to disturb them to see their natural route they are taking. Pick one specific ant and follow it where ever it goes for starters.
If you want to be really good or if it's really difficult to keep track, offer them a tiny bit of honey or sugar water and color that with food coloring in a color that does not fit at all to their exoskeleton (fluorescent stuff works!). This color will then start shining through their abdomen after eating, making tracking easier. Since the ants will share the food you offered with other ants, this way you can "infect" an entire colony with color, without hurting them.

Once you removed whatever they are after, you can get started on removing the means of them coming in, too. First off, simply shoo away the ants still walking around, just trampling will do. Then clean their pheromone tracks with (if the floor allows) hot water mixed with vinegar based cleaning agents. Clean it from start to finish, else they can find the ends of the route again. If necessary, you can brush up the entire floor they're infesting this way, it will certainly repel them for a bit due to the stinking nature of vinegar.
Afterwards you can seal the entrances. If it's carpenter ants, this might be difficult depending on where it is, as they can chew through a lot. Wood, plastic, silicone based stuff, they could get through. The point however is that they should not have a reason to do so - putting in effort in chewing through for nothing is a pointless endeavor they won't take.

The last and maybe also the first step to ensure they not only have no reason to get in, but also a reason to stay out, is to offer them some food outside, if this is possible for you based on your living situation. Some landlords or neighbors don't like to see ants being fed, if anyone nearby is afraid of ants or insects etc this might also be a problem, but I can assure you that it will not make their population explode or cause a whole new infestation, it's just a way to motivate them to take this easier food rather than taking the risk of entering your potentially dangerous home. I'm not talking about liters of honey, depending on their numbers a simple bottle top filled with some honey, a small plate with a few milliliters, some you can pour it into works fine. They don't need much.

For most ant species at your place this should be more than enough to make them go away. Carpenter ants are not a pest species and usually easy to get rid of. All of this can be done in a matter of a few hours or maybe a day or two (if you're coloring them, as they need a while to eat), costs you nearly nothing and should be effective. Also you avoid the biochemical horror that is widespread ant poison for your entire local fauna.

Thanks for this. There are certainly quite a few ants, but they don't seem to really follow the same paths - does that mean they are trying to food food/water? It's been pretty dry and hot here, so I was thinking that could be it I believe they are coming in from outside but I'm not 100% sure

Goons Are Great
Jan 1, 1970

Well yeah, but honestly..



Akbar posted:

It might be hard keeping them from getting up there since they seem pretty established on the two trees anchoring the clothesline, but maybe some diatomaceous earth around the bases of the trees could work? I'm not really sure why they crawl on it since it's not a huge distance between the trees and I don't really see them ferrying food across it, but I'd appreciate insight into why they're behaving this way. It's a cloth line if that helps.

I'd really assume they're just exploring. It's uncommon in nature to have a small, flying path on a tree, so they check it out. They most likely are nesting in or very closely around the tree and so they're very curious about new stuff that happens there. Cloth is super chill and easy to climb up as an ant, even wind can't push them down from it.
Once they climbed up and find wet clothes, they probably enjoy to stay there as it's nice and humid and the moving clothes can't hurt them, so a bit of wind almost makes this like a shower to them. Ants take baths like this regularly and like to snuck between wet leafs or similar things to be cleaned and get wet.

You could try doing that diatomaceous earth, but if they're nesting somewhere in the tree, that probably won't work. The easiest way would probably to look around for an alternative anchor for the clothesline, or see if you can anchor it further up, so fewer ants find out about it. I'd doubt they are setting up tracks or releasing pheromones there, so most ants don't come there by following a trail, but by sheer coincidence of finding it and being curious. If you can get it somewhat out of their reach, it should already reduce the number of ants climbing significantly.
A different tree or a new anchor entirely should do the trick without any problem, wouldn't believe they're trying to haunt your clothes there.

The Slack Lagoon posted:

Thanks for this. There are certainly quite a few ants, but they don't seem to really follow the same paths - does that mean they are trying to food food/water? It's been pretty dry and hot here, so I was thinking that could be it I believe they are coming in from outside but I'm not 100% sure

If they're not forming any tracks, they're scouting - even better then! Those can be removed easier.
If they didn't come in before but do so now, they're definitely searching for food or water, probably quite desperately if it's big numbers. If you're lucky, offering them some honey and water outside, with a bit distance from the spot they might come in at, or in general nearby their nest if you can find it (just take any big gathering of ants), they might fill their pressing need for water and food.
If it's too dry, aphids nearby die or move away, which deprives the ants from an important food source. Combined with a lack of water this puts a lot of stress onto the colony and they might be starving, hence why they are willing to take the risk to get into your house for no apparent reason. Ants are usually a bit scared of big, empty spaces - like any room we build - and thus wouldn't put in the effort of scouting there if they wouldn't believe or simply hope that there's food to be found.

Maybe you can offer them stuff outside, attract those that are in to go there instead and then seal off some cracks they might be coming in from.
If they're nesting inside you have a different problem entirely, but I'd doubt that, as then you should have to deal with them for a long time already. Even a small nest that's growing still has a regular ants moving around nearby all the time, so it should be quite obvious for a good while.

Goons Are Great fucked around with this message at 09:30 on Jul 22, 2020

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ninjewtsu
Oct 9, 2012



Goons Are Great posted:

Oh that's easy and just the right time for this, as getting queens now is super easy!
In terms of equipment you basically need nothing but a small tube, bottle, whatever goes, at best a test tube. Costs a few cents and can be bought en mass.
Then you also need some sort of box, obviously a specific glass formicarium is best, but a properly setup plastic box can already do the trick, too, at least in the beginning.

If you start at the very first step, just a queen, you just need a test tube, or something similar, a bit of cotton wool, water and either red foil or just some paper you can put around the test tube. That's literally it and will do for at least the first two, three months depending on the species. If you get a hibernating species, it might be even be enough for the rest of the year - last year I managed to do just that with a new queen I collected during nuptial flight.

I can go into details in how to start an ant farm if you want, I recently collected three queens during nuptial flight and can demonstrate it easily with them, but it depends on what you want to start.
Any particular species you have in mind? Any special idea you want to follow through? Do you want to get started with pet ants or rather colonize your garden with them? Is it something you just want to try out for now, or are you interested in actually keeping ants permanently as pets?
The general setup is easy to do in about 5 minutes and costs maybe a dollar at worst. Getting the ants is usually the tricky part, but if you're living in the right area currently mating, it should be easy to do and entirely free. If not, buying queens collected by hobbyists and professionals is right now easier than any other time of the year and usually does not cost more than the shipping and a few bucks. My queen, for example, is right now available on eBay or a sophisticated ant store for 2.90 euros.

i'm in the position of knowing basically nothing about ant farms and just kinda wanting to do it on a whim. definitely don't want to colonize my yard or anything with them, ideally they're as contained within the farm as possible (idk if the landlord or my roommates would be super happy with me otherwise). i'm mostly just thinking about it because earlier you mentioned that if it doesn't work out, it's really easy to just release them back into the wild no harm no foul

i guess key questions right now aside form googling "how do i ant farm" is how high maintenance are they? i have adhd and it frequently results in me forgetting to do important stuff, but it sounds to me like as long as i give them at least some food semi-regularly they more or less sort it out on their own, is that the case? how easy is feeding them? is the colony resilient enough to survive just fine if i forget to feed them one day, or am i better off just watching ant documentaries over condemning one queen and her brood to eventually starve to death?

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