On the 25th of May 2018 I was sitting at a bench in a city garden and I saw a large ant crossing the path in front of me. I had recently done the tiniest bit of research on ants, my interest was piqued by the member of another forum showing pictures of his ants, and by the fact that queen ants were advertised at prices up to $180 on Gumtree! I wasn't thinking of getting into ant keeping at the time, I just like to know things about nature.
In any case I looked at the ant closely and decided that because of the large thorax combined with a large gaster it could be a Queen so I caught it in the empty cardboard coffee cup I was holding. After that I could then see wing scars so I folded the top and took it home.
I had been sitting on the same bench a few times a week for the previous month, there had been no signs of a nuptial flight, or of the area being cleaned (same cigarette buts,rubbish etc) but here was a Queen Ant pretty much the day after reading about how to identify a Queen!
It had been very rainy the previous week or so and I think the garden bed it was in flooded so it had to move. There was a lot of ant activity in the more open garden beds, large black ants, but no ants visible in the courtyard I was sitting in except this lone Queen on the path.
I had thought maybe the guy on the other forum might like it, I know with other inverts that even though species might be listed as being in a state people like to collect the forms from other states, given the lapses in species being described or revised they might even be a different species.
Since reading this forum I understand the aversion to keeping inverts from a different state than they were collected in, but in Australia interstate species are very much sought after by collectors where it is legal to do so. In fact in South Australia keeping species from Queensland or The Northern Territory is preferred because the chances of escapees surviving our winters to become pests is very low, they just couldn't survive the winters here in the densely populated areas as the climate is vastly different from the tropical climates they have evolved in. If they could I'd be up to my ankles in the tropical crickets and roaches we use as feeders! Keeping species from Melbourne or Sydney might be a different story but then scorpions and centipedes are very saleable so it would be unusual for someone to deliberately release them imo, I acknowledge the risk though.
That said, I will be looking to buy Strobe Ants, Opisthopsis spp. and Green Weaver Ants Oecophylla spp. purely because they do come from Queensland so I will never find a Queen in my travels. The fact that they can't survive unassisted in my area is a bonus I think. I realise that it means I have to keep the colony for it's lifespan or sell them on but I have no shortage of large aquariums, I could easily set up 300 litre plus Formicariums if needed.
Anyway, I took the Queen home and put it into a "blank" enclosure I had, just compressed substrate mix and a straw to deliver water to the bottom of the substrate. I took a few pics and posted them which led to a tentative I.D. of Iridomyrmex sp.. I posted an I.D. thread here, http://www.formicult...outh-australia/ .
The guy from the other forum didn't want it as it is a common genus and he had no room for another colony, after a few hours the Queen dug a founding chamber and the next time I looked it had eggs so I thought I might as well keep it myself. In my research threads from this forum had often come up so I then decided to become a member. I must say reading the threads here was a real eye-opener, I became hooked!
Because I had put this ant into a vented enclosure where workers might escape from I started to experiment with making my own formicariums. http://www.formicult...rium-diy-try-1/
I fed the Queen after about a month because I thought if she was flooded out of her original founding chamber she might have already used up some of her resources laying eggs or feeding larvae.
I cut a cotton tip down so that it fit into the tube meant to add water, the end of the tube opened into her founding chamber so I could add it without disturbing her too much I thought. I was wrong, she totally freaked out!
She had moved her brood 'bunch' to a spot on the wall of her chamber about halfway between the floor and ceiling and after her freaking out I couldn't spot it, I just put the tape back over her chamber and haven't looked since so I can't tell if she ate the food or even her brood, I don't want to disturb her.
I had mixed raw sugar and water, dipped the cotton tip in that and then into some beef blood for protein then put it into the tube so she could access it from her chamber, I guess I will remove it soon and check on her.
This will be her home once I can move her, minus substrate at this point. I'm still debating whether to spoon her and her brood out of the enclosure she's in or wait until she has some nanitics.
