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Picture timeline journal of a Myrmecocystus mexicanus colony

myrmecocystus myrmecocystus mexicanus formicarium diy honeypot ant journal picture timeline

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#1 Offline UtahAnts - Posted July 12 2023 - 9:09 AM

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A pictured timeline of a Myrmecocystus mexicanus colony, about one year old at the time of posting. Includes Gifs and video links for your enjoyment. Added notes and care tips.

 

August 2022 - First workers and formicarium

 

IMG 8788

 
Care tip: I fed the colony sugars as soon as I could to encourage new replete formation and, by effect, encourage the queen to stop storing sugars to focus on egg production. If you have a small colony, feed them sugars daily to boost the chances of success. Additionally make sure you heat these ants! One of the most common mistakes I see from beginners is not having a suitable heating mat or cable on hand. A warm room in the house will also suffice. Temperature should be around 80-90 degrees. Remember to leave a section of the nest for the ants to escape to at a lower temperature if the heating mechanism overheats.
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DIY formicarium made from perfect cast and white beach sand with two viewing sections. I attached a supply of distilled water on the left to give them constant access to drinking water.
 
IMG 8778
 
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First replete. I noticed most workers can store a limited amount of fluid, but the first real repletes don't arrive until the second or third generation. The colony had about 25 workers.
 
IMG 9114

 

 

October 2022 - Growth explosion

 

After feeding pre-boiled and pre-cut mealworms and crickets every 2-3 days along with a contant supply of sugar, the colony began to quickly grow. By this time the queen had completely stopped acting as a replete for sugars. The colony had around 60 workers.

 

IMG 9703
 
IMG 9701
 
IMG 9709
 
IMG 8972
 
IMG 8974

 

 

January 2023 - New Setup

 

This setup would allow for a lot of new replete space. Made of the same materials as the first - Hobby Lobby perfect cast and white beach sand. 

 

IMG 8728
 
IMG 9015
 
Moved in January 26. The colony had a little more than 100 workers.
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Care tip: Myrmecocystus colonies must be moved manually, as the repletes will not be able relocate. When moving, use featherwight forceps and/or a thin stick to gently move the repletes over to a new location.
 
IMG 0087
 
IMG 0084
 
IMG 0615
 
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When housing Myrmecocystus colonies, I would highly recommend overhead lighting capabilities. It makes observation much easier.
 
IMG 0634
 
IMG 0711
 
Gifs, I used the linked website. I like to use a high frame rate for natural transitions - https://ezgif.com/maker
 
ezgif.com Gif maker (1)
 
ezgif.com Gif maker (2)

 

 

February 2023 - More growth and repletes

 

The colony slowed growth slightly over February and March - the colony had around 200 workers. Their outworld connection was partially closed at this time, I didn't notice until I moved them out. It may have also possibly been a pseudo-hibernation to give the queen a break. The colony also began trashing the nest a bit more, again possibly due to the outworld connection being smaller. If I could do it over I'd have made the tubing a bit bigger.

 

IMG 1024
 
M. mexicanus

 

 

March 2023 - New setup

 

You'll notice in the video below how much trash was in their nest. This was one thing I tried to fix with their Dome nest V3 (see July update) by creating a large and structured tubing port to the outworld for trash removal.

 

Dome Opening video - https://www.youtube....rts/FBbbsDPu9Kc

 

Lot's of new replete space. Also added a simple (but larger) outworld with desert sand, agate pebbles, sandstone, and an olive oil barrier. Nest was made with the same material as the previous two - perfect cast.

-------------------------------------------------

Care tip: These ants need a source of sand for proper pupation. Some formicaria come with sand ingrained in the walls, however the larvae need to be covered in the stuff to pupate. I recommend providing different types of sand in the outworld for the ants to choose from. Don't put sand directly in the nest unless you want to loose sight of your colony because they smeared it everywhere. The ants can move it by themselves, remember many species of the genus live in a sandy environment naturally.

