Jump to content

  • Chat
  •  
  •  



Welcome to Formiculture.com!

This is a website for anyone interested in Myrmecology and all aspects of finding, keeping, and studying ants. The site and forum are free to use, and contain no ads for members. Register now to gain access to all of our features. Once registered and logged in, you will be able to create topics, post replies to existing threads, give reputation points to your fellow members, get your own private messenger, post status updates, manage your profile and so much more. If you already have an account, login here - otherwise create an account for free today!

Photo
- - - - -

Insect Meal

food protein

  • Please log in to reply
11 replies to this topic

#1 Offline DaveJay - Posted September 1 2018 - 8:16 PM

DaveJay

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 497 posts
  • LocationSouth Australia
 

Has anyone tried using insect meal or flours as a protein source?

They come in a dried powder form so I think they would store well. 

My thoughts are to try it simply mixed with water or to perhaps include gelatine and make a protein jelly, the gelatine could be added to the dry mix for longer storage a small amount of jelly could be made up as needed just by mixing with hot water. Dry gelatine is 98/99% protein and contains range of proteins but is considered an incomplete protein is because it doesn't contain all the essential amino acids, notably Tryptophan is missing but any proteins lacking would be made up by other sources of protein, eg Cricket Flour. This particular cricket flour is 68.5% protein so a mix with gelatine would be VERY high in protein and I'm assuming for now would provide all the essential amino acids.

I've got to look into the data further but I think I'll buy a pack, what do you think?

 

https://ediblebugsho...-protein-powder

cricket powder

NIP only Cricket Powder 200g


Edited by DaveJay, September 1 2018 - 8:19 PM.


#2 Offline drtrmiller - Posted September 1 2018 - 9:10 PM

drtrmiller

    Vendor

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 2,558 posts
  • LocationGeorgia, USA

Read this and related threads:

 

http://www.formicult...quid-food-idea/


  • DaveJay likes this


#3 Offline DaveJay - Posted September 2 2018 - 7:44 AM

DaveJay

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 497 posts
  • LocationSouth Australia

Read this and related threads:

 

http://www.formicult...quid-food-idea/

Thanks! I read the threads and downloaded most of the papers mentioned in them.

I spent the last half hour or more writing a response on my phone only to get engrossed in what was going on on the tv and pressing  "back" while not looking, lost it all, no autosave when using the phone! (this happens to me a lot!)

 

I read all your responses, I accept that not all of the flour would be soluble and that the ants cannot swallow the particles. We discussed a fortified sugar water in another thread recently after which I was quite convinced that protein and carbohydrates should be made available through separate sources. I was not thinking of a liquid food with protein to meet the protein needs of the adults, or an all in one liquid or gel food but rather a protein rich food that they would bring back to feed the larvae.

 

In your response you say that ants will not recognise the amino acids as a source of protein for the larvae, and you state that most ants find insect meals/flours unpalatable, both reasons why the adults are not likely to take it back to feed the larvae. I was thinking ants would like the meal even straight from the packet but I'm quite prepared to take your word for it that they likely won't.

 

So a liquid is out, although it would be interesting to know what parts of the flour are soluble and if you removed the suspended insoluble particles would the resulting solution be of value, but that requires a lot more research and we don't really need a liquid protein food anyway, we need something for the adults to bring back to feed the larvae.

 

So some questions are -

Without adding a large amount of simple carbohydrates (sugars) can a suitable high protein food source be made based on insect meal?

What would make it acceptable to the adult ants other than adding sugars? 

Can it be mixed with other sources of amino acids that ants do recognise as protein to make it acceptable?

 

I have some ideas of things that might be tried, I do still like the idea of a dry mix incorporating gelatin powder so small batches can be made as needed simply by adding hot water, the resulting gel would need to be stiff enough that small pieces can be carried back to the larvae, but what dry food could be added to make it acceptable to the adults?

