Update on ants
I have to admit that by now I am getting very hooked to keeping ants. Watching and observation the sole queen ant starting a
colony is actually quite a fascinating experience. Currently I have three different species of ants in captivity now. Lets start with
the first and most difficult species, Texas leaf cutter ants or Atta texana. The reason why A. texana is difficult to form colony is
mainly due to queen's inability to cultivate fungus and high mortality rate of young queens. So far from the 20+ queens collected,
only two queens were able to produce eggs that turn into larvae. It has been tumultuous raising the A. texana queen. First I had
to get supply of fungus from other sources in order to provide sufficient food for the larvae. The worker ants emerged which was
a great sight, but soon the queen continue to produce more eggs that turn into larvae and demanding more fungus. Several type
of leaves were provided to the colony. Most of the leaves were cut but unfortunately instead of adding it to help the fungus
growth, it went straight to the dump site. Soon my existing fungus dwindled to nothing and i had to be thick face and asked for
more fungus from the museum. I am currently on the second supply of fungus and hoping this time i could find the appropriate
food plant for the fungus. The problem didn't solve right away when i first introduced more fungus because there were some
worker ants from different colony that came together with the fungus and those ants attacked the queen. Then the amazing thing
happened where i saw the existing worker ants from the queen brood (which are larger than the introduced workers) appeared
to coax the foreign workers into accepting the new queen. By then I received a great advice Christian who suggested oat meal
which appeared to be well accepted by the fresh worker ants. I have seen oat meal being added on the fungus instead of the
dump site, which is a relieve. Hopefully the fungus will continue to grow on oat meal and continue to provide the require fungus
to sustain the colony. I have learnt that fungus can be consumed in matter of days, and the entire colony could starve to death.
Another species of ants I am working on is the harvester ant, Pogonomrymex barbatus. Unlike the Texas leaf cutter ant,
harvester queen ants appear to do very well for me. Out of the 50+ queens, i only have one death. I have separated two group of
queens into two temperature conditions. One group is being kept in the bug room with temperature around 80-85F, which the
other group being kept in the constantly hot garage with temperature around 90-95F. The eggs from queens in the garage
appeared to first hatch and grew rapidly in as little as 2 weeks, whereas the eggs from queens kept in the bug room did not
hatch. Queen harvester ants are very hardy. Some have been attacked by several fire ants before being captured, and the fire ant
continued to cling on to the harvester queen ant in captivity, but that didn't deter the queens from laying and forming colony.
There were also two queens with partial wings, and both queens did lay eggs that hatched, which meant the queens were
probably just unable to completely shed the wings but were actually fertile. I have decided to include some wheat seeds to help
the queens on weaning the larvae. I have been told that this species of queen ant does not need food during the weaning stage
for first batch of worker ants. But with food supply, the worker ants from even the first batch could grow into larger size. I am
leaving some seeds in all the vials containing queen and currently keeping all of them in the garage to speed up the colony
process. It has been the most successful species for me so far. I look forward to see the first batch of worker ants emerging.
The third kind of species is the pavement ant, Tetramorium caespitum. It is considered to be another hardy species. The queens are
smaller than harvester ant by at least half the size, but the queen appeared to be as prolific as harvester ants. Before I even providing
any food to the queens, i have already seen larvae in the vials. Each queen appear to have laid about 30-40 eggs so far. I gave the
queen a drop of honey and hopefully that will help speeding up the colony. Pavement ant is known to be not very picky on food and
consume a wide variety of food from nuts, cheese, meats, to dead insects, plant saps, and seeds. It would be interesting to see how
fast the colony grow.
Queen ants kept in cooler bug room
Queen ants kept in warmer garage (without food)
Queen ants kept in warmer garage (with food)
The only dead harvester queen ant