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Test Tube Setup vs Founding Formicarium


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16 replies to this topic

#1 Offline ConcordAntman - Posted July 9 2018 - 8:31 PM

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I have 3 Camponotus pennsylvanicus queens with larvae & pupae about 2-3 weeks from eclosing so I’ve been thinking about formicaria. I was reading Tar Heel Ants blog which suggested that founding formicaria (Inception chambers, Devolve, Mini Hearth) led to healthier colonies than test tube setups and that the queens should be transferred from the test tubes before their nanitics eclose. I was planning to transfer after I had some workers (5-10). Interested in your thoughts.

#2 Offline Russell - Posted July 9 2018 - 9:59 PM

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I have 3 Camponotus pennsylvanicus queens with larvae & pupae about 2-3 weeks from eclosing so I’ve been thinking about formicaria. I was reading Tar Heel Ants blog which suggested that founding formicaria (Inception chambers, Devolve, Mini Hearth) led to healthier colonies than test tube setups and that the queens should be transferred from the test tubes before their nanitics eclose. I was planning to transfer after I had some workers (5-10). Interested in your though

I have a number of Camponotus including pennsylvanicus and don't see any reason you can not move after they have workers. Founding chambers I guess might mold less as their is no cotton balls but I have not had any issues moving Camponotus to a new test tube either. 


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Camponotus Pennsylvanicus/Modus

Tetramorium sp. E

Formica Podzolica

Lasius Alienus

Lasius Niger

Formica Ravida 


#3 Offline CoolColJ - Posted July 10 2018 - 4:48 AM

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if you don't want to mess around with mold and water getting low in a test tube go the Founding nest way

 

Some species like Phediole are a pain to move out of a test tube. I usually have to resort to brute force to get them out, but if your patient enough to wait a few weeks then that works too :)

So I hear temperature manipulation also can be effective.

 

if you have a fast growing and brooding species, then the test tube way is OK.

Slow species where you have to wait months before the queen lays, and then more months before the brood ecloses to a worker can be a nightmare in test tubes for obvious reasons.

So glad I put my Strobe ant queen in a founding nest from the start, very slow growers


Edited by CoolColJ, July 10 2018 - 4:50 AM.

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Current ant colonies -
1) Opisthopsis Rufithorax (strobe ant), Melophorus Sp1. (furnace ant) red and black, Melophorus sp2. black and orange
9mm queen red head Phediole sp, 7mm queen all black Phediole, 2x Phediole sp. red head/black body 8mm queens
Polyrhachis rufifemur and femorata, Camponotus suffusus and humilior
Journal = http://www.formicult...sp-furnace-ant/

Nasutitermes fumigatus/dixoni subterranean pet/feeder termite colony journal = http://www.formicult...ournal/?p=96808


#4 Offline ConcordAntman - Posted July 10 2018 - 4:59 AM

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Thanks for the replies. Another question. In Tar Heel Ants YouTube videos they emphasized the importance of hibernation in maintaining colony health but suggested that the larger the colony was at its first hibernation, the more likely it would be to survive. They went on to suggest faster colony growth occurred in founding chambers than test tube setups. This was in relation to Camponotus species. Is that something you’ve seen?

Edited by ConcordAntman, July 10 2018 - 5:02 AM.


#5 Offline Serafine - Posted July 10 2018 - 6:05 AM

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if you don't want to mess around with mold and water getting low in a test tube go the Founding nest way

My Camponotus barbaricus lived in their test tube for over half a year and there was zero mold. They have water tubes attached to their nest that have been there for over a year and still have zero mold.

My Solenopsis fugax are still nesting in the same tube they founded in about 2 years ago (it has run dry by now but they seem to water it on their own) and there's still no mold.

 

You don't need a founding formicarium, test tubes are fine (and much cheaper as well). If anything dumping the queen out of her tube into a tiny nest will stall development and in the worst case even destroy part of the brood.

There is only a tiny number of ant species that actually need a special setup (like Myrmecocystus which need ceiling space for their repletes to grab on), if you don't have any of those save your money and better invest it into a proper setup cause that's an investment that will actually pay off.