And here's pictures of the Queen Iridomyrmex sp. from the day I found her and a week or so later with eggs.
They are repeats of the pictures I posted in the I.D. thread.
15th July 2018
Having only one Queen that I don't see was a bit frustrating so when I had sold some scorpions and tarantulas and been paid via PayPal (meaning the PayPal money is best spent online rather than 'cashing out') I ordered some Banded Sugar Ants, Camponotus consobrinus, a Queen and 4 to 6 workers.
Some distribution maps have them occurring in my area but some more detailed maps only show sightings in a very few areas in South Australia, none near where I live at all.
I had planned to wait and find my own Queen Camponotus consobrinus but after studying more distribution maps, and seeing that flights could not be expected for about 6 months even if they do occur in my area, I thought a nice little starter colony would be a good buy. I liked everything about the species and decided they would be a good colony to start me off, also they were offered at a little over half the normal price so I struck while the iron was hot so to speak.
I ordered them on Sunday the 15th July and they came today, Wednesday the 18th of july.
The package arrived! My first order of ants through the mail.
I chose banded sugar ants , Camponotus consobrinus because after some research I decided they would be a good choice for a first ant colony. I chose a package, Queen and 4 to 6 workers, I haven't actually counted but there seems more than 6, I don't know yet. There was also a good amount of brood. A perfect little colony to start me off in my opinion, I'm very happy with them.
I was a bit worried on opening the package as there seemed quite a large pool of water on the "ant end" and none on the water end. The Queen did not move for quite a while, for the first hour I'd think I saw her antennae move but wasn't sure, I was very worried that she had indeed drowned in transit. Shining the torch on her got no response from her, just the workers. Eventually I finally witnessed some definite movement and could breathe a sigh of relief!
I chose this formicarium for them just for the extra height, I would have liked a more jungle look but I only had a shorter one with that decor. I could have easily finished another tall one off with the jungle type theme but I didn't want to have freshly cured grout, the others have been curing in stages over the last few weeks.
The thread about building the formicariums is here ; http://www.formicult...rium-diy-try-1/
It was a bit hard getting the substrate in as I had the fit too tight, this was really going to be a reject in my DIY Formicarium trials but it worked out alright I think. I tried topping it with the substrate mix but I liked the sand better, it gives me the framed effect I was after and I think it will be easier to keep clean.
I have a lid planned, these are 2cm diameter round stainless steel mesh pieces made to fit into pipes or hookahs according to the ad. The are not as fine as 100 mesh, but still very fine, I think only the tiniest of tiny ants would get through it. I haven't drilled or melted holes yet so instead of rushing I used a 10cm x 10cm stainless steel mesh piece I had. It's only just fine enough to stop these ants (I hope!) but because the substrate is still too wet from being sprayed to firm it I want the extra ventilation initially anyway. In summer it would have dried but 2 days was just not enough in winter.
I placed the tube in the enclosure, the wrong way around I guess but I'm sure it'll be ok.
I dripped some sugar water into the indentation in the "log", I made this removable so I can use it as a dish and wash it. I might add another at the back for water if it looks okay. I used raw sugar and water as a sugar mix because we don't have any honey left. After taping the lid on I realised I should have added a piece of mealworm or some other protein source in case there are larvae. There seemed like two separate piles of brood, so perhaps one is eggs and one pile larvae.
Straight away all of the workers seemed to be out and about exploring then went back to the tube.
Later it seemed like it was left to the largest worker to explore/keep guard.
I had started a burrow at the front where I had left a gap for it between the grout and the wall.
I put tape over this part and faced it toward the heater. My Dermestid beetles and larvae swarm the end of their enclosure so I guess the ants can feel the warmth too although I hardly can.
In any case although I thought I had been watching them when I turned the container 3 or 4 workers popped out from between the forks in the "log" where the hole was started. I'm pretty sure they are going to keep burrowing there, I'll take more pics before bed. For now I'll try to avoid disturbing them.
Edited by DaveJay, October 27 2018 - 1:50 AM.