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aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

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Pillbug

Man that parasite stuff is creepy.

I had an ant colony on my balcony for years, they were nesting in the flowerboxes seemingly being sort of semi-nomadic, I'd often see them carrying brood around. They never came inside so it was just insanely cool to watch them. Only this year they seem to have hosed up their aphid herding, all the plants they chose died within days, absolutely black with aphids, and eventually one day they did come inside. Their pathfinding seems to be a bit weird, they went the long way around across the wall to the kitchen window rather than just through the balcony door, but they just covered everything inside and we had to kill them with that poison stuff. They basically disappeared within two days but I still find the occasional worker wandering around in odd places sorta going through the motions, but no more organized activity or ant highways. Really sad.

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aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

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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?

aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

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Pillbug

In monogynous species, what happens when the queen dies? Does that mean curtains for the colony and it basically lives on through the daughter colonies founded all over the place by the winged queens, or is there some way for them to have a succession?

aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

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Pillbug

It's kinda wild from a resource standpoint that you're (as the species of ants in question) basically throwing out a perfectly good colony with all the shitload of workers and physical infrastructure and stuff. Like if the colony has managed to survive through the entire natural lifespan of the queen the location was probably pretty good.

aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

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Pillbug

Check out ol wiener butt here:

https://twitter.com/Myrmecos/status/1288638926849179655

aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

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Pillbug

Kind of a long shot, but does someone off the top of their head know of an ant species that is relatively easy to keep, does not have to overwinter (I do not have a temp controlled area that I can cool down in my place) and does a lot of above-ground landscaping / gardening / building? I'm envisioning having this big terrarium where they build bridges or do that neat thing where they build spires around plant stems etc.

aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

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Pillbug

Those are good questions, thank you, that helps me think about the problem. I'm willing to try a larger setup, but it seems rear end-backwards to do something like that as babby's first colony. I would definitely be willing to do some temperature / moisture control.

I share an apartment with a bunch of guys so it's all bedrooms and there's no unheated room is basically the problem, and the fridge is pretty full already. I'll hunt through the building for a place that's a bit protected from the elements, what you write makes me suspect that I way overestimated how hard the overwintering is. So just lasius niger? I kinda like how yellow ants look though.

I'll think the issue over along the lines of the questions you asked, thank you again.

aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

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Pillbug

The dog food thing is excellent info, thank you. I had been looking at seed-eating ants because the mental image of feeding insects to my guys all the time was kind of a turnoff, but getting a little wet cat food or something occasionally is fine so lasius niger seems like the one. The plastic bottle thing sounds amazing. How does moisture control work in that setup, I just assume that regular inhabited room moisture outside the heating period will be okay for them, or do I sort of chain up the bottles and put a sort of water feature in at one end and let them gravitate to where in the chain the moisture works for them? Do I poke air holes into the bottles?

aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

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Pillbug

I'm in Germany too! I'm thinking about getting these guys: https://www.antstore.net/shop/de/Ameisen/Ameisen-aus-Mitteleuropa/Lasius-niger-Schwarze-Wegameise.html

For nine Euros I get the queen and 11-25 workers, that seems like a pretty good deal to basically have a little colony that can do a little stuff immediately. Then I'd skip the test tube stage probably.

I'll build the entire setup first ofc, and post pics before I dump some poor guys into there. I'll google those bottle-based setups, or if you have a link to one that you could post that would be awesome.

Would lasius niger tend to eat pillbugs? I kinda wanna add some of those because they like moisture too and I think they're pretty cute, and they might be useful as detritivores? Obviously in a setup that is large enough that they can avoid one another a bit. On my balcony they seemed to be fine with coexisting.

aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

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Pillbug

Goons Are Great posted:

Ahh, Antstore would be exactly my recommendation by the way, been customer there for years, great guys and great products. I'd highly recommend getting some tools from there, ant specific tweezers for example they have there for a few bucks, as well as the soil as it's perfect for them. I bought a whole collection of stuff from them, all without any problems.

So yeah, those 11-25 worker colonies are excellent for starters! It gives the queen enough to to always be fine and you also get to see a lot of ants quite early on. This specific colony is probably now in their first year, meaning the queen you'd buy got pregnant around this time in 2019. That also means they already made it through winter and all the nasty stuff the first year can yield, so you're looking at a perfect starter colony that is most likely going to be very successful from the very beginning.

