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Balcony Ants (Lasius niger)


86 replies to this topic

#1 Offline Ernteameise - Posted May 8 2023 - 8:04 AM

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I have a small balcony with my flat, and I have a small herb "garden", with a few pots of herbs.

I noticed the other day that some ants were running around among my herbs.

It immediately clicked- these must be the culprits for the aphids on my mint plant last year!

They just stick some aphids to the mint plant, and then keeping them as dairy cattle.

But where are these guys living?

Since my "big" herb planter has a hydration system, I actually think this might be where they reside.

So what to do?

I have no motivation of digging my freshly planted herbs up again, and I also do not want to poison these girls, not after I recently rediscovered my love for them.

To be honest- who actually cares if some ants put some aphids on my mint plant? Mint grows like weed anyways, and while the plant looked very bad last autumn, it has sprouted again this spring. Mint is pretty indestructible. So do I want to kill a while colony just to protect a mint plant?

I have just finished reading "Tales from the Ant World" and this is what Edward O. Wilson has to say on the topic:

 

EO-Wilson.jpg

Wise words.

So yes, I decided to change tactics.

I hereby lay claim to a small colony of Lasius niger living on my balcony.

I just put out some feeders.

On offer are:

Pollen grains, organic honey, banana slurry, a small piece of meat and a small bottle filled with sugar water.

After 1 hour, the scouts had found the feeding area and had recruited their sisters.

They accepted the offering.

I am curious how this will develop.

It certainly will be interesting to watch the colony and also, when the mint has grown in, watch to colony going about their dairy ranching business.

 

Balkon1.jpg

 

Balkon2.jpg

 

Balkon3.jpg

 

And here you see a tiny black butt sticking out the sugar water bottle:

 

Balkon-4.jpg

 

I think I will also put out a small test tube filled with water, like I did with all my indoor colonies, just to also provide a constant source of fresh water (my balcony faces south, so it can get quite hot).

 

Bonus: I do not have to take care of finding space for hibernation in winter, since the "living space" of these ants is already sitting outside and it actually seems to work that they survive a German winter there.


Edited by Ernteameise, May 8 2023 - 8:09 AM.

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#2 Offline Ernteameise - Posted May 11 2023 - 12:13 PM

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Today was "ham day" and I shared some juicy ham with all of the girls.

Needless to say, the balcony Lasius were so ecstatic, they put up a "night shift" to get the most out of the ham.

Usually, when it gets dark, the ants disappear from view, but I just went out with a torch and this is what I found:

 

Balcony_1105.jpg

 

I guess this means that they approve.

 

I have no idea what this colony ate until I decided to take them over.

It is a small colony, maybe from a queen that landed in my herb "garden" last summer, and the colony nests near the hydration system of that planter unit.

But apart from the aphids in the mint last year (which have died during winter), I do not really know what else they have been eating.

Which goes to show that these girls are real masters of survival.


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#3 Offline Ernteameise - Posted May 13 2023 - 10:10 AM

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Dramatic scenes on the balcony!

A vicious and deadly predator is stalking my balcony ants!
Do not let the cute face fool you, this is a creature out for blood.
 

A jumping spider (most likely Pseudeuophrys lanigera) has set her eyes on the balcony ants and is stalking the feeding station.

I admit I do not want to remove her, and will just wait and see how this will work out. The Lasius niger are VERY fast, and they are aware of the spider, and are VERY careful around the feeding area.

And the jumping spider is aware of the ants and is following their movements with her large eyes.

 

Spider3.jpg

 

Spider1.jpg


Edited by Ernteameise, May 13 2023 - 3:21 PM.

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#4 Offline Ernteameise - Posted May 18 2023 - 6:59 AM

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The Balcony Ants enjoy a piece of chicken bone and the sunshine outside.

 

Balcony-ants-1805.jpg



#5 Offline Ernteameise - Posted May 20 2023 - 2:31 AM

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Weekend- so it is Feast Day for all my ants!

I cooked some chicken liver for all my ants (some members here seem to swear by it) so I thought I try it out.

I will report later how it went and which food items were the most popular.

So this is the arranged plate for the Balcony Ants (including a fruit fly).

 

2005_11.jpg



#6 Offline Ernteameise - Posted May 20 2023 - 8:41 AM

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So I caught a blowfly in my flat and offered it to my Messor colony.

But despite me placing the fly in they way of their seed transport operation, they just had no interest.

So I gave the fly to the balcony girls who at least can appreciate the gift.

They also liked the liver.

 

2005-15.jpg



#7 Offline Ernteameise - Posted May 26 2023 - 1:50 PM

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At least someone appreciates the superworms which I have bought.

The Messors and acorn ants are not really interested (they prefer chicken, ham or liver pate, the snobs).

But the semi-wild Lasius niger living on my balcony do not have such issues.

 

Balcony-worm-2605.jpg

 

I have also observed that the Lasius niger are very well aware when the jumping spider is around and during the day, I do not see a lot of feeding activity (the jumping spider is also watching closely what the ants are doing). I think this is fascinating observing these natural relationships right there, in my tiny herb garden.


Edited by Ernteameise, May 26 2023 - 1:53 PM.

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#8 Offline ANTdrew - Posted May 27 2023 - 2:14 AM

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I’ve never tried superworms, but I know many people have noticed that ants aren’t all that interested in them. Mealworms are only a little bit more appealing to ants for that matter.
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"The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer." Prov. 30:25
Keep ordinary ants in extraordinary ways.

#9 Offline Ernteameise - Posted May 27 2023 - 2:26 AM

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I’ve never tried superworms, but I know many people have noticed that ants aren’t all that interested in them. Mealworms are only a little bit more appealing to ants for that matter.

It is weird.

As you have seen in my journals, I also tried self-caught flies of different species with all my girls, but somehow, insects in general are just not that attractive.