Edited by Serafine, July 10 2018 - 6:16 AM.

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Welcome to Lazy Tube - My Camponotus Journal

#6 Offline CoolColJ - Posted July 10 2018 - 6:16 AM

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if you don't want to mess around with mold and water getting low in a test tube go the Founding nest way

My Camponotus barbaricus lived in their test tube for over half a year and there was zero mold. They have water tubes attached to their nest that have been there for over a year and still have zero mold.

My Solenopsis fugax are still nesting in the same tube they founded in about 2 years ago (it has run dry by now but they seem to water it on their own) and there's still no mold.

You don't need a founding formicarium, test tubes are fine (and much cheaper as well). If anything dumping the queen out of her tube into a tiny nest will stall development and in the worst case even destroy part of the brood.

There is only a tiny number of ant species that actually need a special setup (like Myrmecocystus which need ceiling space for their repletes to grab on), if you don't have any of those save your money and better invest it into a proper setup cause that's an investment that will actually pay off.

 

 

 

Maybe you have special water and super clean ants, but none of my ants have been mold free, especially Pheidole ants which are super messy ants by nature.

Even my Pheidole queens, which have no eggs or brood, have mold growing on their test tubes after a few months.

Perhaps the ant poo creates the mold. Well you certainly can't force the ants not to poo near the cotton :)

 

In my very first colony, Camponotus humilior, one of the nanitic workers was born deformed and was eaten by all, her remains were left on the cotton, and the cotton started to turn red.

You can find the thread here.

So you certainly can't control things like that.

 

For me changing test tubes when the water runs out or from mold is always super stressful for me and my ants, only my I.bicknelli colony moved themselves no problems.


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Current ant colonies -
1) Opisthopsis Rufithorax (strobe ant), Melophorus Sp1. (furnace ant) red and black, Melophorus sp2. black and orange
9mm queen red head Phediole sp, 7mm queen all black Phediole, 2x Phediole sp. red head/black body 8mm queens
Polyrhachis rufifemur and femorata, Camponotus suffusus and humilior
Journal = http://www.formicult...sp-furnace-ant/

Nasutitermes fumigatus/dixoni subterranean pet/feeder termite colony journal = http://www.formicult...ournal/?p=96808


#7 Offline CoolColJ - Posted July 10 2018 - 6:19 AM

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Thanks for the replies. Another question. In Tar Heel Ants YouTube videos they emphasized the importance of hibernation in maintaining colony health but suggested that the larger the colony was at its first hibernation, the more likely it would be to survive. They went on to suggest faster colony growth occurred in founding chambers than test tube setups. This was in relation to Camponotus species. Is that something you’ve seen?

 

 

Can't say either way, a lot depends on other factors like genetics, diet and heat.

IMO heat is the number factor in driving growth speed. Ants that live in a warm nest of around 27-30 degrees C grow faster, move faster and lay more eggs in my experience

 

In the tropics, ants brood and grow far faster than anywhere else


Edited by CoolColJ, July 10 2018 - 6:32 AM.

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Current ant colonies -
1) Opisthopsis Rufithorax (strobe ant), Melophorus Sp1. (furnace ant) red and black, Melophorus sp2. black and orange
9mm queen red head Phediole sp, 7mm queen all black Phediole, 2x Phediole sp. red head/black body 8mm queens
Polyrhachis rufifemur and femorata, Camponotus suffusus and humilior
Journal = http://www.formicult...sp-furnace-ant/

Nasutitermes fumigatus/dixoni subterranean pet/feeder termite colony journal = http://www.formicult...ournal/?p=96808


#8 Offline CoolColJ - Posted July 10 2018 - 6:23 AM

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Oh there is one test tube setup that won't mold, using aquarium filter wool instead of cotton for the water dam, since it doesn't absorb any fluid :)


Edited by CoolColJ, July 10 2018 - 6:24 AM.