For your DIY purposes, I'd recommend to check out Antstore's setups to be inspired how they structure it and everything. The nest is probably going to be the test tube for quite a while nevertheless, 11-25 is not a colony size that warrants moving out of there and Lasius Niger specifically are very loyal to a once chosen spot. Note that you must never urge them to move, neither violently via shaking them out or something, nor indirectly by opening the nest up or remove the foil etc. as this can cause major damage, massive stress in emergency evacuations and the entire brood, sometimes even several workers being killed in the struggle. This is especially true for nest loyal species, like those guys.

Still not at home, I'm nerdy phone posting today while melting in the night's heat, but I'll post some setups later!

Pillbugs in general are fine, but I wouldn't recommend it in the beginning and especially not until they found a nice place to be after the test tube got stinky. Not because they'd wage war, they wouldn't, but because making the Pillbugs happy requires you to keep the arena moist and humid. This of course opens up the possibility to plant some nice plants and also, I can recommend it in longterm, getting some springtails in there, as they, too, eat the ants garbage and won't hurt them.

The reason you shouldn't do it for a while is that if you put too much soil into the terrarium and make it wet, the ants will move in there and make their nest in places you might not like, especially in the beginning. While it sounds nice to leave the annoying test tube asap, it takes away your ability to monitor them properly and see what's up. I'd only recommend setting up such an outworld after they moved to a permanent nest that you have chosen (and probably built) for them, where they are happy and thus won't move randomly.

It's a common beginner's mistake to make too many spots in the outworld, as dumb as it sounds, livable. I started like this, too making a big and nice arena with plants and springtails and even one or two beetles, but I quickly ran into problems I couldn't control like the soil molding massively. If the ants would have been there then, they'd get poisoned by the fungi and I couldn't remove it without destroying the nest, which would have been terrible - in fact, most queens don't survive this kind of stress.
For the first few months at least, I'd recommend a simple outworld with not more than 1 or 2mm of dry soil and separated water tanks, no (real) plants and no other inhabitants. This is especially important because living plants and other insects can carry parasites, especially if they come from outside, and small colonies often die due to that. Later on, when they are settled and bigger and healthy, some friends and also plants work out fine.

Oh man I needed that reality check, I was already busy musing about how to make something that includes mosses and pillbugs and probably a herd of buffalo at the rate I was going. I'll keep it simple.

I did assume that since Antstore have only the sizes one queen or 11-25 workers that basically reflected fresh queens from this year who just managed a couple eggs and larvae by now or ones from last year, really cool. I will let them chill in their tube for as long as they want, as a goon I can ofc sympathize with not wanting to move

Can you specify the bit about the humidity? You said earlier that you kept your guys at 85-95%, which seems pretty moist already. That is below what would risk mold?

Looking forward to you posting those setups, I've browsed some forums and done some searches and so far I haven't managed to find something like what I was thinking of.

aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

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Pillbug

Also sorry from me, I couldn't really do ant stuff this week and I didn't want to just post "acknowledged". Those are some amazing setups. I kinda really want it to look nice so it's not just this contraption in my room.

I came into some free antstore ant arenas, two big ones and one small one, currently trying to figure out a solution for the actual nest, how to connect everything, how to do moisturizing, and how to keep the setup transportable so I can eventually bring everything to whatever overwintering spot I settle on.

I also bought a hygrometer and a Pinzette .

Hope this is not a weird question, but you've been incredibly generous with your time in answering my very basic questions, can I donate to some cause for you? Or send something from antstore to your local Kneipe or whatever privacy-preserving solution you prefer?

aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

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Pillbug

Okay great! I have two big arenas from an acquaintance that I connected, seems like they can just avoid the open if they don't want to go there, and I'll figure out where to put the tube when I get it and see what it looks like - either into the arena or maybe tucked into a length of tube hooked up to one of the side - the tube I got is thick enough to put a normal test tube into. I'll let the whole thing stand for a couple weeks to see how the humidity and mold situation develops - I put a bit of wood in there because I liked how it looks, if that molds at the humidity I'm going for I'll toss it. And if everything seems to be stable two weeks from now I'll order some guys. The whole setup is attached onto a piece of wood, so I'll move them to the attic or basement and hope that it doesn't get too warm there.