 

IMG 0748
 
IMG 0778
 
IMG 1162
 
 

April - May 2023 - More growth

 

The colony really lost any picky eating habits they had before. I started feeding them larger prey like grasshoppers, wolf spiders, and large flies. They also consumed much more sugar around this time, presumably because of the new repletes that were growing. The colony now had around 300 workers.

 

M. mexicanus 4
 
M. mexicanus 5
 
Replete near the glass

 

 

June 2023 - Explosion of replete count

 

Closeup video - https://www.youtube....rts/vUAvF9zzwwQ

 

Timelapse of nest activity - https://www.youtube....rts/_5q6ryOT_9Q

 

Complete view timelapse - 

 

 

 

The colony was now very active all times of the day, I began feeding them larger protein servings at once while feeding less often - around once a week for convenience. The colony had around 400 workers now.

-------------------------------------------------

Care tip: To diversify protein sources, try feeding bloodworm soup, this brand in particular (Hikari) is accepted by not only Myrmecocystus colonies but many other speces as well. It's a favorite of large colonies especially.

 

Myrmecocystus mexicanus 2
 
Queen Pot
 
Rocks Repletes
 
Myrmecocystus mexicanus 3
 

Upper view

 

--------------------------------------------------

I noticed around this time the first larvae moving by themselves, video here - https://www.youtube....rts/mbUugSITMJc

 

Fallen repletes
 
Replete wall
 
 
July 2023 - New 360 Dome Setup
 
 
 
Tutorial for this nest - https://www.formicul...l-layer-method/
 
The colony now has around 500 workers.
 
IMG 1669

 

-------------------------------------------------

Care tip: No sand was added to the nest, I let the ants do it themselves. This makes sealing the dome much easier, and allows the ants to choose the size of sand grains they prefer. Larger colonies can also regulate humidity much easier than small colonies can. This allows for less external hydration given a source of drinking water is provided.

 

M. mexicanus setup
 
M. mexicanus 05
 
-------------------------------------------------
Note the difference in size between workers. The largest repletes are obvious but I only recently realized the smallest workers attend the queen and clean while the medium sized workers usually do the hunting, feeding, and general brood care.
 
M. mexicanus 01
 
M. mexicanus 06
 
-------------------------------------------------
Care tip: At this point the colony has little response to indirect light. That said, I like to cover the formicarium to encourage the ants not to trash their glass (a natural response to light to try and block it). Especially at a young age, these colonies (and most other ants for that matter) should be covered to not give them any more stress then they need.
 
M. mexicanus 02
 
M. mexicanus 03
 
M. mexicanus 04
 
ezgif.com -pot1
ezgif.com Gif maker (3) -pot2
 
 
August 2023 - Many more workers
 
This colony is nearing a thousand workers and it's a joy to watch them grow. I've included some videos below along with pictures.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
-------------------------------------------------
Care tip: When using sealed formicariums, like this dome, be wary of overwatering. A little condensation will not hurt the ants themselves, but it can obscure the glass.
 
IMG 2621
 
IMG 2627

 

IMG 2647

 

IMG 2641
 
IMG 9859

 

IMG 9851

 

IMG 9858
 
 
 
September 2023 - 1k+ Workers
 
I've been a bit busy lately so I haven't been feeding this colony as much as I should have, but hope to encourage one last growth spurt before they hit their slow phase during the winter. I've been feeding them primarily crickets for the last few weeks. The colony is somewhere above a thousand workers.
 
I nearly sold the colony, and to make transit easier I shrunk the repletes by limiting their sugar for a few weeks. I finally fed them some more last week, and by mid October I plan to have the replete count up and running again. I know in the more temperate areas of southern Utah this species does not consume many external sugars during the cold months, so I might try something similar. See videos below:
 
 
 
 
 
 
IMG 0201

 

IMG 0205

 

IMG 0187

 

 

 

October - November 2023 - More Repletes
 
 
They continue to grow at a steady pace. I've been feeding them about 5 crickets a week, any more and they might outgrow the nest. I haven't been giving the colony a huge supply of nectar, but they do get a refill to their THA liquid feeder every week as well. Repletes and various sizes of workers continue to eclose every day. Next update will hopefully include a full 360 degree video. 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Forgot to include this from a few months ago-
 
 
 
Half an hour of the upper portion colony.
 