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Current ant colonies -
1) Opisthopsis Rufithorax (strobe ant), Melophorus Sp1. (furnace ant) red and black, Melophorus sp2. black and orange
9mm queen red head Phediole sp, 7mm queen all black Phediole, 2x Phediole sp. red head/black body 8mm queens
Polyrhachis rufifemur and femorata, Camponotus suffusus and humilior
Journal = http://www.formicult...sp-furnace-ant/

Nasutitermes fumigatus/dixoni subterranean pet/feeder termite colony journal = http://www.formicult...ournal/?p=96808


#9 Offline Miles - Posted July 10 2018 - 7:39 AM

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Having kept ants for what is coming on to being a decade, I'd like to quickly share my perspective on this as an ant keeper and as a researcher.

 

Ants require a few things to keep them healthy. These are water, food, and a secure living environment. However, nothing in biology is that simple. Ant keepers attempt to provide sufficient conditions for their ants. Those conditions exist on a spectrum, from an inability to provide for basic needs to a near completely ideal living environment. It's safe to say that while we often fail, we also can reliably provide sufficient conditions if we are willing to consider the ants' welfare as the top priority.

 

Water, although logistically the simplest requirement to meet, is critical to the survival of ant colonies. This is where test tubes can both shine and fail. Some species, such as Myrmica spp., cannot be subject to conditions with low humidity and a lack of a water source for any longer than a few hours before they desiccate. In that case a test tube environment can seem ideal because of its high humidity and relatively reliable water supply. Food is different - ant nutrition and insect nutritional ecology is poorly understood, so we give our ants the combinations of food items we think they need. But inescapably, we are unable to fully replicate their diets (one of the reasons I and other established hobbyists and researchers believe that neartic Camponotus have such a high failure rate in captivity). Finally, there is the living environment criterion. While this varies among different ant species and their needs, we know that generally queens in the incipient founding stages need access to water, a semi-humid or humid environment, and a space small enough that they can feel secure in.

 

This conversation is really about how well different methods provide for the critical needs I acknowledge above. My experience has long borne out that test tubes are not the perfect solution to ant colony founding, but can be useful and shouldn't be dismissed outright. Despite their allure of being cheap, easy, and relatively clear for viewing, test tube setups have distinct disadvantages to an ant keeper and to the developing colony inside.

 

A test tube is an entirely foreign environment to a young queen. Plastic or glass can be difficult surfaces for some species to walk on, and I suspect many ant keepers have watched their queens absolutely freak out as they seemingly cannot grip the surface. Additionally, ants have bodily waste that often builds up on the cotton of the tube or at the entrance. In the wild, ants will deposit the waste away from their living area and onto an absorbent material. The same goes for food waste. In a test tube environment, that's impossible and inescapably will further the development of mold or bacteria in the living environment. Additionally, cotton fibers frequently become caught among brood (eventually causing death) - I've seen this most frequently with Formicine ants.

 

Test tube setups have extremely high humidity in most cases. This can be great for many ants, but not so much for others. Unlike in founding formicaria, test tube setups offer the ant keeper little control over regulating the relative humidity in the tube.

 

Feeding ants in test tubes is also difficult, particularly when the food is in liquid form. Depositing a droplet of liquid on the inner glass surface is attractive at first, but it will eventually lead to the buildup of sticky matter on the glass and could harbor bacteria. If you use a dish or q-tip, you're going to be hoping that the ants do not either get stuck in the apparatus or don't otherwise alter the system. I have found that they are liable to move objects around, including aluminum foil dishes and q-tip heads.

 

Viewing ants isn't particularly difficult in test tube setups, but photography and video can be remarkably difficult even with the best equipment. Some folks here have had great success taking pictures of ants in test tubes (Nurbs comes to mind) but aside from a select few, many still find it prohibitively difficult. This can seem inconsequential unless you consider other options that allow for superior viewing and photography (think museum glass).

 

Another important thing to consider about an ants' living environment is their ability to regulate the temperature of themselves and their brood. Test tubes can be warmed in different ways. In the past I've placed the open end of the tube on heating cables to give queens and their developing brood access to warmer temperatures. While this often works, it can result in the failure of the water reservoir and the flooding of the tube. It can also overheat the inner environment and cook the queen and colony. Most founding formicaria allow for discretionary heating with more control.

