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Crystal's Camponotus herculeanus journal

crystals carpenter

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#1 Offline Crystals - Posted September 25 2013 - 9:23 AM

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Camponotus herculeanus fly by the hundreds every spring in Alberta, Canada.  I picked up a few, but only kept one queen in the end.  I kept the most energetic queen. 

Ok, psycho would be a better term.  She chewed through an entire cotton ball, and then proceeded to chew through half of a foam plug before settling down and laying eggs.

 

DSC04749_zps120ceed5.jpg

 

While cutting grass in late July I knocked over a 2x4 board which happened to have a Camponotus herculeanus nest in it.  I stole about 25 pupae.  I took two glass table coasters and made a "flat test tube" setup.  Works wonderfully well.

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Early August most of the pupae have eclosed and need a bit bigger home.  So I found a small critter keeper in the dollar store and made a formicarium and outworld all in one.  I also stole another dozen pupae

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Late August I moved them into a larger formicarium.  These gals are tough to move. Light doesn't faze them.  I took the heating cable from their old nest and put it under the new one, they followed the heat within the hour (my room sits at 18C).

 

Just after the move:

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Picture from late September.

They do have larvae in several locations.  These are this queens larvae.  I guess we will see if they are workers or alates come spring.  I can't believe how slowly they grow, even with the heating cable.

DSC06152_zpsb2bab3bc.jpg

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What good is a fat major?  If a fruit fly ever manages to get into the tunnels, the smallest workers kill it.

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Yeah, they aren't starving...

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After eating hummingbird nectar, they won't eat honey anymore.  Spoiled brats.  They love fruit flies and crickets.  They nibble on mealworms and various other things.

Absolute slobs though, they carry the garbage from the outworld and put it in a spare chamber.

 

 


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#2 Offline dspdrew - Posted September 25 2013 - 11:09 AM

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Yeah, you're ants definitely don't look hungry. :lol:



#3 Offline nurbs - Posted September 26 2013 - 10:34 AM

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very cool ants... is that a plaster nest?


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#4 Offline Mercutia - Posted September 26 2013 - 10:41 AM

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Those are some seriously fat ants.

The clay you used for your flat test tube is just regular modeling clay?

#5 Offline Crystals - Posted September 26 2013 - 11:03 AM

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very cool ants... is that a plaster nest?

It is made from grout.  I made a how-to thread: http://forum.formicu...ut-formicarium/

I tried plaster once, it molded way too quickly.  Thankfully grout doesn't mold, considering how much garbage they have stored in the spare chamber.

 

Those are some seriously fat ants.

The clay you used for your flat test tube is just regular modeling clay?

I used the Craftsmart modeling clay from Michaels, its about $3 and never dries out.   It is pretty hard, but if you heat it it is like putty and easy to mold.  A microwave works wonders to heat clay.  I just used an exacto blade to cut strips out.


Edited by Crystals, September 26 2013 - 11:04 AM.

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#6 Offline Mercutia - Posted September 26 2013 - 7:32 PM

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I used the Craftsmart modeling clay from Michaels, its about $3 and never dries out.   It is pretty hard, but if you heat it it is like putty and easy to mold.  A microwave works wonders to heat clay.  I just used an exacto blade to cut strips out.

 

I will need to remember that the next time I drop by the craft store. I'm wondering if your Camponotus can chew through it though it? I'm also wondering if i t can be used for longer terms then just founding process. The whole plaster method is pretty grueling.



#7 Offline Crystals - Posted September 27 2013 - 5:45 AM

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Carpenters will undoubtedly be able to chew through it if they tried.  Mine never tried, and I made the walls 1/2" thick so I would have time to notice if they did.  They were on the shelf by my alarm clock, so I saw them several times a day.

Although, I will admit the first 3 days I had them in a second plastic box in case they did chew their way out.  :lol:


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#8 Offline Crystals - Posted November 22 2013 - 2:08 PM

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I put these ladies into hibernation in early October as that was when we had our first frost.

They are residing in a cooler with a thermometer gauge on it.  I use a bucket of frozen water to lower/maintain the temperature.

 

I originally had them at 8C, but they weren't in a good hibernation state, so I dropped the temperature to 5-6C which slowed them down to a more solid hibernation state. 

In my location, Camponotus often freeze solid when the colonies are young and lack deep tunnels, as long as the temperature drop is very gradual (over weeks/months) they are fine with any temperature above 0C.  Camponotus when hibernating seem to fall over.

 

As fat as they are, I have no fear of them starving during hibernation.  Although I have a waterer with nectar and one with water in case someone gets a case of the munchies.

 

I will leave them in hibernation until after the Christmas rush is over.

I read a couple of articles about ant hibernation recently (of course, I forget where I saw them).  It seems that 3-4 months of good hibernation is sufficient for the majority of ant species in North America.


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#9 Offline Crystals - Posted January 11 2014 - 8:35 AM

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I removed this colony from hibernation on Jan. 1.  They have been in hibernation for 3 months.

 

Despite seeing quite a few posts and articles saying that they would not overwinter any brood, mine overwintered all of their larvae.  Once out of hibernation about 15 of them quickly spun a cocoon.  The rest are growing, there are one or two larger larvae.  Maybe I will get a major. 