 

Of course a jelly could be made using wet additives to make it palatable, things that come to mind are blending in frozen bloodworms (my ants liked them straight away), maybe even blood could be used. Catfood might be an option, most ants seem to like it, the insect flour and gelatin would take the protein from approx 8% to perhaps well over 50% depending on the mix ratios. Gelatin at the strength required might be sticky enough to pose a danger though.

 

Because it's a flour biscuits or a heavy cake might work, think biscuits as known in Australia or the UK, not sweet crumbly cookie type biscuits but the hard biscuits such as Arrowroot or Milk Biscuits. Arrowroot flour is often used to make animal food to avoid the problems associated with wheat flour*, it could be added if needed to make a baked product, as could egg but I haven't read the paper I downloaded regarding ants fed on egg yet, the protein would not particularly be needed but it could help as a binder.

 

To sum up, the goal is not to make a "replacement diet" type food, just to have a protein source product that is always on hand and can be used as part of a varied diet, just as people might have sugar or honey water ( or Sunburst) on hand but still offer a variety of other sources of sugar as well.

 

I guess the best thing to do besides reading up is to buy some powder and experiment, failed experiments could be given to the lizards or fish (I've been making frozen foods for them for 30+ yrs) or even the dogs or chickens, plenty of mouths around here! Maybe I could even make something for the dermestid beetles that doesn't stink like meat does!

 

Thanks for your (past) insights drtrmiller, I know you've looked very deeply into ant nutrition over the years. :)

 

 

 

* A side thought, when I kept birds I would make a "bird cake" to help with rearing the young, blending millet and other small grains to make flour, sometimes adding Arrowroot or Rice flour, never wheat flour. Perhaps something similar could be made for grain eating ants?  



#4 Offline drtrmiller - Posted September 2 2018 - 8:10 AM

drtrmiller

    Vendor

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 2,558 posts
  • LocationGeorgia, USA

The easiest way I've found to store protein for ants is to freeze whole, live insects. Frozen house flies, bottle flies, and fruit flies are readily accepted the same as fresh.

 

In the US, there are wet canned insects for reptiles which are steamed/boiled, there are freeze dried insects, and then of course the insect powder/meal. I've never observed ants show an interest in any of these. Though I speculate that all these processing methods fail due to a combination of heat and/or oxidation eliminating the waxy hydrocarbon signature scent of the insect, thereby making it unrecognizable to the ants, more research would be needed to validate this.


Edited by drtrmiller, September 2 2018 - 8:15 AM.

  • ctantkeeper and DaveJay like this


#5 Offline DaveJay - Posted September 2 2018 - 9:28 AM

DaveJay

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 497 posts
  • LocationSouth Australia
I always have live insects on hand, I have scorpions, tarantulas, frogs, lizards and large cichlids that rely on them but I haven't liked cutting live insects in halves just for the ants to bury them, stupid I know but it just seems a shame. With the lizards I use gourmet dog food and homemade frozen food as a filler, protein to offer among an assortment of fruit and veg offered daily and then feed them live insects a couple of times a week, same type of situation with the fish, they have dry food or frozen food daily with live insects a few times a week. I was looking for something similar for the ants, something stable on hand to offer regularly among other foods between feeding them other protein foods like insects. I also wish to add more variety, bloodworms were taken eagerly for a couple of weeks then they started burying them as soon as they were renewed, the same thing happened with the mealworm pupae. I've now offered the canned dog food I buy for the lizards which was accepted yesterday, maybe rejected next time plus it is only around 8% protein. I like the ease of the dog food, I can put a tiny bit in a dish with other foods without hassle and replace the whole dish a day later with another smorgasbord. So I was thinking of something I can use like that but with a higher protein content, and I was thinking insect derived protein might be better, having another easy protein food would increase the variety of foods I can offer.
I'm also thinking of if someone else needs to feed them it would be easier too and easy on me when time is tight, once I break out the crickets it takes hours to put an appropriate sized one in nearly 100 enclosures.
Frozen insects are probably the way to go but it seems to me that people do like the ease of having a premade protein jelly and premade sugar water, I tend to look at those things as backup, always there when you don't have something more interesting to offer.
  • Major likes this

