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New test tube set-up


28 replies to this topic

#1 Offline Cascade - Posted September 19 2021 - 8:15 AM

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Hey everbody, 

I'm a biotech student at the end of my study. Currently working on a pretty cool tissue culture project for D. californica, and I thought that the same kind of medium would be very well suited to keep beginning ant colonies. People have probably thought of it before, but I'd like to try it out with you all:) 
 

The idea: 

  • Water > duh
  • Sucrose > as food supply
  • Agar > to make the gel suspension
  • Penicillin + streptomycin > to fight of the pesky bacteria and fungi wreaking havoc on beginning ant colonies
  • Vitamin solution? or something else, not quite sure about all the nutritional requirements of ants since I don't have much experience keeping them

    And then the end-product would look something like this: 
    Attached File  new ant gel set-up.jpg   249.66KB   2 downloads

    I see that the picture is a bit big, don't mind me;p

    Feedback? Interest? 
    Since I don't know for sure how good it'll work, I'd love to send some of these tubes to interested folks that have a starting ant colony, just to see how it works out. (Any colour you'd like) Granted that you keep me up to date  ;)

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#2 Offline Manitobant - Posted September 19 2021 - 12:05 PM

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I doubt it would work, it is basically the test tube version of a gel farm. I assume that many ant species would also be able to dig through the gel and chew their way into the water chamber, resulting in the test tube flooding.
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#3 Offline AntsUtah - Posted September 19 2021 - 12:34 PM

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I don't think a water reservoir is needed or employed in this setup. The gel itself provides water and sugar, as far as I can see. If protein could also somehow be incorporated into the mix, I would be very interested in this method. Right now, this setup seems to mimic the job of a sugar water test tube, among other liquid feeders; adding a source of protein could change everything.


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#4 Online m99 - Posted September 19 2021 - 12:35 PM

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My very noob understanding is that more is learned every year about how important various microbiota are to many ant species, so I'd have to think a setup that requires antimicrobials to function long-term would be a risky proposition.


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#5 Offline Cascade - Posted September 19 2021 - 1:37 PM

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Hey guys, thanks for the replies so far! 

@AntsUtah That's definitely a good idea, I suppose we could change the agar with gelatin for a decent protein supply. :) 

@m99 You're right, every creature has symbiotic microbes that are very important for their survival. Your concern is justified! Too many antibiotics are not a good thing  :yes: 
In the end it's a choice between the risk of losing your early ant colony to a fungus against using antibiotics that might have a long term effect. Definitely more debate needed regarding that topic ^^


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#6 Offline Mettcollsuss - Posted September 19 2021 - 5:30 PM

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I think it could be an interesting idea as a sort of feeder for colonies. But I don't know how it'd work for founding queens, which is generally the main purpose of a test tube setup. Most commonly kept species are claustral and don't need or even don't want food during founding. It's also generally considered a good idea to keep ants' food groups separate from each other. Ants like to give the brood protein, workers carbs, and the queen both. If the protein and sugar are mixed together they won't be able to regulate how much of each food type goes where. There's also the issue of having it mixed into the water supply. If every time a human went for a drink their tap gave out sugar water, it'd become an issue. I imagine something similar is true for ants. For these reasons I'm hesitant to use it as a colony's only source of food/water, especially for founding colonies, but as I said, it could definitely be an interesting idea for a feeder that could be placed in outworlds or attached to nests via tubing. Many of my colonies like to drain any liquid feeders I give them by piling debris on them, something like this may be a solution to that.


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#7 Offline JamesJohnson - Posted September 19 2021 - 6:18 PM

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A couple of things to note: 

 

  • As people above have mentioned, ants need their food groups separated because we can't possibly know the exact ratio of foods their colony needs while they do, so we let them handle that. This could be easily solved by giving them a test tube of this per food group.
  • I don't know how you would supply a long lasting source of protein using this system (or any for that matter). Gelatin doesn't last longer than a week nor does it meet the nutritional needs of ants (low in protein count and not insect based). A insect-based broth might work, but that would go bad even quicker than gelatin. I don't know what to do for this matter, which is kind of fine. Feeding insects to your colonies is one of the best parts of having them.
  • All that aside, if it works, it would be a very nice method to supply sugars (or maybe even certain vitamins) without too much hassle. I look forward to seeing how it works out.

