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What signs let you know a colony is hungry?

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#1 Offline futurebird - Posted May 31 2023 - 4:43 PM


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When it comes to sugar the Camponotus discolor, Camponotus pennslyvanicus and the little cone ants all have the same tell. They start wandering all over the outworld, combing the lid and every corner. When they have sufficient sugar there aren't as many active wandering ants. I've been trying feeding them daily drops on a dish rather than leaving sugar water in a feeder-- I want to slow them down just a little. Are there things that let you know the ants are hungry? What sort of signs?

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#2 Offline Manitobant - Posted June 1 2023 - 5:21 AM


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As you mentioned, workers swarming the outworld and attempting to escape is the most common sign that ants are hungry.
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#3 Online rptraut - Posted June 1 2023 - 5:25 PM


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Hello futurebird;


I can tell you some of my experiences and observations of my colonies.  As mentioned previously, the number of foraging ants is a good indicator of the ants need for something.  That might be sugar/water, protein or a small rock to fill a hole in the nest.  I once tried an experiment where I didn't feed each colony until there were workers actively foraging in the feeding area.  It worked alright with medium sized colonies, but small colonies can be shy and don't forage as much and they suffered.  Large colonies seem to always have workers foraging for something, so they were fed regularly anyway.  I also tried a two-hour time limit for one colony where I limited their access to a sugar sponge for two hours a day, right before protein feeding time.  They adjusted very quickly to the schedule, showing up right on cue and finishing up with very few ants left to fill up.  You can tell the degree of their need by the number of workers that show up at feeding time and the length of time it takes them to finish it.  From these observations I have developed a system for my small and medium sized colonies where I use pieces of sponge for each colony and refill them each day at feeding time.  I use an eyedropper and each colony gets one, two, three or more drops depending on their need.    


I always feed my ants in the same place.  Seeing workers constantly coming up and checking the feeding area is also a pretty good sign that the colony is hungry.  Just like their need for protein fluctuates through the season, their need for sugar/water fluctuates as well.  Sugar runs every ant in the colony, but it's also necessary for growing larvae.   Observing the colonies brood and stage of development can be used to estimate how much food they will require.  


In my colonies I have observed that queens often lay their eggs in batches.  As larvae grow, their need for protein and sugar increases until they pupate and need no more food.  I have observed that queens will begin to lay the next batch just as the current batch is nearing pupation, so there is a time when the need of the colony for sugar and protein is decreased because most of the brood is in the pupa, egg or small larvae stage.  This almost seems like a resting time for the colony and using my eyedropper and sponge I can reduce the amount I give them accordingly.  In my colonies with multiple queens, the need for food is more consistent from day to day as there are always larvae at some stage.  I give my large colonies constant access to sugar/water with feeding tubes.  Hope this helps.


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