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Bleeper's Ant Species #2 - Ectomomyrmex cf. astutus

ectomomyrmex astutus journal meat ants

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#1 Online BleepingBleepers - Posted November 16 2023 - 10:18 PM


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Species INFO / Care Sheet found on post #2 below this post.


When I first got them a few months back, I didn't even know what kind of ants they were, they didn't look like the typical ants I normally see. As I'm still new to the hobby, upon seeing these for the first time, my friend and I thought we were dealing with 4 worker ants; they almost all looked the same. I didn't notice a queen because I thought a queen ant had a ginormous gaster / abdomen and was quite easy to distinguish from her workers as she was (or should be) also MUCH larger; this was definitely not the case. I only notice one worker being about 3 mm longer than the rest. As a new ant keeper, I figured I'd keep them until their lifespan ran out and was more than happy to take what I can get if someone offered me a weird creature to take care of.

So for quite awhile, I kept them in the simplest setup I can come up with, a test tube setup, since I wasn't expecting all that much from them. The test tube was placed in a small plastic container and the test tube had a small opening so they could go out and get something to eat when they were hungry (like the setup I had in the beginning of my Camponotus journal).

Since I didn't even know their scientific name, I couldn't research them so I tried taking care of them like I would my Camponotus, which was keeping them around 75-80F and gave them sugar water with the occasional prekilled dubia roach.

I was happy and surprised when they gobbled that up and slurped up the sugar water. However, after that, things became concerning. The ants, unlike my Camponotus, ignored the sugar water most of the time. However, for just 4 little worker ants, they ate more insects than my tiny colony of Camponotus and they had like 12 workers, quite a bit of brood and a Queen that's reproducing. I was confused because I thought ants mostly need protein to reproduce, I just didn't see why they were even bothering to eat so much protein. I was also very surprised that even though after a large meal, their gaster still looked somewhat thin, again, comparing to the only ants I actually keep, my carpenter ants. And every few days, I'd drop in another roach for them to feast on and they manage to eat the whole thing without leaving any leftovers. I honestly didn't see how they could fit it in there and not have a round, fat gaster.

After about a month and me half expecting to see them slowly passing away, interesting as they were, a colony without a queen didn't have much of a future. I did my usual round of checking up with a flashlight and to my surprise, could vaguely make out what appeared to be an odd, cylindrical egg held firmly between the mandibles of the largest ant in the group. I had to do a double take as it was barely visible and part of me thought it was a piece of food. It was quite an exciting find as you can imagine, but I also recall reading that some ants still lay eggs when they're infertile. So trying to not think more of it, I left them to their own devices, giving them some peace and privacy. About a week or two passed before I decided to check up on them again with the flashlight. As I peered carefully downwards, shining my light at different angles as the cotton and debris that the workers pulled in was blocking the view, I noticed a really tiny larva and I think two more eggs. Definitely a huge surprise as I was trying not to hype myself up for fear of disappointment. Unlike the carpenter ants that were relatively clean, these ants were not so good at keeping their area clean so after noticing some mold in the cotton, I decided to go DIY using Excavator Clay from Zoo Med. I'm the kind of DIYer that...if something didn't explode or the house wasn't burnt to the ground, I call it a success. I got a deli cup, some 150 micron 304 stainless steal mesh and made the following. I chose to do this because I wanted a huge water tower for them to have their brood over, it's much larger than the tar heel mini hearth XL that I had. In the beginning, however, due to how long it took the clay to dry out, there was massive amounts of humidity and condensation on the sides, which didn't cause any problems but wasn't great to look at.


Here's with the makeshift 'lid' still over the nest to keep the airflow low and humidity in. The washer was used to weigh it down.






Here's with the lid off and you can somewhat see a larva or two.





To my surprise, since I'm always expecting the worse of things, the ants did okay! Weeks went by and the Queen, which I now have confirmed is the Queen, continued to reproduce. A small part of me was still cautious, as I mentioned, I recall hearing of some infertile queens producing males, which would be the end of the colony. While the nest seemed great, though amateurishly designed and built, one of my biggest complaint about it was that I could barely see what's happening, which made me want to reconsider moving it to the mini hearth more. Little did I know, my harebrained actions in the upcoming weeks also gave me the final push to finally moving them into the Mini Hearth XL.






