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Over hunting?


98 replies to this topic

#1 Offline matt123 - Posted September 21 2017 - 10:23 AM

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Hey guys,

 

First year doing this and I have two little concerns that maybe someone can address.

It seems that when people go queen hunting they try to catch upwards of 15 or more queens sometimes.

 

My first concern is, at what point should you be concerned of catching too many queens to have an effect on the local environment? I caught 6 queens this summer: two tetramorium, two crematogastor, and two camponotous (one died within a few days and the other has yet to lay eggs or shed her wings ~2 months later). With my 6 queens I began to wonder how this would effect my local ecosystem. But in all my online reading it doesn't seem uncommon for people to catch a boat load of ants. I saw one post on a different forum with someone who boasted 50+ queens in one summer. I have seen many posts on this forum with 10+ queens. and Various information elsewhere citing anywhere from 10-30 queens of one species. And I sometimes see this done for multiple species, that could easily be hundreds caught by one person!! Some people set up black lights to trap queen ants as well. Does any of this set off alarm bells for others? Or am I just crazy?

 

Which leads to my second concern, what do you do with the extra colonies. Let's say you catch 15 queens. You plan on, for various reasons, only 5 making it. But actually 12 colonies make it, which you cannot house and maintain. What does one normally do then with extra colonies?

In my case of 2 colonies of tetramorium, I honestly would only want to keep one, but am now stuck with two. Right now it's no problem, but in five years when I have two mature colonies that's a large difference than one mature colony. Obviously these numbers are small, but one can easily scale that up. I can't imagine having more than 5 young colonies to figure out housing for after a few years of growth, let alone 15. Naturally, this would change from person to person (climate, housing, $$, various other things), but once again, the idea is scalable.

 

Thanks guys


Edited by matt123, September 21 2017 - 10:29 AM.


#2 Offline Antsinmycloset - Posted September 21 2017 - 10:47 AM

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With queens, like a lot of invertebrates, you're looking enormous mortality rates (high 90s, probably?) in the first year. Most of the genera you see mentioned have very abundant species and, on the right day, you could encounter hundreds and hundreds of queens in just a few acres. You're giving yourself too much credit if you're worried about one person damaging the ecosystem via queen collection. A single American robin, over an afternoon, will easily eat more queens than the vast majority of anters collect a year.

That said, I'm right there with you. I really wonder if the people who catch 30-50 of one species have really thought things through. I know a lot of them plan to sell the queens later, but the idea of feeding 50-100 colonies multiple times a week just sounds... tedious. I think most people aren't concerned with colony size five years down the road, though, as you can limit protein, cull, or do other things to keep most colonies a manageable size.


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#3 Offline Scrixx - Posted September 21 2017 - 10:50 AM

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Yeah I've also thought about ecological impact and I still think about it when I go anting. To be fair I've only gone out a few times. When I collect, I'll only get a few queens from an area and leave the rest. Or if i see 6 queens digging a founding nest within inches of each other I'll collect all but one. You'll even see queens digging a founding nest next to an existing colony. I'll collect those too. So pretty much I'll collect almost all queens that might fail and I won't collect all queens from a certain area.

 

Like most insects they try to produce a lot of offspring in hopes that some of them will make it. A queen has to find an area wet enough to dig deep, an area without an existing colony, and survive predation while digging. All of those make it pretty rare for a queen to successfully found a colony. Now I don't know if this is correct but someone said 2% of queens successfully found a colony past a year. Which makes sense to me since maybe 20% of queens are infertile and another 20% die within the first year from non-external causes in captivity.

 

Now assuming we collect ants on the idea that most of them are going to die and fail anyways. My other point is that queens are actually pretty damn nutritious. They store enough carbs and protein to found a colony without a food source after all. If you go out anting on a nuptial flight, you'll see predators like dragonflies snacking on queens and you'll see queens walking around without an abdomen. So there's a good chance we're impacting the ecosystem negatively because we're removing a food source from the predators that take advantage of nuptial flights. To be fair nuptial flights happen once to a few times a year so those predators probably sustain on other food sources. At the same time collecting a large number of queens would probably stop a population boom that would've otherwise occurred after a nuptial flight due to the large abundance of food.