#6 Offline Trythis22 - Posted September 2 2018 - 11:23 AM

Trythis22

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 96 posts
  • LocationPortland, Oregon

Hi Dave,

 

As a disclaimer I know very little about ant nutrition. This is an area I have very little working experience and theoretical knowledge in. However, I do understand the need to be efficient with your time and to have a standardized system extremely well. Have you considered honeydew surrogate? It has both glucose and amino acids in it - anecdotal evidence suggests there is a very high chance that ants will accept the mixture with no problem. I copied the following info from this site: http://www.antfinity...ydew-surrogate/. Very detailed manufacturing instructions on that site, as well as the all-important characteristic of being able to be mass-produced and stored indefinitely. As someone who plans to exponentially increase the amount of ants in captivity, I am very interested in what you will come up with. To be honest my colonies are not large enough to take more than 2 hours to document and feed every week, which doesn't warrant much thought into feeding ideas at this point. The documentation and sterilization of the insects and scapel/tweezers/weighing tray takes the longest. It's definitely going to be an issue one or two years from now. Anyways check out that link if you haven't, it's a goldmine if it fits your situation. 

 

- 25ml of liquid amino acids (BCAA, basically a protein supplement)

- 50ml maple syrup or honey

- 130g glucose, table sugar is fine

- 480ml water

 

Some fun ideas I've mulled over that have loads of practical issues with them are some of the following:

 

- A suspended fly culture in the outworld with larvae and eggs: Once they hatch, they will jump down to their deaths below. Ants will not be able to climb the fluon-coated walls to get to the culture. Refills are performed via adding more culture, closing a lid with tubing glued to the top, adding more flies and closing the tube for 3 days to allow for breeding. 

- Mealworm culture connected to outworld via vinyl tubing. This is based off the dubious assumption that a large mealworm would be easily taken down by a swarm, as well as a theory that the ants will avoid battle with mealworms if they have enough food. If they don't, it's a simple trip to the mealworm farm. This one will have enough carrot but not enough substrate to burrow into, just enough to sustain the 7-10 worms that will need to be replenished every so often. 

- Preserving sterilized insects in honey. This one is real nuts and I'd require larger species with proper majors to ever pull this off. 


  • DaveJay likes this

#7 Offline drtrmiller - Posted September 2 2018 - 12:58 PM

drtrmiller

    Vendor

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 2,558 posts
  • LocationGeorgia, USA

Frozen insects are probably the way to go but it seems to me that people do like the ease of having a premade protein jelly and premade sugar water, I tend to look at those things as backup, always there when you don't have something more interesting to offer.

 

Protein jelly is manufactured for beetles. I don't know enough about these insects to know how effective it is for culturing beetles; but from examining ingredient lists, the only thing in it that would be attractive to ants is the sugar. Jellies typically contain whey and casein, which are denatured protein isolates derived from milk.

 

I sold a product of similar composition called Formula Blue for several years, which was based on the Dussutour-Simpson meridic diet. Like the protein jelly, the main ingredients are sugar, egg, whey, casein, agar, and supplemental vitamins. Despite the product's overwhelming popularity, I discontinued selling it after successfully replicating another scientific study which showed that colonies stopped growing when fed only this food over a longer period of time, and expanding it to apply to multiple species. Despite the ants feeding at least some part of the the food to their larvae, which turned blue because of a food dye present in the gel, the brood would stop growing until fed a quality protein source, such as insects. If I had the tools to perform a gut analysis of the brood and adult workers, I suspect I would find that the whey and casein were passing through unmetabolized, if the ants were able to consume it at all, because these proteins typically were not fully water soluble.