 

Now, I do acknowledge that there are many ways that ant keepers can alter the interior of test tube setups to create multiple chambers, substrates to aid in comfort and humidity regulation, and outworlds that aid in food provision and waste removal. But ultimately test tube setups should not be and are not the end to ant keeping's innovation in colony founding. Tar Heel Ants, no matter your opinion on their business, has done a remarkable job in pioneering new ways to begin ant colonies. They work to provide naturalistic environments in which ants will feel more secure and raise colonies in a more natural fashion, and I think we should acknowledge that our understanding of ant biology leads us to the conclusion that reducing stress in colony founding is essential for foundress queens. Without sounding like an advertisement (I'm not affiliated with Tar Heel Ants), I can say that their founding formicaria has resulted in many very healthy ant colonies at my lab - certainly in a higher proportion than test tube setups have. It is because of this that I have begun the transition for my lab's ~150 ant colonies to be moved into small formicaria and out of test tube setups. These formicaria, similar to THA's Mini Hearth, will provide a naturalistic inner living environment alongside a spacious outworld. They will also have skylights for photography lighting and clear acrylic that will better enable me to show insect enthusiasts how awesome ants are. And because I have spent time perfecting the assembly and sourcing materials, I will be able to produce them inexpensively. I do want to make it clear that I am not interested in selling anything on commercial ant keeping market and that I mention this only to make the point that it is worth exploring new techniques and philosophies when it comes to ant keeping. While test tube setups will always be cheap and accessible, that doesn't mean they are the best option for you or your ants.

 

Ultimately it is up to the individual ant keeper as to the methods they use for getting new colonies started. I just want to emphasize how important it is that we learn from ant biology and continue to try new things in the endeavor of giving our ants the best possible captive conditions. 


Edited by Miles, July 10 2018 - 9:45 AM.

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I study ants, environmental science, political science, and science communication at Montana State University in Bozeman. I've been keeping ants for nearly a decade and I'm passionate about conservation and public service.


#10 Offline ConcordAntman - Posted July 10 2018 - 7:44 PM

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Thanks again for the replies. I’ve been trying on and off for the 20 years to nurture a self sustaining colony. Life and other pursuits got in the way but now that I’ve returned to the hobby I’ve been amazed at the resources available now that weren’t around then. I have managed to get farther along than I’ve ever before with the queens I’ve captured. I guess I’m trying to look for every opportunity to have these queens found successful colonies. I’m pretty much wedded to test tube setups until the nanitics eclose (not anxious to muck about transferring queens, eggs, larvae, and pupae) so I don’t injure queens or progeny. I plan to use a combination of test tubes and AC test tube portals as a mini outworld so I can feed the workers, change out the dirty or dry test tubes, and sort out the garbage once the first clutch of brood eclose. I’m expecting that should be by fall 2018. If I still have all three colonies at that point, I plan to move them to formicaria.

Russell & CoolColJ, thanks! I like the idea about glass wool for the water dam in the tube. I never knew it doesn’t absorb water. I guess I thought that in addition to humidifying, absorption by the cotton water dam was a potential drinking source for the colony. If glass wool doesn’t absorb does that diminish its humidifying function?

Serafine, you must have the cleanest test tube and cotton in town along with some pretty fastidious ants! It’s been 6 weeks and I’ve got some mold on the water-facing surface of the cotton water dam. I just hope the nanitics eclose soon and that there’s not enough mold to adversely effect the colonies.

Miles, thanks for passing on some pearls of wisdom. I am leaning toward purchasing formicaria from Tar Heel Ants. I like their design, I just have to decide on what would best fit a young Camponotus pennsylvanicus colony (though I’m mindful I might be getting ahead of myself).

Once again thanks to all!

#11 Offline CoolColJ - Posted July 10 2018 - 7:57 PM

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regarding the aquarium filter wool - as long as you push it down far enough, the ants will get water.

The wool passes and holds the water, as per it's function as a filter medium.
While the water doesn't get absorbed into it, water still flows along the fibers.