Edited by JamesJohnson, September 19 2021 - 6:19 PM.

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#8 Offline futurebird - Posted September 19 2021 - 7:03 PM

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I think part of the reason cotton works so well is because ants just have so much trouble digging in it. They get the humidity and can drink. But they can't do much to destroy it. It's also really stable.
 
Why not add the food and other ingredients to the water?
 
I think that answers itself... mold. And using antibiotics seems like it might have other issues down the line... you'd also need antifungals... 
 
Now if I wanted a product for ants in test tubes it'd be a simple paper tube with a wax coating making it waterproof and a rolled lip kind of like a dixie cup. It could be inserted into a test tube and would fit perfectly. You can put food and even a drop of honey on it and the rolled edges would keep it from going all over the place.


4ZesQKR.png

Kinda like this. You could use a new one for each feeding session. No mess no fuss.
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#9 Offline Cascade - Posted September 20 2021 - 12:08 AM

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What I gather from all the feedback is that: 

  • Starting colonies don't need much protein; 
  • Seperating protein rich - and carbohydrate rich food is a good thing to do;
  • Gelatin is not per se the greatest option since it's low in protein.

With possible use of this test-tube set-up: 

  • Feeder for mature ant colony;
  • Perhaps for starting ant colonies.

First of all, thanks for all the feedback, it's really helpfull! 
I did a quick literature research and found that in experiments regarding ants, they often use synthetic foods in an agar set-up to feed colonies.
I haven't (in my quick look) found anything like this for starting ant colonies though. 

So, then the recipe becomes something like this:

 

Carb rich set-up for 1L medium total: (mature colony feeder, + perhaps possible for starting colonies)

  • 1% agar
  • 0.5% vanderzant vitamin mixture
  • 30g sucrose
  • 1L of demineralised water
  • (1ml penicillin + streptomycin)?

Protein rich set-up for 1L of medium: (mainly as mature colony feeder)

  • 1% agar
  • 0.5% vanderzant vitamin mixture
  • 10g sucrose
  • 2g casein >(1:5 protein:carb ratio) (easy to break down into essential amino acids)
  • 1L of demineralised water
  • (1ml penicillin + streptomycin)?

Regarding the added antibiotics: ''Ants desiccate or starve rather than feed on liquids to which the antibiotics gentamycin and netilmycin have been added, but feed and survive on liquids containing nystatin, penicillin, and ampicillin.'' (Jaffe et all., 2001) Not saying that they're good, but they don't die right away  :D

 

So to test it all, it'd be nice if we can set up an experiment with the community. Looking at the effect of this set-up on starting colonies. Any takers?;p 
> 4 tubes in the control group as the ordinary wet cotton set-up
> 4 tubes, carb rich w/ agar set-up + penicillin
> 4 tubes, carb rich w/ agar set-up 

Looking at 1. the amount of workers over time. 2. queen mortality rate. 

These are some nice reads if you're interested.  ;) 
https://sci-hub.se/h...0.1139/z01-079 
https://sci-hub.se/h...hav.2015.10.021


Edited by Cascade, September 20 2021 - 12:15 AM.

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#10 Offline Cascade - Posted September 20 2021 - 12:09 AM

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Again, thanks for all the feedback, I really appreciate it. Love that we can exchange ideas. 
A bit of a long post, but hopefully not too bad of a read;p

Send me a direct message if you want to get either the protein rich set-up, or the carb rich set-up in the mail. 
I'd love to make them for free to test if it actually works well, just the transport cost is for you  ;)  (I think it costs around 4 euros to get it to the US)


Edited by Cascade, September 20 2021 - 12:34 AM.


