Keeping ants.

Keeping ants.

Postby Mongoose » Fri Aug 24, 2007 4:29 pm

Has/does anyone here kept ant's before?

I am looking into setting up an Ant Viv and get a community going.

Any tips on the Do's and Dont's?

Hopeing that some of the Europeans will be able to give some advice please, as this seems much more common there than here in SA.

Goose
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Postby BushSnake » Fri Aug 24, 2007 5:25 pm

Hi

Yes I have kept ants for breeding myrmecophilous (ant associated) butterfly larvae. Some are quite difficult while others are reall easy. I built a formicarium (Ant viv) as instructed by various other butterfly breeders. I worked as follows:

There are 2 compartments where 1 is a Addisware 350X350X200mm container. This is the living area where ants can gather food, water, etc. The other one, abouth 150X150X40mm, can be made of wood / perspex but should be kept dark. Since ants can't see red I used a red transparent sheet of perspex fo the lid of that compartment which means that even though it is light to humans, it will be dark to the ants. The ants can then be observed inside "the nest". The 2 compartments are tightly joined with nuts and bolts and one 8mm hole is used so that the ants can move in/out of the nest. The lid of the "arena" can be covered with mosquito netting but watch out as some species can chew through nylon netting. The nest should be non-poisonous but light so that the ants' behaviour can be observed.

The ants (preferably with the queen) with some of their brood should be collected in the wild and placed inside the arena. They should carry the young larvae into the nest. Put some diluted honey water in the arena and feed them with bits of fruit and protein (crickets, moths, etc) every now and then.

Since it is very hard to find the queen in the wild, it is a long-term project and you have to wait for the workers to produce eggs by parthenogenesis.

All in all. Good luck!!
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Postby Mongoose » Fri Aug 24, 2007 8:16 pm

Thanks Bushsnake.

Just a few Q's - What substrate should I use for them?

Is the arena the bigger tub and the nesting sight the smaller one?

What do you mean by saying "The nest should be non-poisonous but light so that the ants' behaviour can be observed"?

I have heard that it is hard to get hold of queen ants. So could i just collect a whole lot of ants and there egg's and just place them in the bigger tub?

Thanks
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Postby BushSnake » Fri Aug 24, 2007 9:23 pm

Yes the arena is the bigger tub. Normally the "nest" is made of wood which should be sealed to prevent it from rotting. Many sealants are poisonous so the same principles would count as when you are building a wooden viv for snakes. By sealing it with something like plaster of paris you can prevent the wood from going bad but keep the inside white so that you can see the ants. If the inside is brown/black it will be harder to observe the ants. I didn't use any substrate because it makes the thing easier to clean but it obviously looks terrible. When breeding butterflies you normally place a little plant in a pot inside the arena for the butterfly larva to feed on so you could do the same. Why do you want to keep ants?

The queen is the only ant that produce offspring but some of the workers will also produce young if the queen is absent. One of the new ants might end up becoming a new queen. So yes, collect ants, larvae and hope for the best...
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Postby Mongoose » Fri Aug 24, 2007 9:33 pm

Cool, could i just put soil in both of the tubs for them and let them build dig there own tunnels etc?

I saw something on the tv the other night and it was quite impressive and thought that i should try it out. wathcing them through the glass in the tunnels etc fascinates me!

Do you by anychance have any photos?
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Postby alexander » Fri Aug 24, 2007 9:54 pm

I used to have a ant keeping set, but it is lost and broken. It was made of plastic squares about 10cm(l), 1cm (b), 7cm(h). It was transparent and it came with rooves and tubes that you could connect to another 'box'. It was awesome because you could watch them burrow, and see the chambers. Although i could never find a queen. Look out for a set like this, as it could be an awesome display.
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Postby BushSnake » Sat Aug 25, 2007 9:28 am

Try put in soil and see what happens. Most setups I have seen used an "open plan" nest so even though they didn't build chambers, they still used different parts of the nest for the different requirements. It might be worth designing the nest as let's say 3 different layers, all sperated in such a way that each can be observed through red perspex. Not sure exactly how but could be interesting.

Sorry no pics! It was before the digital time and taking slides of a plastic tub was not worth the money :)
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