So it's not as good for wicking water as cotton, ie upwards, but for a test tube purposes it functions the same with the help of gravity and fluid dynamics.
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Current ant colonies -
1) Opisthopsis Rufithorax (strobe ant), Melophorus Sp1. (furnace ant) red and black, Melophorus sp2. black and orange
9mm queen red head Phediole sp, 7mm queen all black Phediole, 2x Phediole sp. red head/black body 8mm queens
Polyrhachis rufifemur and femorata, Camponotus suffusus and humilior
Journal = http://www.formicult...sp-furnace-ant/

Nasutitermes fumigatus/dixoni subterranean pet/feeder termite colony journal = http://www.formicult...ournal/?p=96808


#12 Offline CoolColJ - Posted July 10 2018 - 8:03 PM

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These formicaria, similar to THA's Mini Hearth, will provide a naturalistic inner living environment alongside a spacious outworld. They will also have skylights for photography lighting and clear acrylic that will better enable me to show insect enthusiasts how awesome ants are. And because I have spent time perfecting the assembly and sourcing materials, I will be able to produce them inexpensively. I do want to make it clear that I am not interested in selling anything on commercial ant keeping market and that I mention this only to make the point that it is worth exploring new techniques and philosophies when it comes to ant keeping. While test tube setups will always be cheap and accessible, that doesn't mean they are the best option for you or your ants.


Do you have any pics of these setups?

I'm always looking for test tube alternative ideas, especially for my rare queens

Current ant colonies -
1) Opisthopsis Rufithorax (strobe ant), Melophorus Sp1. (furnace ant) red and black, Melophorus sp2. black and orange
9mm queen red head Phediole sp, 7mm queen all black Phediole, 2x Phediole sp. red head/black body 8mm queens
Polyrhachis rufifemur and femorata, Camponotus suffusus and humilior
Journal = http://www.formicult...sp-furnace-ant/

Nasutitermes fumigatus/dixoni subterranean pet/feeder termite colony journal = http://www.formicult...ournal/?p=96808


#13 Offline AntsAreUs - Posted July 10 2018 - 8:03 PM

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if you don't want to mess around with mold and water getting low in a test tube go the Founding nest way

My Camponotus barbaricus lived in their test tube for over half a year and there was zero mold. They have water tubes attached to their nest that have been there for over a year and still have zero mold.

My Solenopsis fugax are still nesting in the same tube they founded in about 2 years ago (it has run dry by now but they seem to water it on their own) and there's still no mold.

 

You don't need a founding formicarium, test tubes are fine (and much cheaper as well). If anything dumping the queen out of her tube into a tiny nest will stall development and in the worst case even destroy part of the brood.

There is only a tiny number of ant species that actually need a special setup (like Myrmecocystus which need ceiling space for their repletes to grab on), if you don't have any of those save your money and better invest it into a proper setup cause that's an investment that will actually pay off.

 

I would like to disagree with the tiny amount of ants that can't use test tubes. There are lots of cryptic leaf litter dwelling ants that do extremely bad or impossible in test tube setups. You could probably add dirt to the test tube but that doesn't really do justice for viewing. Most of the Camponotus and Formica here do poorly in test tubes too although I haven't tried using plastic test tubes which might be better for them than glass.


Currently keeping:

Ants:    Temnothorax schaumii - Journal

            Temnothorax curvispinosus

            Myrmecina americana - Journal

            Ponera pennsylvanica - Journal

            Formica incerta Journal

            Formica subsericea

            Formica rubicunda

            Aphaenogaster tennesseensis - Journal

            Aphaenogaster rudis Journal

            Myrmica spp. Journal

            Camponotus chromaiodes - Journal

            Camponotus pennsylvanicus

            Camponotus subbarbatus - Journal

            Camponotus sp.

            Strumigenys pergandei - Journal (Discontinued)

            Strumigenys pilinasis - Journal

            Hypoponera opacior

            Tetramorium immigrans - Journal

            Tapinoma sessile - Journal

            Lasius americanus

            Lasius neoniger

            Lasius murphyi

            Solenopsis molesta

            Pheidole pilifera

 

Other:  Millipedes

Isopods

Springtails

Earthworms (for making my own soil)

Soil Centipedes (Geophilomorpha sp.)

Stone Centipedes (Lithobius sp.)