 

With all that in mind. Collecting 10 queens probably wouldn't impact anything at all. Collecting 20-50 might starve a few dragonflies or other predators. 50+ might start starving a lizard or reptile. Just made these numbers up but it's just to give perspective.

 

For extra colonies, we either trade, sell, or give them away. It's also a good idea to keep a few queens of a species since I mentioned some of them fail in the first year even after getting their first workers.


Edited by Scrixx, September 21 2017 - 10:56 AM.

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Queen Ants - Colonies with workers for sale

Dorymyrmex insanus - $15 | Pheidole xerophila - $25 | Myrmecocystus mexicanus(1 left, 4 workers) - $85 | Myrmecocystus mimicus(1 left, 4 Workers) - $65

 

My Queens:

Dorymyrmex insanus - Forelius sp. - Myrmecocystus mexicanus - Myrmecocystus mimicus - Pheidole gilvescens - Pheidole xerophila - Pogonomyrmex subnitidus - Pogonomyrmex rugosus

 


#4 Offline matt123 - Posted September 21 2017 - 11:49 AM

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For extra colonies, we either trade, sell, or give them away. It's also a good idea to keep a few queens of a species since I mentioned some of them fail in the first year even after getting their first workers.

Is it feasible to release them? Partially bury the tube as is somewhere? and check back in a few weeks to grab the tube once they moved out?



#5 Offline ultraex2 - Posted September 21 2017 - 1:43 PM

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For extra colonies, we either trade, sell, or give them away. It's also a good idea to keep a few queens of a species since I mentioned some of them fail in the first year even after getting their first workers.

Is it feasible to release them? Partially bury the tube as is somewhere? and check back in a few weeks to grab the tube once they moved out?

 

 

Definitely feasible - honestly if you just put them underneath a rock/log or something and dump the tube out they should be fine.



#6 Offline matt123 - Posted September 21 2017 - 1:51 PM

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The funny thing is that I deffinetly would not forget about them and keep checking on them every so often and probably feed them a bit lol.

I think it would be cool to keep a colony in the wild like that as breeding stock.


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#7 Offline gcsnelling - Posted September 21 2017 - 2:41 PM

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Do not, Do not, DO NOT under any circumstances release captive colonies.


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#8 Offline Serafine - Posted September 21 2017 - 2:54 PM

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You should never release exotic ants. Native ants that were collected in your area are fine.

Honestly this whole "the ants can get a disease in your house" myth is utter nonsense, diseases don't pop out of thin air. Unless you have other exotic ants the risk of something getting transmitted is zero. If this was a problem all house ants (wild ants that love nesting inside houses) would be a grave threat to their local ecosystem.


Edited by Serafine, September 21 2017 - 11:02 PM.

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#9 Offline Skwiggledork - Posted September 21 2017 - 2:56 PM

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Do not, Do not, DO NOT under any circumstances release captive colonies.

Complete noob here, but if you catch a queen locally and later release the colony, why is that bad?



#10 Offline Reacker - Posted September 21 2017 - 3:06 PM

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I would be surprised if there were any species so vulnerable that you could catch enough freshly mated queens to have any measurable effect on their population from hobbyist level collecting efforts.

 

Collecting established colonies is another matter entirely and demands more caution. Depending on the exact circumstances it might be relatively easy for a single hobbyist to deplete a few square miles of a single species in only a few thorough anting trips. I know because I've done it before.....


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#11 Offline TennesseeAnts - Posted September 21 2017 - 3:14 PM

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Collecting established colonies is another matter entirely and demands more caution. Depending on the exact circumstances it might be relatively easy for a single hobbyist to deplete a few square miles of a single species in only a few thorough anting trips. I know because I've done it before.....

Square miles!? That is a lot of ground.


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#12 Offline Reacker - Posted September 21 2017 - 3:20 PM

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If you're looking for a species that you only ever find nesting under rocks that are shaped and placed in some very specific way in an area without many of those rocks, a few square miles is not that much ground. It doesn't take long to disturb all suitable rocks to the point where the species distribution found under the previously well settled rocks changes noticeably to another species that better tolerates disturbed rocks. 