 
 
 
IMG 0536

 

--------------------------------------------------
Care Tip: When this species grows into the full capacity of their formicarium, I've noticed a slowing of growth. An upgraded formicarium may encourage faster growth. As a general rule, whenever repletes cover the ceiling, and pupae cover the floor, it's time for a new formicarium. A couple years ago before this colony here, I had a colony that never outgrew their THA mini hearth. However I believe they were constrained by the nest itself. Had they been given more space the colony could have expanded by creating new repletes. Just be sure to have a nest upgrade on hand, especially for smaller, growing colonies.
 
 
 
IMG 0542
 
 
IMG 0537
 
 
Repletes
 
 
ezgif.com Gif maker

 

 

December 2023 - Winter  
 
The colony has slowed, although they are still growing in numbers. They continue to get a new supply of nectar every few weeks, which the workers are quick to store in the resident repletes. I'll upload a full video of the colony eventually. 
 
 
IMG 0800
 
 

 

IMG 0813

 

IMG 0810

 

IMG 3028

 

IMG 3038

 

queen

 

replete row 2
 
Replete row
 

 

 

 

 

 

January 2024 - Winter 
Updated the original post.
 
The colony remained heated throughout winter, but their growth rate definitely slowed. I was keeping the population steady around 1k by feeding about 5 crickets a week. Queen remains healthy and can often be seen around the upper tiers of the nest. Interestingly she has stopped hanging upside down but over the last few months has preferred to be upright on the levels. I was sure to include a few more care tips and videos below.
 
 
IMG 3008
 
IMG 2995
 
IMG 2986
 
IMG 2963

 

--------------------------------------------
Care tip: I believe I've mentioned this but I want to reiterate: the repletes need a rough surface to hang from. Glass and smooth plastic is not optimal for repletes. I would always recommend these colonies be housed in a composite nest. If you have a plastic setup for them, coat the interior to provide grip for the repletes to hang from.
 
 
 
IMG 2958
 
IMG 2968
 
IMG 2970
 
IMG 3052
 
IMG 2974
 
--------------------------------------------
Care tip: ensure the setup has airflow. When a colony reaches a suitable size, they will consume a considerable amount of air. Luckily, this species is not known to gas themselves with formic acid but they do appreciate airflow. Living in the desert, the air in my house is dry which suites the species just fine. But they will need a water/humidity source to offset the dry air. As with any colony, the larger the humidity gradient the higher the chance the ants can find something they like. So be sure to aerate your setup so that a gradient can form. In my case I used two tubes running through the nest covered with mesh to allow for a convection air current to form from the heating pad below.
 
 
IMG 2848
 
IMG 2852
 
IMG 2851

 

---------------------------------------------
Care tip: Diversity of sugars is important even if it doesn't seem like it. The repletes can hold sugars for months if not longer and the colony cycles and redistributes sugars from repletes, sometimes filling new repletes and retiring the old. This allows the colony to live off of scarce sugar sources for extended periods of time. However I still recommend a rotation of sugars, especially during spring and fall seasons. While this colony loves hummingbird nectar, they really appreciate a fresh nectarine among other sugar water sources, and a change in sugars can often be seen to lead to a boom in eggs.
 
 
IMG 2878
 
IMG 2872
 
IMG 2865
 
 

 

 

 

 

February 2024 - The End (for now) 

Updated the original post.
 
The colony is still alive and well, I just gave them to a young enthusiast in my area last month. I will be moving out of state sometime this year and I needed to relocate the colony. They were my last colony from this journal, and I'll miss them for sure but they will continue to live on. I'll update again when I get some pictures from their new location.
 