#11 Offline JamesJohnson - Posted September 20 2021 - 2:37 PM

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Seeing as it's the end of the season here in the Northern Hemisphere, I imagine you wouldn't get very many takers with broodless queens. Even then with the exception of southern areas they'd be getting ready for hibernation. However in the spring I would imagine Tetramorium immigrans would be a very good choice due to their availability (many keepers here have caught hundreds in a flight), fast growth speed, hardiness, and easy acceptance of pretty much anything remotely food. Perhaps do a very rudimentary experiment now, such as two colonies of the same species, one with an agar-based carb or protein set-up and one without etc. etc. Then take that data, adjust the set-up as needs be and do a much more thorough experiment in the spring when T. immigrans fly. Just my thoughts on this though, it obviously isn't the only way to go about doing this.


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#12 Offline Cascade - Posted September 21 2021 - 12:06 AM

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That's great information, thanks! Didn't really think about winter time creeping up on us. I'll see if I can purchase some little colonies or T. immigrans of L. niger for the pilot test. 
 

-update: purchased two L. niger colonies


Edited by Cascade, September 21 2021 - 12:27 AM.


#13 Offline Zeiss - Posted September 21 2021 - 12:27 AM

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I would have to say that byFormica has tried a protein formula in the past called Formula Blue 100.  He found that it was not effective over time for a colony and discontinued his product.  His conclusion was that a varied diet of proteins from insects was much more preferred by colonies.  

 

Would it also be more cost effective to use methylparaben instead of penicillin and streptomycin?  I would also be cautious about some ants that are thought to rely on gut microbes such as Camponotus spp. I'm not sure how they might react to penicillin and streptomycin long term.

 

Also, which genus are we referring to in your original post?


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#14 Offline Cascade - Posted September 21 2021 - 9:58 AM

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Hey Zeiss, thanks for referring me to Blue Formula 100. 
Googling it, I found this https://www.formicul...-discontinued/ 
It's good that it highlights some problems and methods people have tried before. It shows that I'm not that well versed in myrmecology too  :D

Definitely things to be carefull off. 
 

I think you're right, nothing can beat the food ants were evolved to thrive on. It'd be like humans only eating junkfood. ;p
My onprofessional opinion is that something like Blue Formula 100, perhaps without the egg and w/ other additives, would be nice as an addition to the colony diet, albeit to decrease work for the busy antkeeper. 

 

You have an excellent point on methylparaben, way cheaper, and probably less harmfull in the long run. It doesn't work as well against gram-negative bacteria. But that doesn't matter all that much I suppose. It's just that I have some lab-grade penicillin/streptomycin still in storage, and I don't have methylparaben yet. Would be cool to test alternatives as a way to conserve the medium though. 
 

Regarding your question about the genus I'm referring too, I truly don't know. Lasius comes to mind first for me, mainly because I see them all around here. 


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#15 Offline Cascade - Posted September 21 2021 - 10:20 AM

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I read that in the studies regarding synthetic ant foods they use a lot of sugar in the ''protein mix'' too. Perhaps this causes the worker ants too eat the food as well since it contains sugar, while it may not be healthy for them.

Maybe giving them a synthetic diet of
1. a mix of mainly protein & vitamin without sugar 
2. a sugar mix for the workers 
would work better to feed a colony 
taking into account what has been said in this thread about ants liking to seperate their food.

Saying this with the absolute minimum of literature research. 
 


Edited by Cascade, September 21 2021 - 10:22 AM.

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#16 Offline Cascade - Posted September 23 2021 - 8:53 AM

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Ready? Set? Let's start the experiment. (pilot study) 

Yesterday the two colonies arrived. That same evening I made the medium. 
How do I post smaller pictures here? A mystery to me. Enjoy the massive pictures. 
Picture 1: On the left you see the purple medium, containing penicillin as the preservative. On the right, the yellow medium, containing ppm as the preservative with two different isothiazolones as the active compounds. 


 

Making Of The medium
 
 



Putting the medium into testtubes, letting it cool down, and then moving the colonies into their respective new homes. 

Colony 1: The Mellow Yellow Fellows > Name by Chickalo

 

Lasius niger In Ppm

 

 


Don't mind the ''condense'' it isn't water. Just some gel droplets. 


Colony 2: The Purple Murps

 

Lasius niger In penicillin
 



They just had a bit of a shock, getting moved into a new home, but they're settling down. Especially the Purple Murps were really active and quite aggresive. The Yellow Fellows more content with their fate. 

