Good morning all!
I've been a lurker for a few weeks and now that I've got a good feeling on what's going on both in my own ant colonies and here, I'm confident to start up a (most likely very) sporadic diary/journal of my colonies that I am looking after, and boy is it a few, though to some, it may not be. As I live in Australia several unique species are available to me and many are blocked off due to import laws and general environmental awareness of my area. Also as I'm only just returning to the hobby (pet keeping? I dunno....ant keeping hobby sounds better) I'm pretty much relearning everything from scratch and having a blast doing so. Finding out mistakes and better approches to how I tackle problems is a great feeling.
Here is a list of what I currently have with a brief description of their state and composition, in no particular order:
Pheidole sp. colonies:
I love these l;ittle guys. When I was 10 or so I had a small stand up Milton ant farm with these guys in it...till they escaped overnight. I always see them around the place and the fact they have majors is a bonus as well as being small, even with massive colonies these guys shouldn't take up too much room if I maintain feeding once they hit a certain size. Queens are about 8mm, workers are 2mm, majors are apparently around 5mm, though I have none thus far.. All of these guys are in test tubes right now til they hit 'critical mass'. Side note: At what population should I start thinking about moving these girls from a test tube setup to a nest+outworld?
This one is one of my first colonies I for hold of in the new year. It has 2 queens and roughly 15 or so workers with a large bunch of brood. One of the queens is injured by the looks and has trouble walking. Looks like she lost a leg before I got them. I recently had an issue in their test tube as somehow it partially flooded or got too much condensation that pooled. several workers sadly drowned by the looks and the brood was semi-submerged for a time before I noticed. They seem to be recovering and back to being pretty active (they got pretty sluggish at the time of the flooding and I thought I was going to loose them all). No majors as of yet but in a month or two I'm expecting this colony to hit a population number that supports them.
This is a recent addition I got (I bought it as I missed nuptial flights in Australia) that I thought was a 2 queen colony. Seems it's a 3 and all queens seem to be laying now that they have settled down. Around 20ish workers and very active and fast. Can be a pain to feed them in the test tube at times because as soon as I unstopper it (cotton ball stopper), 5 rush to see what's going on. This has lead to 'fun' on the first feeding attempt. Now I know they do this I plan accordingly and cover the tube except for an inch or two and have a light shine on it, usually gives me enough time to unstopper, take out old food, stopper, wait 10 minutes, put food in. Testing with some crushed quinoa and bird seed, but they don't seem to be too interested yet. I'm going to attempt it again when majors start to show up to break them down.
Colony C...I guess?
This one is VERY interesting. Went to have a shower this morning and found a queen walking around my basin, almost go down the plug hole. I got it on my finger and then managed to 'entertain it' on my hand whilst I got a test tube to put her in. I had the window open so I guess she got in that way. I'm not too sure if anything will come of it but she is sitting in a tube set up with water and a little protein gel for now until she calms down. This one is totally unexpected thus I have no plans at all with her.
Feeding for Pheidole:
I'm currently just feeding them small amounts of raw honey, some protein gel which they seem to enjoy, cut up feeder roaches and mealworms (they like to burrow into them from the cracks I make in the carapace, kind of funny when removing old food to find 3 or so ants chilling inside the shell. They don't seem too keen on seeds just yet but seemed to enjoy crushed walnut/peanut from a 'trail mix' pack I had.
Banded Sugar Ant (Camponotus consobrinus):
Oh these guys...so much pain in my childhood. I used to torment the local nests with water, sticks and little trowels. They repaid me by biting the crap out of my ankles, hands and arms. Good times! Since then I've loved these not so little fellas. As the name states they love sugar and sugary foods. Queens are about 15-19mm, workers are 8mm, majors 12-17mm, though I have none just yet. Because they are so big they take up to 2 months from egg to hatch so the perfect compliment to the pheidole that are much more rapid due to their small size.
This colony is a simple one. A founding queen with a load of brood. Looks like there are about 10-14 eggs, larvae and pupae which I expect to have the first one to eclose in the next week or two by the looks. When I take the cover off to have a peek, she is hyper alert. I don't do this much and leave her to do her thing.
This poor colony was so good, then kind of crashed. At it's height it had 8 or so workers, then half of them died (2 of them the queen ate...go figure, even with food available). They seem to be recovering now with brood getting there but there is not much egg production and the pupae seem to be wrinkled, not sure if that's normal or just from something going wrong. Either way I feed them and they eat and have full gasters so none are hungry.Carbs and proteins get munched up, though with a small population it's not too much. For some reason this colony likes to cover their roaches with sand when I put them in and in the morning there is usually a noticeable amount of red sand in the feed dish, my other outworld colony doesn't do this and actually removes sand and dirt from the dish. It truly is strange.
This colony is going pretty well. Currently it has 8 or 9 workers, a small but healthy amount of brood and I've had to move them from a test tube setup to a more traditional setup as they where too cramped and hard to feed in the tube. They are nice and active and starting to settle into their outworld. I'm picking up a nest for them today as the founding one I had put aside for them will be too small I feel. These girls are just foraging and eating pretty much anything I put infront of them except grains, which is understandable. I wanted to try anyways just incase. Watching them get flung around by a pre-killed feeder roach is always funny and usually causes a swarm response from the others. I'm going to be doing some work in their outworld later today also as I have some plans as I don't want it to be purely functional, I want it to look decent too, though I'm not going the whole grout route, I may with the pheidole though, however I'm a tad worried about potential grout shrinkage causing spaces that the small Pheidole can squeeze into and nest in.
Feeding for Banded Sugar Ants:
These girls love any kind of sweet food. Honey, sugar water, fruits or anything else along those lines. Also they love feeder roaches, meal worms and protein gel (though only some types surprisingly). They don't seem to be overly interested in seeds and grains however.
So that's all for my intro. I'll be updating as more things happen and just go from there. Updates may be rapid fire or may die off and then pick up as works getting nuts and I'm now having to travel a bit more than I would like or expected. Don't worry though I have someone that's happy to feed the colonies whilst I'm away.
If any of you have questions, hints, tips or thoughts I'm all ears and always wanting to learn more.