Overall the month was pretty standard as far as growth went. I heated the colony for most of the winter, and they continued to hover somewhere around 1k. However as I getting ready to move the colony, I happened to notice the queen whose abdomen looked a bit swollen, likely from a large batch of spring eggs. Given a few more years, assuming the colony remained stable, we might have seen alates. Once everything settles a bit I'd love to try again. The species was a joy to keep and this colony lived up to their reputation. This thread will be back eventually - in the mean time enjoy these last few pictures and videos. Thanks for reading.
 
 
IMG 1008
 
IMG 1027
 
IMG 1003
 
IMG 0999

 

 
IMG 2983
 
 
Notice the severed replete abdomen at the bottom of the image. This is pretty commonplace among honeypots as way to preserve a replete's crop. 
 
IMG 2861
 

 

 

 

 

https://www.youtube....rts/oW0JNOjcqlg

 

https://www.youtube....rts/wc8Zcp4Wf7I

 

https://www.youtube....rts/Jz-m0XLYIdw

 

 

 

Here's a few of videos I never got around to posting. There might be a few repeats but they really capture the behaviors and look of the colony.

 

https://www.youtube....rts/4zMgm8eLPgU

 

https://www.youtube....rts/ND2hjNYVTpE

 

https://www.youtube....rts/0yM_m-LBD5U

 

https://www.youtube....rts/P6_wFb_RG_8

 

https://www.youtube....rts/ek6imR411Bo

 

https://www.youtube....rts/OKcH90Wf4DY

 

-------------------------------------

Link to full playlist here <

 

 

 

IMG 8788

-------------------------------------

And it's only fitting to end where it all began. The queen is probably now about 2.5 years old at the time of writing. 


Edited by UtahAnts, March 30 2024 - 4:46 PM.

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#2 Offline ANTdrew - Posted July 12 2023 - 9:19 AM

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Insanely cool!
"The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer." Prov. 30:25
Keep ordinary ants in extraordinary ways.

#3 Offline Ernteameise - Posted July 12 2023 - 9:51 AM

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Amazing pictures and what a wonderful colony.

And this new nest is fantastic.

This should be a museum exhibit.


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#4 Offline Locness - Posted July 12 2023 - 1:41 PM

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Beautiful! Looks like a thriving colony. I can imagine them on a Christmas tree design for the holidays 😁
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#5 Offline BleepingBleepers - Posted July 12 2023 - 1:57 PM

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Yeah, I really like that tower one, you can see all through their nest and them hanging out in the open, that's what I'd really like, a nice showcase piece like that instead of peering into a dark nest with a flashlight. Do you keep it in a really dark place? I would think that they would freak out with a full glass wall like that? Not sure how you: Maintain the temperature gradient, the humidity (saw one at the very bottom), have them be okay hanging out in the open with glass wall, etc. I'll look through it again later in the evening.

 

Lovely stuff ;)

You definitely got me thinking like "I want something like that!!" lol

 

Any comments about each point in the timeline? Would be neat to hear the story behind the progression and what you learned and how you dealt with problems, stuff like that.

 

1 year for all those workers? :blink:


Edited by BleepingBleepers, July 12 2023 - 2:08 PM.

JOURNAL: Camponotus CA02 - First Time At Ant Keeping CLICK HERE

JOURNAL: Ectomomyrmex cf. astutus - Ant Species #2 CLICK HERE


#6 Offline UtahAnts - Posted July 12 2023 - 2:13 PM

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Yeah, I really like that tower one, you can see all through their nest and them hanging out in the open, that's what I'd really like, a nice showcase piece like that instead of peering into a dark nest with a flashlight. Do you keep it in a really dark place? I would think that they would freak out with a full glass wall like that?

 

Lovely stuff ;)

You definitely got me thinking like "I want something like that!!" lol

 

Any comments about each point in the timeline? Would be neat to hear the story behind the progression and what you learned and how you dealt with problems, stuff like that.