Dumb question: how do the ants handle overwintering outside? Antwiki seems to think that it's very important that they should overwinter at 0-5C from Oct-Mar, but last winter we didn't ever really consistently dip that low:

https://www.wetter.com/wetter_aktuell/rueckblick/deutschland/freiburg-im-breisgau/DE0003016.html?sid=10803&timeframe=1y

Does this mean that normal ants here already are super stressed by climate change?

e: think the attic is out, when the sun shines on there it's gonna get really warm. Last winter was nuts here. Looks like your fridge solution is probably the safest bet.

aphid_licker fucked around with this message at 00:58 on Aug 12, 2020

aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

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Pillbug

Oh god okay I seriously thought the whole thing had to be 100%. I desperately need to do a lot more reading. Thank you very much!

This guy has a long-term log of a lasius niger colony without overwintering, albeit at an extreme constant 24C throughout, it doesn't seem to go great for them but it definitely shows what you talked about regarding that they try to sort of overwinter despite the high temp: https://ameiseninfos.de/html/lasius_o__winterruhe.html

aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

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Pillbug

Goons Are Great posted:

Very interesting! Not cool as the ants certainly suffer from it, but the scientific details are very fascinating. You see, they can tolerate stuff in general, but you still need to follow their biological setup to make them really happy.
Yeah it was instructive in that it made the abstract "they need to rest" tangible via that "because otherwise this happens", and how long he sticks with it is really unusual for reports like that. Most forums antkeeping reports I've found so far peter out in under two years.

aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

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Pillbug

Can ants harden the soil they dig in? The used arenas I got were caked with a centimetre of what seemed like sorta spongy concrete, ie they had built tunnels throughout the substrate and it had somehow hardened

aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

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Pillbug

Goons Are Great posted:

Sure thing, for one they usually use already hardened or wet soil and restructure it, as their mandibles are best used to cut through hard stuff. If the finished product starts to crumble or turn wet again they can lick it and harden it that way when it turns dry again, or they bring in water and splash it all over the place so it can harden the stuff that way. It's an essential part of nest maintenance to do this and make sure the constructed chambers stay hardened and stable, not just for general stability of the nest but also to provide a stable humidity and temperature inside.

Well I'm extremely impressed, that stuff was not at all easy to get out.

aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

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Pillbug

Man if it turned out that these guys store information in their nest layout that would basically be the craziest thing I've ever heard

aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

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Pillbug

Ant AAA is my new favorite thing.

aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

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Pillbug

Raenir Salazar posted:

Sadly we're not the kind of goons which can have multiple threads form together to form a supercolony of threads!!!!

Goons going for the rare all-drone colony

aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

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Pillbug

Gigantic gallery of pro-grade photos of leafcutter ants: https://www.alexanderwild.com/Ants/Making-a-Living/The-Farming-Ants-Leafcutters/

aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

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Pillbug

I shelved the ant idea for this year and built a sorta forest terrarium instead. Got a couple neat-looking semitropical mosses that can allegedly deal @ room temp. The dealer didn't have a function to search by temp range so that was a bit annoying, most seem to require like 24C. Threw in a bunch of springtails and pillbugs etc to keep everything clean, but no big insects. Might add temp control and like a millipede later if everything goes well, those look p neat.

I like that it looks nice and green and that's gonna be a major concern with the ant thing as well I think next year, I have a single room to live in so it'd be cool if the setup and looked nice in some way. I am figuring out moisture, basically if I crack the terrarium door (it's one of those upright ones) more or less it seems I can control the moisture pretty well, if I close it it goes all the way to 99%, and to ambient if I open it all the way. Allegedly the "terrarium police" (the springtails etc) is supposed to help keep mold at bay, at least that's what the shop writes on their page, so we'll see how that works out. There's nothing expensive in there so a whoopsie would not be a huge problem.

There appears to be no terrarium thread in PI, is that right?

I'll post a pic once I have everything planted in and am convinced that it'll stay sorta stable so the pic isn't this potential monument to my idiocy

aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

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Pillbug

I had been wondering about the "tropical springtail" thing, lmao. Ah well, they were three euros. I'll keep an eye out for mold, see how it goes and keep you updated!

aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

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Pillbug

Thank you, as always! Got an email that my mosses should be in the mail now

aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

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Pillbug

Yeah I used a shitload of rotten wood and leaves for landscaping and tried putting in a vegetable scrap to see if they bite.