 

Keep in mind that ant microbiota is an incredibly complex and understudied aspect of ant biology, which is responsible for upconverting nutrient-poor and hyper-specialized diets across a wide range of ecological niches. The critical dietary components for most commonly kept pest ants is simply water and sugar. I have one colony of Brachymyrmex, an invasive pest species, which has bloomed the past few months, in which I have fed them nothing, but note access to fungus growing on cotton in their test tube (the test tube also supplying water), and a liquid feeder filled with old, syrupy sucrose solution. It's really incredible what some ants can do with so few resources.

 

Don't be tempted to devise some magical solution that over-engineers what nature has already provided in perfect working form.


Edited by drtrmiller, September 2 2018 - 2:11 PM.

  • DaveJay likes this


#8 Offline drtrmiller - Posted September 2 2018 - 9:53 PM

drtrmiller

    Vendor

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 2,558 posts
  • LocationGeorgia, USA

As a disclaimer I know very little about ant nutrition.
 
Have you considered honeydew surrogate? ... anecdotal evidence suggests there is a very high chance that ants will accept the mixture with no problem.


Are unqualified anecdotes from a 4-year-old entry in someone's personal blog, with no accompanying references to scientific literature, all that is needed for you to endorse an idea on a topic you admit to knowing nothing about?

 

I've cited a number of scientific articles over the years, and even replicated a couple, which show that various all-in-one diets, from Bhatkar, to Dussutour-Simpson, to Straka-Feldhaar all fail to grow vigorous colonies, despite being consumed by the ants and fed to larvae. The unifying feature of all these diets is that they were sucrose solutions with other "proteins" added.  Was there something about this you don't understand?

 

- Preserving sterilized insects in honey. This one is real nuts and I'd require larger species with proper majors to ever pull this off.


What is a sterilized insect? And are you presuming ants would be able to smell an insect through a coating of honey?


Edited by drtrmiller, September 2 2018 - 9:55 PM.


#9 Offline DaveJay - Posted September 2 2018 - 11:36 PM

DaveJay

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 497 posts
  • LocationSouth Australia

drtrmiller -

 

"Don't be tempted to devise some magical solution that over-engineers what nature has already provided in perfect working form."

 

So you're not interested in my innovative new designs for the wheel and the mousetrap then? ;) 

 

Trythis22 -

 

"Have you considered honeydew surrogate? It has both glucose and amino acids in it - anecdotal evidence suggests there is a very high chance that ants will accept the mixture with no problem."

 

I think many people have entertained the idea of an "all in one food", it's pretty much the first thing that springs to mind when starting out keeping ants I think, but I am convinced now that it is not feasible or desirable, the ants need to be able to adjust the ratio of protein to carbohydrate for themselves dependant on the needs of the colony as a whole at any given point in time. Discussing it on this forum has lead me to literature claiming success, but also literature showing that in the long term the results do not show that a combined food is best for colony growth, or even good nutrition for the workers themselves.

 

I had dismissed the idea of a combined food before starting this thread, the ratios needed by workers and larvae are too far apart for it to work long term, that's my understanding now in any case. I've come to the conclusion that adding forms of sugar to the protein food to make it appealing to the workers is not a good idea, it might provide too much protein for workers health if they see it as a carbohydrate food for adults and too much carbohydrate for larvae if the workers see it as a protein food. 

 

It's unfortunate that the ants won't recognise the meal/flour as a source of protein which means that in order for it to be accepted as such it would need to be mixed with a food that they do recognise as a protein source, something that I still think could be done but then would there be any benefit in doing so? On an academic level I think perhaps such a food could provide a wider range of amino acids than one single ingredient alone but there's no point if the workers don't feed it to the larvae, and who's to say that ants don't vary the protein sources they utilise to provide different amino acids at different stages of the larvae' growth? The anecdotal evidence available indicates that they often reject a food if it is fed constantly, perhaps to provide a wider range of amino acids to the larvae?

