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to hibernate or not to hibernate?


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7 replies to this topic

#1 Offline Skwiggledork - Posted December 4 2018 - 9:14 AM

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Potentially controversial post here, but here we go.

"Too long/didn't read" version: How drastically does not hibernating ants affect their life span?

Longer version: I've only been ant keeping for a little less than 15 months starting from my first queen caught. This is the first year I have workers hibernating. Last year I only had two or three queens. From what I've seen on other threads and posts on Facebook groups, every year hibernation questions come up. I usually skim them to see if there is anything I didn't know, but my queens survived me just putting them in the fridge and started laying after I took them out three and a half months later, so I wasn't too concerned with how to hibernate them. When anyone asks about not hibernating their ants they are told it shortens the queens lifespan. Then a comment on a Facebook post caught my eye. It basically said there aren't many posts about older colonies and ant keeping is one of the hobbies that has a high turn over rate. A lot of people join, then quit within a year or two, so most people wouldn't see a colony die of old age as is. That got me thinking. I've got a Tetramorium immigrans colony. There is no shortage of them and I'd have no problem catching more. We even have a thread about one member trying to kill the ones in his/her yard so they can see more native ants. Basically, How bad will it affect them if I don't hibernate them? Does anyone know the difference in lifespan?  What is the normal lifespan for a Tetramorium colony?
 


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#2 Offline ANTdrew - Posted December 4 2018 - 11:41 AM

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I'm asking the SAME questions, brother. I wish more old timers would get on here and clarify things like this. I'm basically straddling the fence with my two colonies. One is in a cold closet, and the other is just at room temp (which is still pretty cold in my house this time of year.)


"The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer." Prov. 30:25


#3 Offline ANTdrew - Posted December 5 2018 - 4:51 AM

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I'm getting a sinking feeling that no one is going to answer your question.

 

I take that back - thank you for the answers below.


Edited by ANTdrew, December 5 2018 - 10:07 AM.

"The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer." Prov. 30:25


#4 Offline YsTheAnt - Posted December 5 2018 - 7:50 AM

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Tetramorium immigrans doesn't really need hibernation. Some other species, such as Camponotus (from northern regions), typically do.
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#5 Offline Serafine - Posted December 5 2018 - 7:53 AM

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It depends on the species and the environment they come from.

 

Camponotus ligniperda and herculeanus for example have an endogenic rhythm and during their first 3-4 years they have a "one year plan" they stick to no matter what. Heating just reduces their span of activity - In the case of Camponotus ligniperda (which is the more extreme of the two) this can lead to cases where they completely stop brood development and reduce foraging to an absolute necessary minimum in JUNE. They don't care, they run on an internal clock and there is nothing you can do about it, so you might es well hibernate them properly.

 

Lasius on the other hand have an exogenic rhythm which means their clock runs on environment triggers and needs to be reset periodically. People have tried raising Lasius niger without hibernation - the results are smaller workers (barely workers above 4mm), colonies stay very small and never surpass a few hundred ants, brood development is infrequent and poor with huge breaks where nothing happens at all, foraging activity is low (an obvious consequence of poor brood development) and none of the explosive spring growth Lasius ants are famous for. I haven't read any long term journals, so I can't say anything about the effect this has on a queen's life span (which usually is around 15-25 years).

 

 

Mediterranean ants in contrast never really hibernate anyway, they just have a period of reduced activity with mostly stagnant brood development and low foraging efforts. Many of them can do this diapause at a room temperature of 15-20°C (my own Camponotus barbaricus are doing it at 20-22°C with regular cold spikes when I air the room at morning and evening). It is not even uncommon for them to lay eggs and raise larvae (though at greatly reduced speed) but they won't pupate until spring. If kept warm during winter many of them may delay their diapause but will eventually still do it at some point even if it's in mid summer (Messor are known to do this, not sure about Camponotus).


Edited by Serafine, December 5 2018 - 7:56 AM.

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We should respect all forms of consciousness. The body is just a vessel, a mere hull.

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Welcome to Lazy Tube - My Camponotus Journal

#6 Offline ANTdrew - Posted December 5 2018 - 10:06 AM

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Very helpful info, Serafine. Do you have any idea where along this spectrum Tetramorium would fall? Even if they don't really need hibernation, I want to do what is best for them.


"The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer." Prov. 30:25


#7 Offline Serafine - Posted December 5 2018 - 11:17 AM

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I have no idea about US Tetras, also the US is a pretty huge place spanning several climate zones. And in the case of Tetramorium immigrans it's even worse as this is an invasive species with an original distribution all over Europe, spanning several climate zones as well. So I'd say it's basically down to trial and error (but considering that this species' original range covers southern Europe it's likely that they don't really need hibernation or can do with a reduced version like other ants with a similar range, for example Solenopsis fugax).


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#8 Offline Wa.Va - Posted December 5 2018 - 2:40 PM

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Thanks for the info.

I also think timing is relevant here. For example with Crematogaster and Solenopsis in south europe.
If the nuptial flights starts just before winter, they probably wait with producing eggs untill spring has arrived.
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