But if there is fresh ham on offer, they are all over it.

The ant keeper who sold me my Messor colony told me he had fed them on meal worms and crickets and the usual, but as you can see, here with me they prefer more sophisticated food.

I have read in one of the many ant books I am reading right now that ants develop a taste for some foods and prefer one over the other.

I by now get the feeling that I might have spoiled them.

It reminds me of the cat of a friend, who was regularly fed on the finest cuts of meat and in the end, the cat refused to eat anything else and she ate a lot of soup and broth because she had to cook the meat- the fine meat went to the cat, she ate the broth.

 

EDIT- and I have to add, the Temnothorax are known in nature to eat bird poo of there is nothing else available! Bird poo! Further proof that I might just have spoiled them.


Edited by Ernteameise, May 27 2023 - 2:29 AM.


#10 Offline ANTdrew - Posted May 27 2023 - 2:45 AM

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Wild ants will eat anything. We definitely spoil captive colonies somehow. Actually, a lot of ants eat bird poo. It’s high in protein and urea. Some keepers even supplement their Camponotus colonies with the stuff!
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"The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer." Prov. 30:25
Keep ordinary ants in extraordinary ways.

#11 Offline Ernteameise - Posted June 13 2023 - 11:05 AM

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The balcony girls are still doing well, despite the jumping spider that stalks them.

They always take the food I offer with enthusiasm.

 

1306-Balcony-ants.jpg


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#12 Offline Ernteameise - Posted June 19 2023 - 12:40 PM

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These crickets I bought continue to be a huge success with all my girls.

 

1906-Balcony.jpg



#13 Offline futurebird - Posted June 19 2023 - 12:52 PM

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Wild ants will eat anything. We definitely spoil captive colonies somehow. Actually, a lot of ants eat bird poo. It’s high in protein and urea. Some keepers even supplement their Camponotus colonies with the stuff!

You can buy powdered urea and all my carpenters love it. It's not stinky or gross and given how excited they get I think it's probably good to give them. 

Really I should sell little vials of it since you have to buy it in bulk and I have waaaay too much. 


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Starting this July I'm posting videos of my ants every week on youTube.

I like to make relaxing videos that capture the joy of watching ants.

If that sounds like your kind of thing... follow me >here<


#14 Offline Ernteameise - Posted June 19 2023 - 1:21 PM

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Wild ants will eat anything. We definitely spoil captive colonies somehow. Actually, a lot of ants eat bird poo. It’s high in protein and urea. Some keepers even supplement their Camponotus colonies with the stuff!


You can buy powdered urea and all my carpenters love it. It's not stinky or gross and given how excited they get I think it's probably good to give them. 
Really I should sell little vials of it since you have to buy it in bulk and I have waaaay too much.

Oh wow I did not know this!

#15 Offline ANTdrew - Posted June 19 2023 - 1:48 PM

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Wild ants will eat anything. We definitely spoil captive colonies somehow. Actually, a lot of ants eat bird poo. It’s high in protein and urea. Some keepers even supplement their Camponotus colonies with the stuff!

You can buy powdered urea and all my carpenters love it. It's not stinky or gross and given how excited they get I think it's probably good to give them.

Really I should sell little vials of it since you have to buy it in bulk and I have waaaay too much.
You can package it and sell it for exorbitant prices to hobbyists.
"The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer." Prov. 30:25
Keep ordinary ants in extraordinary ways.

#16 Offline futurebird - Posted June 19 2023 - 2:50 PM

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I'm gonna be a millionaire!

https://www.formicul...ve/#entry227765
 

 

It would probably make more sense for some of the various ant shops to sell little packets of it. Or put them in with starter kits. But, I'm happy to share. Too lazy to address envelopes for less than $4 though.


Edited by futurebird, June 19 2023 - 2:54 PM.

Starting this July I'm posting videos of my ants every week on youTube.

I like to make relaxing videos that capture the joy of watching ants.

If that sounds like your kind of thing... follow me >here<


#17 Offline Ernteameise - Posted June 25 2023 - 9:23 AM

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I love these girls-

they are always so appreciative of any offered food.

Not like the other snobs in my living room.

 

2506-Balcony.jpg



#18 Offline Ernteameise - Posted June 27 2023 - 11:27 AM

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Ham remains a popular favorite.

The girls were out in force today, and these Lasius are pretty much my fastest and most ferocious colony. I dropped the food dish into my herb garden, and they swarmed over it within minutes.

 

2706-Balcony.jpg



#19 Offline Ernteameise - Posted July 1 2023 - 9:14 AM

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Today is Saturday, and this means FEAST DAY for all my girls, since I have time off work and can spend time watching the girls devouring their food.

I got some grasshoppers from the pet store, and tried them out with all my girls today.

Reliably enthusiastic as always, the Lasius niger did not wait around and dug in.

 

 

0107-Balcony-Feast.jpg



#20 Offline Ernteameise - Posted July 7 2023 - 11:20 AM

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Lasius niger nuptial flights have started!

I was NOT looking for any more queens / colonies, but when I walked over the company carpark today, I nearly fell over them.

There were several queens, most of them still with wings.

I caught one and brought her home.

I did this in the past (years ago) but somehow, when I did it in the past, I always had the bad luck that the queens I caught had parasitoid wasp larvae in them.

Yes, it was awesome watching the parasitic wasp larvae hatch, but that was not what I had been going for.

Well, I will find out if this find from today is viable.

Since this journal is already covering Lasius niger, I won't start a new one, but will post my observations on that one lone queen also here.

But for the next few weeks, I will better leave her alone and settle in.

Lasius niger is claustral.

 

0707-Lasius-niger-queen1.jpg

 

0707-Lasius-niger-queen2.jpg






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