 

I'm still interested in doing some research on the possibility of creating a protein food that is convenient and provides a wide range of amino acids, much as I did with my frozen fish food and reptile food formulas, in fact they may be as good for the ants as anything I could come up with specifically for ants, my reptile food resulted from the lizards eating my frozen fish food anyway, I just tweaked it a bit. The problem is malnutrition in reptiles and fish is well documented whereas the nutritional needs of terrestrial invertebrates is not very well documented in most cases.

 

Keeping in mind that I am not trying to develop a replacement diet, just something convenient that can be added to the variety of food that can be offered, I would still like to experiment and see if a protein food that the workers would feed to the larvae can be made even if just to satisfy my own curiosity and tendency to be inventive. 

 

I still see some form of (UK) biscuit as a possibility, kept in the fridge or freezer with tiny pieces broken off and offered to the ants on occasion. 

Of more interest is the possibility of a long life powdered mix that when mixed with water creates a gel or paste that could be stored in the fridge or freezer. Something like the cricket flour, gelatin and freeze dried bloodworms and/or krill might work, the powder would last a long time if kept dry and small batches could be made up as required to avoid spoilage. 

 

Having said all that I still agree with drtrmiller that it is unnecessary and probably futile  to try and best Mother Nature!

 

I'll leave with this - "He who makes no mistakes makes nothing" :)


  • Trythis22 likes this

#10 Offline drtrmiller - Posted September 3 2018 - 3:53 AM

drtrmiller

    Vendor

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 2,558 posts
  • LocationGeorgia, USA

On an academic level I think perhaps such a food could provide a wider range of amino acids than one single ingredient alone but there's no point if the workers don't feed it to the larvae, and who's to say that ants don't vary the protein sources they utilise to provide different amino acids at different stages of the larvae' growth? The anecdotal evidence available indicates that they often reject a food if it is fed constantly, perhaps to provide a wider range of amino acids to the larvae?
 
...
 
I'll leave with this - "He who makes no mistakes makes nothing" :)


Feeding a single type of food is only detrimental if the food is terribly imbalanced. In an ant colony, you have many stomachs—let's call them buckets.
 
An article on colony-level macronutrient regulation proposes that there may be a number of macronutrients workers may need to collect independent of one another in order to grow and function, as both worker ants and the queen and developing larvae each have their own nutrient requirements.  In the most simple terms, the workers require mostly carbohydrates, while the queen and developing larvae require proteins—though in reality there are many micronutrients that affect colony health.
 
As a particular food goes into the colony's many stomachs, or buckets, certain nutrient buckets fill up.  As the colony goes about growing and foraging, other buckets become depleted.  If ants only have access to an imbalanced diet (as is sometimes the case in captivity), then certain buckets will fill up and overflow, while other buckets will dry up.  This explains certain situations where antkeepers report foraging ants that reject any number of foods, including some insects or sugar water they once readily accepted—the ants are simply seeking some nutrient that isn't being offered, in order to refill a bucket that has run completely dry.


I fear your conclusions may be correct. Prior community members—myself included—have had many of the exact same ideas expressed throughout this thread, and have tested them in a myriad of ways and documented posts all over the forum over the past several years, with fairly consistent results.

 

So when I say that the best known working solution is to simply feed freshly killed or frozen insects, it is not out of laziness or for lack of creativity, but because I've spent years investigating the topic of ant nutrition and pioneering possible advancements in the area.  After having read most of the abysmally thin amount of scientific literature—much of which turns out to be provably harmful or questionable in quality as it relates to long-term keeping of ants in captivity—I have come to the conclusion that more research needs to be completed—especially in the areas of gut microbiota diversity and function, and understanding how ants smell and perceive the world with their antennae to engage in seeking behavior during foraging—before we may begin to understand even the most basic fundamentals.

 

Sometimes, a nutrient deficiency can be as simple as sodium, potassium, or magnesium salts, which is why, after reading scores of articles on the effects of salt as both a phagostimulant and essential, albeit rare, nutrient for ants located far away from coastlines (including those kept in captivity), I developed Sunburst Ant Nectar.  Correcting this one mineral imbalance could mean the difference between ants that grow and are healthy, and ones that forage constantly whilst rejecting all insects and sugar water mixtures.