 

This is why I don't like lifting rocks anymore, even though I would usually make an effort to replace the rock as carefully as possible to its original position. When I was younger I didn't realize how easy it is to have these kinds of effects on small portions of land but now that I do I avoid making the same mistakes. As a hobbyist there's nothing under those rocks sufficiently valuable to me to justify having such a large impact. 


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#13 Offline Spamdy - Posted September 21 2017 - 3:34 PM

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This idea also goes with brood boosting, boosting brood in large amounts from undisturbed colonies in the wild is probably even worse than collecting them. Taking so much brood could result in 1. The colony not being able to survive hibernation. 2. Deplete amount of the same species that had its brood taken away especially during the summer when nuptial flights happen. Etc. This is my stand point on this issue.


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Queens:
 
 * Pseudomyrmex gracilis (1)
 * Solenopsis xyloni (2)
 * Tapinoma melanocephalum (1)
 *Pheidole cf. constipata (1)
 
Colonies:
 
 * Camponotus pennsylvanicus (1)
 *Pheidole cf. constipata (1)

* Brachymyrmex depilis (2)


#14 Offline Batspiderfish - Posted September 21 2017 - 5:32 PM

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Do not, Do not, DO NOT under any circumstances release captive colonies.

Complete noob here, but if you catch a queen locally and later release the colony, why is that bad?

 

 

It has been demonstrated that other wild animals captured as pets will contract diseases in captivity which are then spread to wild populations after being released. One often-cited occurrence for this was the mycoplasmosis outbreak in the Agassiz's desert tortoise, a respiratory infection which is commonly picked up in the captive setting, which caused a die-off in native population. What's worse is that the bacterium responsible did not infect only this species of tortoise, but is capable of affecting all tortoises.

 

There are a host of reasons that no captive animal should be released without strict protocols and research, which, for ants, does not yet exist. As a general rule, all captive animals should be treated as potential vectors for disease.

 

No pet owner should ever take in an animal which they do not plan to care for until death. Many of the people "releasing" their pets are simply washing their hands of the responsibility they made for themselves, and often killing their pet in the process.

 

New hobbyists should not be encouraged to catch more than 5 queens. In general, you will only have sufficient space to care for three or four of them long-term (which if done properly can be 15-30 years). The fact that some people have trouble establishing queens doesn't mean they can't go out and find more over the long nuptial season. I also understand that there is a burgeoning ant trade, for better or for worse.


Edited by Batspiderfish, September 21 2017 - 5:40 PM.

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If you've enjoyed using my expertise and identifications, please do not create undue ecological risk by releasing your ants. The environment which we keep our pet insects is alien and oftentimes unsanitary, so ensure that wild populations stay safe by giving your ants the best care you can manage for the rest of their lives, as we must do with any other pet.

 

Exotic ants are for those who think that vibrant diversity is something you need to pay money to see. It is illegal to transport live ants across state lines.

 

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#15 Offline Salmon - Posted September 21 2017 - 6:59 PM

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Do not, Do not, DO NOT under any circumstances release captive colonies.

Complete noob here, but if you catch a queen locally and later release the colony, why is that bad?

 

 

It has been demonstrated that other wild animals captured as pets will contract diseases in captivity which are then spread to wild populations after being released. One often-cited occurrence for this was the mycoplasmosis outbreak in the Agassiz's desert tortoise, a respiratory infection which is commonly picked up in the captive setting, which caused a die-off in native population. What's worse is that the bacterium responsible did not infect only this species of tortoise, but is capable of affecting all tortoises.

 

There are a host of reasons that no captive animal should be released without strict protocols and research, which, for ants, does not yet exist. As a general rule, all captive animals should be treated as potential vectors for disease.

 

No pet owner should ever take in an animal which they do not plan to care for until death. Many of the people "releasing" their pets are simply washing their hands of the responsibility they made for themselves, and often killing their pet in the process.

