I'm making some progress on my "Pogonomyrmex problem" but it brings up an important more general question about ants. I know that one can limit colony size by limiting food. But, that can be hard to judge. If you keep ants in a medium sized enclosure will their population simply level off? Or, given enough food will they just start stacking brood in the outworld and making it impossible to open the outworld to feed them because there are too many?
I would highly recommend reading this study
, although it focuses primarily on Formica pallidefulva, the principles expressed can still be applied to other species. It sheds some light on the processes and expenses of nest building along with the affects of nest volume on population density, and vice versa.
To answer your question:
"total nest volume may regulate the density of ants. Ant density may be crucially important in colony function, as increased ant densities have been found to decrease brood rearing efficiency (Brian, 1953). The agreement between the number F. pallidefulva workers in the nest and the nest’s volume was close over the 32-fold range in colony size, indicating that the desnity of ants remains unchanged as a result of colony growth (Fig. 3). Both the present study and Tschinkel’s (1999) work on harvester ants have shown that the distribution of volume with respect to depth is independent of nest size. Furthermore Tschinkel (1999) found that the number of workers at a given depth increases proportionally with nest volume. These findings further support the notion that nests volumes are carefully regulated at all nest sizes and may play a role in enforcing social organization."
I would leave the enclosure as is for now. When it becomes too hard to feed the colony directly, move the harvesters into a larger nest, making sure colony density is as high as possible the whole time, which usually reduces stress on the colony.
Edited by AntsUtah, September 26 2021 - 11:18 AM.