Edit: It doesn't show the pictures I added to the post? Lemme try again. 
Give me a sec, i think i got it


Edited by Cascade, September 23 2021 - 12:55 PM.

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#17 Offline Chickalo - Posted September 23 2021 - 12:25 PM

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Lovely names lol, you should make them the Mellow Yellow Fellows

If this works I'd definately buy some lol, this is a very intelligent idea (or I'm just very dumb).


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Nope nope nope nope nope


#18 Offline Cascade - Posted September 23 2021 - 12:54 PM

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Ahhh Mellow Yellow Fellows, I love it.  :D 
That will be their name! 
 


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#19 Offline Formiga - Posted September 23 2021 - 3:46 PM

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Nice post! This is the stuff I like!

 

This week I had 4 or 5 Formica fusca broodless queens dying on me. If they were still alive or this post was written before, they would be good candidates for this test.

 

 

I know gelatin has been ruled out of the test and I might be late to the party regarding this.

I'd just like to add some little things about gelatin's composition regarding sugar contents.

 

My degree was on photography, and I focused on historical pre-industrial photographic chemistry before the commercial ready made black&white point-and-buy stuff.

This included working around with liquid photographic emulsions, including gelatin for its preparation.

I was like the mad scientist of gelatin and I miss those times, so anything related to it still sparks some joy.

 

So I've been mostly out of the photography lab for about a decade now and, writing from Portugal (Europe), the chemistry supply for average Joes (me's one now) has almost entirely crashed in 2008 and double crashed now with Covid.

So regarding gelatin I can only get it on the supermarket shelves. (the good thing is that supermarkets are everywhere and there are no circulation restrictions anymore) But can't even find bulk 1Kg jars anymore, just the little packs.

They come in "neutral" gelatin (with 86% protein and no sugars*) or the desert type with gelatin, sugar, artificial flavors and colorants added (with ~87% sugars and ~11% protein).

 

* (I don't trust the neutral gelatin nutritional declaration, since it has 86% protein, zero % on everything else declared (lipids, sugars and salt, assuming rounded down to), and that does not add up to 100%, and no declaration whatsoever of what should be the remaining 14%)

 

 

Keeping in mind that, as already said above, gelatin with added sugar isn't good for the ants to sort out the needs of proteins and sugars for themselves, their larvae and their queen.

But the neutral gelatin, although nutritionally incomplete and with a short life without going bad, it might be a short run emergency protein solution for, lets say, the colder raining days and for established colonies (please let me know if not!).

Right now I'm relying on frozen fruit flies since they aren't around my walls anymore with the colder damper weather I'm having this week.

 

Down below is a list of the amino acids composition of gelatin, it might be interesting to cross this information with what ants need - if there's such information.

 

(copy + paste from the Wikipedia page about gelatin)

 

Composition
When dry, gelatin consists of 98–99% protein, but it is not a nutritionally complete protein since it is missing tryptophan and is deficient in isoleucine, threonine, and methionine. The amino acid content of hydrolyzed collagen is the same as collagen. Hydrolyzed collagen contains 19 amino acids, predominantly glycine (Gly) 26–34%, proline (Pro) 10–18%, and hydroxyproline (Hyp) 7–15%, which together represent around 50% of the total amino acid content.[11] Glycine is responsible for close packing of the chains. Presence of proline restricts the conformation. This is important for gelation properties of gelatin.[12] Other amino acids that contribute highly include: alanine (Ala) 8–11%; arginine (Arg) 8–9%; aspartic acid (Asp) 6–7%; and glutamic acid (Glu) 10–12%.

 

 

Next, I'll be reading the Why was Formula Blue 100 Discontinued? post. It might contain some interesting answers regarding this. Thanks for linking to it!

 

 

 

Edit: Finished reading it. A must read recommendation for anyone interested in synthetic foods, "supplements" and so on.


Edited by Formiga, September 23 2021 - 8:39 PM.

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#20 Offline That_one_ant_guy - Posted September 23 2021 - 3:57 PM

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Seems like a pretty decent idea, but quick question would the gel melt if you heated the ants?
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