 

I do cover it with a towel, but this colony seems to adjust to light relatively well, so it may not be necessary. I may go back through with some more detailed notes and periodic population count in the near future, just wanted to get the pictures down first.

 

Beautiful! Looks like a thriving colony. I can imagine them on a Christmas tree design for the holidays

 

If people were more accepting of live ant ornaments I'd give it a go  :lol:


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#7 Offline BleepingBleepers - Posted July 12 2023 - 2:22 PM

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So I'll look at this piece again but:

 

1. How do you maintain a heat gradient as I would think all the heat rises to the top.

 

2. I see one water tower only, maybe that's just enough then. Just use to folks having a few in a bigger enclosure like that. (I'm still new to ants so figuring it out)

 

3. How do you feed them?

 

4. How the heck did you open the glass top and they don't all go rushing out all over the place is beyond me hahaha (y)

 

Again, awesome neat stuff, will look through it again later this evening. Thanks for the share!


JOURNAL: Camponotus CA02 - First Time At Ant Keeping CLICK HERE

JOURNAL: Ectomomyrmex cf. astutus - Ant Species #2 CLICK HERE


#8 Offline Full_Frontal_Yeti - Posted July 13 2023 - 7:41 AM

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thanks for the great viewing
+++



#9 Offline Jonathan5608 - Posted July 13 2023 - 3:51 PM

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Oh how I want Myrmecocystus. It’s alright though. Prenos are cool

#10 Offline UtahAnts - Posted July 13 2023 - 5:18 PM

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Added more videos, links and general notes!

 

So I'll look at this piece again but:

 

1. How do you maintain a heat gradient as I would think all the heat rises to the top.

 

2. I see one water tower only, maybe that's just enough then. Just use to folks having a few in a bigger enclosure like that. (I'm still new to ants so figuring it out)

 

3. How do you feed them?

 

4. How the heck did you open the glass top and they don't all go rushing out all over the place is beyond me hahaha (y)

 

Again, awesome neat stuff, will look through it again later this evening. Thanks for the share!

 

To answer your questions

1. I use a heating mat underneath to heat half of the base. On top of that, there is indeed some amount of gradient that happens vertically.

2. The top of the dome has condensation, and one water tower is all a large colony needs given they have a source of drinking water. The adobe coating used has excellent water absorption which also helps.

3. Not pictured is an outworld. It is attached through a tubing port in the base - see below. I'll get some complete setup pics eventually.

4. When I moved them I placed the repletes in the nest without the dome, then I closed the dome and dumped the rest of workers and brood in the outworld.

 

Happy to help!

 

Underneath the hood
 
Edit - Thanks again to @ben for making the base, much appreciated!

Edited by UtahAnts, July 13 2023 - 5:27 PM.

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#11 Offline 100lols - Posted July 21 2023 - 11:16 PM

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Dude your work is amazing!! Glad I get to watch :D
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#12 Offline UtahAnts - Posted August 26 2023 - 8:31 PM

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Edited orignal post with the August update: 

 

This marks one year since nanitics!

 

August 2023 - Many more workers
 
This colony is nearing a thousand workers and it's a joy to watch them grow. I've included some videos below along with pictures.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
-------------------------------------------------
Care tip: When using sealed formicariums, like this dome, be wary of overwatering. A little condensation will not hurt the ants themselves, but it can obscure the glass.
 
IMG 2621
 
IMG 2627

 

IMG 2647

 

IMG 2641
 
IMG 9859

 

IMG 9851

 

IMG 9858
 

Edited by UtahAnts, September 26 2023 - 12:50 PM.

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Leave the Road, take the Trails - Pythagoras

 

Utah Ant Keeping --- Here

DIY Formicariums and Outworlds --- Here

Honeypot Ant Journal --- Here

Photo Album --- Here

Videos --- Here


#13 Offline ANTdrew - Posted August 27 2023 - 3:18 AM

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Spectacular setup!
"The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer." Prov. 30:25
Keep ordinary ants in extraordinary ways.