 

Since coming out of hibernation they are not nearly as fussy as they were before.  Their gasters were not nearly so bloated, so maybe they were hungry.  A lot more workers are now going to the foraging area on a regular basis.  They happily accepted live flightless fruit flies and chopped up darkling beetle (mealworm beetle).  They loved the pieces of cricket (pity crickets are so expensive up here).  They nibbled on some diced mealworm, but it was definitely not a hit.  They didn't like the two kernels of fried rice I offered.

 

7 days out of hibernation and the queen started laying eggs, and in 4 days there is a pile of eggs larger than most of the smaller workers themselves.

 

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#10 Offline Crystals - Posted February 1 2014 - 4:43 PM

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Almost all of the pupae have now eclosed - and they are a slightly different color.  The original workers are Camponotus herculeanus and were boosted from a wild nest.  The herculeanus have the red on the legs and lower thorax.  The new workers (this queens workers) have yellow legs and lower thorax.

 

Colony after new workers:

DSC06609_zps84e0497c.jpg

 

Queen has lots of brood.  I had better start thinking about a new nest.  A couple of the workers occasionally try to chew the grout, but haven't made a scratch yet.  Once this new batch of brood starts to pupate they may run out of room.  There are at least 100-150 eggs, about 50 very tiny larvae, about a dozen larger larvae, and a handful of pupae.

DSC06612_zpsed5b3a75.jpg

 

The new workers are making me doubt the ID of herculeanus.  Herculeanus workers have a pale thorax, with a dark head and gaster when they fist eclose.  Herculeanus I have seen darken to black with red legs and lower thorax.  These new workers eclose with a very yellow head and thorax, and a dark gaster.  They darken to black with yellow legs and lower thorax.

 

All hands on deck when it comes to freeing a new worker:

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One hour and very pale:

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After one week of darkening it matches the coloration of the other new workers:

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Comparison - Camponotus herculeanus above, new worker below:

DSC06626_zps5ecca6a7.jpg


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#11 Offline dspdrew - Posted February 1 2014 - 6:34 PM

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Those definitely look different, but could it maybe just be a variation in color? Camponotus clarithorax, a common species we have around here has some color variations like that too.



#12 Offline wook - Posted February 1 2014 - 7:23 PM

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I believe that they are not herculeanus but rather nearcticus / vicinus.


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#13 Offline Crystals - Posted February 2 2014 - 7:46 AM

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Good thoughts, but mine are much too large for nearcticus.

vicnius crossed my mind, but I have seen them before down in the Rocky Mountains- their entire thorax tends to be red (or yellow when callows). 

Perhaps this is a cross between herculeanus and something else?  It would explain why my queen looks like a herculeanus, yet the workers don't resemble them.  Our spring arrived almost in one week and all Camponotus held the vast majority of their flights in one week.  Usually the flights are spread out over an entire month. 

 

Camponotus vicinus:

DSC05291_zps653907b3.jpg


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#14 Offline wook - Posted February 2 2014 - 11:56 AM

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It is normal for ants to have diversity in their genes, for example, Camponotus vagus which is entirely black can have reddish color somewhere, however, I don't know but I think it's C. vicinus as they are too dark for C. herculeanus.


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#15 Offline dspdrew - Posted February 2 2014 - 1:02 PM

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As Mrmacophyl has mentioned before, some C. vicinus he sees around where I am are all black.



#16 Offline Crystals - Posted February 4 2014 - 7:05 AM

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I wonder if these may be Camponotus modoc.

The first workers that eclosed over 3 weeks ago and are still slowly darkening.  I don't think I have ever seen an ant that took more than 3-5 days to completely darken - it throwing me off balance.  :D

 

From reading a few modoc journals and looking at photos of newly eclosed workers it looks the newer workers have yellow legs, while the older ones are solid black. 

Or maybe there are two color variants in modoc


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#17 Offline dspdrew - Posted February 4 2014 - 7:32 AM

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Too bad you don't have a microscope or something so you could see the very tiny details that would secure their ID. I'm going to be getting me a nice one very soon.



#18 Offline Crystals - Posted March 19 2014 - 3:09 PM

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After the rest of the pupae had eclosed the nest was so crowded that over a dozen workers set up an outpost in the outworld.

The huge pile of eggs is now a very large pile of larvae.  And they were definitely running out of room.

 

So I built them a new nest out of firebrick.  It is in a 8"x10" picture frame with a small outworld behind it.  I moved the heating mat to the new nest and within 24 hours they had more or less completely moved to the new nest.  The queen has also another pile of eggs since the move...

 

DSC06674_zpsc884e59c.jpg

DSC06675_zpsfe1d1e93.jpg

DSC06676_zps9b136eca.jpg


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#19 Offline dspdrew - Posted March 19 2014 - 4:36 PM

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Nice. I wonder if ground nesting ants like vertical nests more than horizontal ones.



#20 Offline Crystals - Posted March 20 2014 - 6:34 AM

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Not sure.  But this species nests in rotten wood in the wild (like most Camponotus in my area).  When they were smaller, I connected their vertical nest to a new horizontal nest and they moved pretty quickly - but they also have been following the heat cable that I moved to the new nest.


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