 

While creativity and curiosity are always encouraged, a thorough examination of both formal and informal writing on a given topic is a prerequisite to having an intelligent dialogue.


Edited by drtrmiller, September 3 2018 - 3:57 AM.

  • DaveJay likes this


#11 Offline Leo - Posted September 3 2018 - 4:49 AM

Leo

    Advanced Member

  • Junior Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 1,261 posts
  • LocationHong Kong

There is an ant food recipe in a book named "the ants" (by edward O wilson and bert holldober) called the bhatkar diet. Apparently, most insectivorous ants can thrive on this diet fed 3 times weekly with a few bits of fresh insects. I found that weavers don't really care about it, iridomyrmex die for it, messor is like is ok with it, camponotus like it, tetraponera adore it, and so do colobopsis.


Edited by Leo, September 3 2018 - 4:50 AM.

  • DaveJay likes this

#12 Offline Trythis22 - Posted September 3 2018 - 6:14 PM

Trythis22

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 96 posts
  • LocationPortland, Oregon
Hello again drtrmiller! Your snarky comments are unusually endearing now that I’ve gotten used to them – I mean this in no negative way whatsoever.  
 
In short, yes I can offer a suggestion because that is exactly what it is, not an endorsement. I have properly identified the information presented as anecdotal. I've even included a disclaimer. Calling me out on those two things when I've already made them clear has no purpose but to try and make an argument where there is none. I’ve written about anecdotal evidence and their flaws elsewhere on the forums, but I would not expect you to be aware of everything I write here. Similarly, it would be a stretch to expect me to be aware of everything you’ve wrote on the forums as well. I was not aware of the fact that all-in-one diets by themselves would stunt the development of brood in some species. 
 
It is well worth noting that despite not knowing about the failures of all-in-one diets, I have never advocated the dismissal of the feeding of insects. I've even included ideas on semi-automated systems of feeding live insects to discourage the notion that I am advocating we feed ants only one thing. It’s certainly a jump to conclusions but reasonable enough to expect from someone who’s certainly spent considerable money, effort and time chasing the “holy grail”. It would be hard to not be primed to make that jump. There is no harm in offering variety, especially if one source can be mass produced and stored indefinitely. This was the purpose of my suggestion. To assume otherwise is to misrepresent my position.
 
In the holidic diet paper by Feldhaar, which is the one I read, there was no significant difference between the controls (Bhatkar-Whitcomb diet [basically raw eggs and honey water mixed in a solution of agar], freshly killed cockroaches and honey water again) and the colonies that were fed the holidic diet + freshly killed cockroaches. The problem begins when the live insects, i.e. protein sources are taken out of the equation. Otherwise, synthetic diets do no harm to ant colonies when proper protein supplements are provided in the form of fresh insects. That is the conclusion of the study I read. 
 
I am a very heavy advocate of science and critical thinking, but also of practical wisdom. In a nutshell, practical wisdom is knowing balance, e.g. knowing when to apply the exception to a rule. I admire your adherence to scientific literature; but the situation is also receptive to informal suggestions as well since this is not exactly a well-studied topic. It would have been sufficient to suggest live (or freshly killed) insects are an irreplaceable aspect in the diets of the animals we like to care for on this forum. It wouldn't hurt to suggest that proper synthetic diets do not harm ant colonies as long as freshly killed insects continue to be provided. No need to overreact. 
 
--------------------
 
A sterilized insect is one that’s been treated in boiling water for 30 seconds. The idea of the honey preservative is an alternate means of preserving a piece of insect as opposed to freezing them. The topic of the thread is a request for more information on cricket flour, with the end goal being an idea for a food product for ants that can be mass produced and stored indefinitely. I thought it was a related idea that might trigger an improved idea from other out-of-the-box thinkers. 

  • Major and DaveJay like this





Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: food, protein

0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users