#14 Offline Ernteameise - Posted August 27 2023 - 11:35 AM

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This looks so beautiful.

This would make a stunning display piece in a museum or insect house in a zoo.



#15 Offline Daniel - Posted September 1 2023 - 9:18 AM

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Excellent work! Definitely the best Myrmecocystus keeping post I've seen.

#16 Offline B_rad0806 - Posted September 1 2023 - 4:33 PM

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that's gotta be one of the dopest nests I've seen


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#17 Offline Gyoza - Posted September 3 2023 - 5:38 AM

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Very lovely and helpful post! My mexicanus colony is *struggling* (they're picky as heck) and I'm going to give those bloodworms a try... you mentioned "soup" - assuming you're rehydrating the food?

Thank you for the post and the tips

#18 Offline nurbs - Posted September 3 2023 - 11:42 AM

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This is really excellent work, UtahAnts. Thanks for sharing.

 

They're not just empty photogenic formicariums, they show a large thriving colony inside. I see majors, which is usually a hallmark of a skilled potkeeper  :)

 

You're one of the few I've seen with this size mexicanus. There's so much talk on here but very little show. You're showing. Keep it up.

 

Try a different pot species. Mexicanus (along with placodops and navajos, from my experience) are much easier than other Myrmecocystus, relatively speaking that is. But the genus itself is still harder than the likes of Camponotus. Given proper care and a bit of luck, Mexicanus and Placodops grow quite fast. 

 

I've found many of the smaller pots (like Yuma or Wheeleri) don't thrive as fast as mexicanus after the first 6 months. They don't die off, but growth flatlines. This is just my experience from consistently rearing them year after year after year. I haven't been able to figure out why. It's not consistent. I try to keep at least three personal colonies of each species of pots. The more samples you have, the better in understanding their biology and behavior. Would love to see what you come up with. An exception to this seems to be the all black Mimicus with the dark reddish heads. These appear to grow fast.

 

One last bit of advice - colonies can collapse as fast as they grow. So try and keep heating, humidity, diet, etc consistent. The heating requirements for Mexicanus, for example, are different than other pot species. Subtle changes can actually make a huge difference. If you're trying out a new nest, new heating element, or new food, test it out on a few workers away from the colony first. This is, again, from my own experience. Success only comes from making mistakes and learning from them, and I've made plenty. 


Edited by nurbs, September 3 2023 - 11:49 AM.

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#19 Offline UtahAnts - Posted September 3 2023 - 3:30 PM

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Thanks for encouragement and tips nurbs, I may consider another species eventually.

 

Very lovely and helpful post! My mexicanus colony is *struggling* (they're picky as heck) and I'm going to give those bloodworms a try... you mentioned "soup" - assuming you're rehydrating the food?

Thank you for the post and the tips

 

I've kept a few mexicanus colonies which were all picky at a young age. I always had luck with precut mealworms fed with oats. The soup is indeed just rehydrated bloodworms, take a look at nurbs' guide in his signature.


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Leave the Road, take the Trails - Pythagoras

 

Utah Ant Keeping --- Here

DIY Formicariums and Outworlds --- Here

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#20 Offline UtahAnts - Posted September 26 2023 - 12:40 PM

UtahAnts

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September 2023 - 1k+ Workers
 
Updated the original post.
 
I've been a bit busy lately so I haven't been feeding this colony as much as I should have, but hope to encourage one last growth spurt before they hit their slow phase during the winter. I've been feeding them primarily crickets for the last few weeks. The colony is somewhere above a thousand workers.
 
I nearly sold the colony, and to make transit easier I shrunk the repletes by limiting their sugar for a few weeks. I finally fed them some more last week, and by mid October I plan to have the replete count up and running again. The colony seems very resilient when it comes to sugar intake, but I'll try to keep it a bit more consistent. I know in the more temperate areas of southern Utah this species does not consume many external sugars during the cold months. See videos below:
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Edited by UtahAnts, September 26 2023 - 12:48 PM.

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