 

New hobbyists should not be encouraged to catch more than 5 queens. In general, you will only have sufficient space to care for three or four of them long-term (which if done properly can be 15-30 years). The fact that some people have trouble establishing queens doesn't mean they can't go out and find more over the long nuptial season. I also understand that there is a burgeoning ant trade, for better or for worse.

 

That doesn't mean that diseases appear out of nowhere. If you only have locally caught ants, you only have local diseases. If you have other exotic animals, whatever microbes they're carrying will find their way into the environment with or without the help of released ants. 

 

Washing your hands of a pet that has no way of surviving in the environment is one thing... releasing a wild insect back outside that spent a bit of time indoors another. 


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#16 Offline Batspiderfish - Posted September 21 2017 - 9:13 PM

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That doesn't mean that diseases appear out of nowhere. If you only have locally caught ants, you only have local diseases. If you have other exotic animals, whatever microbes they're carrying will find their way into the environment with or without the help of released ants.

Washing your hands of a pet that has no way of surviving in the environment is one thing... releasing a wild insect back outside that spent a bit of time indoors another.

 
There is a lack of scope and understanding about the evolution and transmission of pathogens which makes this an uninformed rationalization about something that is not integral to the hobby.

I know it's hip in America not to listen to scientists, but granted that this is a generalization, I think we should give it our best try. I don't mean to direct this all at you; nothing's more controversial in this community than discouraging practices on a legal or specialized basis. We have a responsibility as hobbyists to act ethically and as safely as possible.

Edited by Batspiderfish, September 21 2017 - 10:15 PM.

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If you've enjoyed using my expertise and identifications, please do not create undue ecological risk by releasing your ants. The environment which we keep our pet insects is alien and oftentimes unsanitary, so ensure that wild populations stay safe by giving your ants the best care you can manage for the rest of their lives, as we must do with any other pet.

 

Exotic ants are for those who think that vibrant diversity is something you need to pay money to see. It is illegal to transport live ants across state lines.

 

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Black lives still matter.


#17 Offline JackPearl - Posted September 22 2017 - 4:11 AM

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Consider it an investment, what ever colony survives in your care and you don't sell or trade. Will eventually outgrow your capacity to maintain and care for it. Then when it exceeds your ability you can release it into the Wild and create more colonies from that one. If you take 15, keep 5 and 3 years later re-release them. That's a hell of a lot better mortality rate then they would have in the Wild.

#18 Offline gcsnelling - Posted September 22 2017 - 4:36 AM

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There is another thing to consider. It is not legal to release any wild organism that has been in captivity back into the wild. Get that?? It is Illegal, as in by law you can not do it, you can receive a fine regardless if it is native to the area or not. Whether or not you get one is another thing.


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#19 Offline Batspiderfish - Posted September 22 2017 - 5:05 AM

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No, releasing your ants is not a boon to wild populations. Along with the aforementioned risk of introduction or amplification of disease, you are altering an ecological niche based solely on human preference (the easiest ants to see). The only thing that will aid the recovery of a species or a habitat is to let that habitat return to a state more-or-less without humans and the organisms that humans introduced. This isn't popular because it requires a donation of land, but it's really the only thing that works.

 

Contrary to popular belief biologists did actually go through years of study to turn their passion and curiosity about the mechanisms of life into a profession, a profession which carries skills and expertise that were earned through academic discipline, not by watching the discovery channel. I doubt that when we go to the doctor's office we spend our time constantly contradicting them.


Edited by Batspiderfish, September 22 2017 - 5:21 AM.

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If you've enjoyed using my expertise and identifications, please do not create undue ecological risk by releasing your ants. The environment which we keep our pet insects is alien and oftentimes unsanitary, so ensure that wild populations stay safe by giving your ants the best care you can manage for the rest of their lives, as we must do with any other pet.

 

Exotic ants are for those who think that vibrant diversity is something you need to pay money to see. It is illegal to transport live ants across state lines.

 

----

Black lives still matter.


#20 Offline sgheaton - Posted September 22 2017 - 5:30 AM

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I was unaware that there were so many credible myrmecologists on this forum.






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