Mealworms/Superworms

Indian Mealmoth Culture

Dipluras

Some types of mites


#14 Offline sirjordanncurtis - Posted July 10 2018 - 8:10 PM

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I would like to disagree with the tiny amount of ants that can't use test tubes. There are lots of cryptic leaf litter dwelling ants that do extremely bad or impossible in test tube setups. You could probably add dirt to the test tube but that doesn't really do justice for viewing. Most of the Camponotus and Formica here do poorly in test tubes too although I haven't tried using plastic test tubes which might be better for them than glass.

 

 

 

 

Should I just dump dirt on queen and hope she survives? Or does the dirt go in first :\



#15 Offline Russell - Posted July 10 2018 - 11:50 PM

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Founding chambers like test tubes are not perfect. Some founding chambers can not be cleaned, unlike a test tube. Some test tubes are too small for the species .ie I use 25mm tubes for Camponotus over 16mm. Some ants don't do well in test tube, but all my ants have adjusted thither footing over time( except don't roll Lasius as the queens can't reach or climb the glass to get brood stuck to glass above them). 

Don't waste money on a bunch of branded founding chambers. Use test tubes and as they grow move your hold backs to larger formicarium( even small formicarium). I think over time we will see lower priced founding chambers made of plastic to allow for easy cleaning and better pricing. 


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Camponotus Pennsylvanicus/Modus

Tetramorium sp. E

Formica Podzolica

Lasius Alienus

Lasius Niger

Formica Ravida 


#16 Offline AntsAreCool55 - Posted July 11 2018 - 2:48 AM

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No method is perfect,but in my experience, test tubes work the best for one simple reason: set it and forget it = no stress for the queen = successfull founding.
Once you put your queen in,you can place the test tube in dark and warm spot and forget about her for a few weeks to months (assuming queen is fully claustrial). Stressed queens may postpone egg laying, or eat their already laid eggs.
Furthermore,test tubes are easy to clean,cheap,easy to store in large numbers (anyone having more than 100 founding queens will know) and great for observation.
Yes,they do mold overtime (the cotton does), but moving the colony to a new test tube is easy,especially if your ants are not used to being in light. I keep all my ants in dark which makes changing testtubes super easy.
This is all just my opinion. I must say I havent used founding formicaria, but so far I had no reason to.
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#17 Offline AntsAreUs - Posted July 11 2018 - 6:50 AM

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I would like to disagree with the tiny amount of ants that can't use test tubes. There are lots of cryptic leaf litter dwelling ants that do extremely bad or impossible in test tube setups. You could probably add dirt to the test tube but that doesn't really do justice for viewing. Most of the Camponotus and Formica here do poorly in test tubes too although I haven't tried using plastic test tubes which might be better for them than glass.

 

 

 

 

Should I just dump dirt on queen and hope she survives? Or does the dirt go in first :\

 

Dirt in first. You would also need springtails and such for them to hunt and to prevent uncontrollable mold.


Edited by AntsAreUs, July 11 2018 - 6:50 AM.

Currently keeping:

Ants:    Temnothorax schaumii - Journal

            Temnothorax curvispinosus

            Myrmecina americana - Journal

            Ponera pennsylvanica - Journal

            Formica incerta Journal

            Formica subsericea

            Formica rubicunda

            Aphaenogaster tennesseensis - Journal

            Aphaenogaster rudis Journal

            Myrmica spp. Journal

            Camponotus chromaiodes - Journal

            Camponotus pennsylvanicus

            Camponotus subbarbatus - Journal

            Camponotus sp.

            Strumigenys pergandei - Journal (Discontinued)

            Strumigenys pilinasis - Journal

            Hypoponera opacior

            Tetramorium immigrans - Journal

            Tapinoma sessile - Journal

            Lasius americanus

            Lasius neoniger

            Lasius murphyi

            Solenopsis molesta

            Pheidole pilifera

 

Other:  Millipedes

Isopods

Springtails

Earthworms (for making my own soil)

Soil Centipedes (Geophilomorpha sp.)

Stone Centipedes (Lithobius sp.)

Mealworms/Superworms

Indian Mealmoth Culture

Dipluras

Some types of mites





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