How does it work, if I don't give them food they starve and eat my plants, so aren't I locked into a spiral of keeping them fed which makes them procreate which gets me deeper into the hole? Do I have to throw in some kind of predator to control things?

aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

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Pillbug

Seeing how much can go wrong with keeping something like this stable really makes you think about the various systems in nature, how they interact and balance and how much can go wrong.

aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

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Pillbug

I'm extremely emotionally invested in the Pharaoh ant saga

aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

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Pillbug

Suddenly there's what kinda looks like a gigantic amount of eggs in the terrarium

Don't think it's fungi or pillbug-related, it's banks of roundish little white nodules / grains about a third or half of a mm in size, placed on bits of moist wood.

e: might be snails?

aphid_licker fucked around with this message at 18:18 on Sep 26, 2020

aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

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Pillbug

Yeah I put in a shitload of stuff from the outside. Leaves, rotten wood etc. Could be anything. I've never seen a snail so far, but I also haven't seen anything else big enough to produce that. Everything I got I got while it was really dry outside, so idk about the odds of randomly grabbing a snail.

Biggest thing I saw so far was an earwicker.

aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

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Pillbug

Yeah I don't have an expensive showpiece animal or plant in there to safeguard, or a state I'm working to preserve, so I'm okay with playing it a bit fast and loose. Definitely planned to wait and see. Ofc if dozens of snails hatch in there I'd have to kick them out before they eat everything, barren slimy wasteland isn't what I'm going for

I had eggs on my balcony last year and those turned out to be stinkbugs, that was hilarious. Stinkbugs fuckin everywhere.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_shield_bug

aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

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Pillbug

That would be pretty wild. Guess if by tomorrow it has spread to cover everything that would be a good indicator!

aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

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Pillbug

Good call with the slime mold, the lil white blobs turned brown and lifted up onto some stalks like insanely tiny mushrooms and are gone again already. I accidentally let the moisture drop to just barely above ambient bc I forgot to spray today so idk if that was their entire lifecycle or if they withered prematurely.

aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

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Pillbug

JacquelineDempsey posted:

This thread continues to entertain and educate! There's a spot by the river here (SW Virginia) that I like to sit at and sketch. There's one fallen tree that's comfy to sit on, and the other day when crouched down to fetch a pencil I'd dropped, I saw those same fuzzy white things attached to the underside of "my" tree! Was wondering what the heck it was, didn't seem like eggs but the clumpy nature (balls about the size a pea) didn't suggest fungus.

And yay, baby ant! Do ants hatch all at once, over the course of a few hours like most fish that I've kept do? And do they give indications that the hatching is imminent?

Like when my Jack Dempseys spawned, I'd wake up about 3 days after the eggs were laid, check the nest, and they'd be jiggling. Then I'd come home after work to "welp, now I have 2+100 Jack Dempseys".

I know next to nothing about fungi but my impression is that they can look like anything whatsoever. Seriously, there are some wildass looking fungi out there.

Terrarium update, I had two actual mushrooms sprout in there and had to evict more pillbugs. No mold tho, which is nice, and it still smells properly wet-forest-y. Any time pillbugs are mentioned on gardening forums there'll be some bleeding heart do-gooder who says to leave them alone, they only eat rotting material but man lemme tell you, these guys will absolutely shred anything that looks like a plant.

aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

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Pillbug

Raenir Salazar posted:

Why not let the ants eat them or is this terrarium not really for ants?

Ya I'm still posting in here out of inertia but I veered from the ant project into a forest moss terrarium thingy instead

aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

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Pillbug

https://twitter.com/DanielKronauer/status/1317099062823444483

aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

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Pillbug

Def tell me if my using this as the generic crawly creature thread is unwelcome but this is pretty wow:

https://twitter.com/just_whatever/status/1319232676684025856

aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

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Pillbug

"Keep trying different things until there's no longer fuckin trash everywhere" is p elegant as a problem-solving approach

aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

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Pillbug

Very cool time lapse of a fire ant colony rebuilding after a rainstorm:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xceWWuShHlU

I was struck by how dynamic the hill was, all those little landslides seemed to be a normal part of the process.

aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

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Pillbug

Glutes Are Great posted:

Oh hell yes, that is so amazing! Those landslides are exactly part of the process, it needs to be, so that the resulting hill will be strong enough to support everything as before. It's fascinating to see how tireless they work to rebuild their home, imagine what kind of coordination we humans would need to accomplish that. And they do neither talk nor have any bosses!

Wish we could see what's going on inside, they presumably have to rebuild all kinds of tunnels every time that happens

aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

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Pillbug

I was kinda rolling my eyes at what I thought was sensationalist reporting by the NYT, so fuckin lol at learning that they're really actually exactly that bad.

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aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

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Pillbug

Carpantry

https://i.imgur.com/mAYVlch.mp4

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