So what was the foolish thing that I did? I started dumping fruit flies directly into their nest :facepalm:  :blush:

My reason.....MY REASON...hear me out....was that these fruit flies can't fly, but they can climb and the ants can't. So if I dump them directly into the nest and cover the 'lid', the ants can catch them a lot easier. WHICH IS TRUE! WHICH IS TRUE! BUT...BUTTT :lol:  as you can imagine, it irritated them. Fast forward, after being 'dumped' on half a dozen times, one day, upon inspection, to my great concern, they moved most of their brood out of the nest......

Who would've thought that having one or two dozen flies rained directly on their heads would annoy them?? *Homer Simpson DOH insert*.

At first, I was thinking it was because the clay was drying up and it became too dry. OR....it was too wet and they wanted to move their cocoon to a location that's a bit drier since it's usually the eggs and larvae that need the most humidity, not so much the cocoons, is what I thought. So after some thought and panic setting in as I couldn't leave them stranded in the outworld forever, I moved them into an unused Tar Heel Mini Hearth XL. I tweezered them out and carefully gathered up all their brood and dumped it into the Mini Hearth's Outworld.


At this point, I had 3 workers, Queen, and if I can recall, 6 cocoons, 7+ eggs , 4+ larvae



Size comparison of one of the workers

Edit: I also pulled out the small vinyl tubing between the nest and outworld that originally came with the nest as these ants can't climb smooth surfaces.






Again, surprised to see how hardy and adaptable these ants are. Now I know why they survived so long after escaping at my friend's shop; these guys are tough and are survivors!

Another week or so passed, their brood developed and increased. Still too early for any workers to eclose.











10 / 24 / 2023


Some weeks passed and everything seemed stable. Loved the mini heart XL and that museum glass, which, IMO, is the best upgrade you can get for it.

There were only 3 workers, but they got the job done, working tirelessly to feed the insatiable appetites of the larvae. Each food item had to be split up, sometimes chewed up and fed to each larva.


However, one day, I noticed a strange behavior with my biggest worker. It wasn't so apparent at first. It seemed like it was exploring the small Outworld at first, but I kept an eye on it. After 30 minutes, its behavior become more and more concerning. Then it dawned on me that what I was witnessing was the dying moments of 1 of my only 3 worker ants! I recalled reading vaguely about such things in the many journals and forum posts that I came upon during my research on my Camponotus ants. I stared helplessly as I watched my ant paced around in what I can describe as a drunken stupor that got worse and worse. It became delirious, traveling in a dizzying circle over and over, until finally, it slumped down, trembled slightly and passed away.






To be honest, I never thought I'd be that sad for an ant. We see ants all the time in our lives, sometimes even step on them without as much as a second thought. They're just freaking ants! Insignificant!

But I felt a deep sadness building up inside me. It was not simply because I just recently started keeping ants, and I can't say I'll always feel this way about an ant dying, but by experiencing the ups and downs since I had these guys and what they've gone through, it hurt my heart to witness the beginning...and the end of this one individual ant. I mean, it worked tirelessly, endured many hardships, never abandoned ship, all for the survival of its colony. It didn't give up until literally moments before it knew that something was wrong with it, feeding its brood almost till its final breath. I know there's a honor among humans and I feel like there is also a honor among ants. I know it's in their instincts and programmed into their brain to behave in such a manner, but in my heart, I felt like there was just a little bit more that we can't just explain away with science.




As sad as I was after burying the little guy in my garden, after I settled down, there was a ray of hope still brewing in the nest. I think it's the Queen's way of saying that times may be darker, but there's still hope. A soldier died in order to give hope to its colony.





(In case the above picture isn't clear enough, it's the Queen carrying an egg in her 'mouth')






Now we are down to just 2 workers and the Queen.

My concern and anxiety for the colony grew. They desperately needed the workforce. It was hard enough before.

But one day at a time is the best we could do.

For the ants, it was also one fruit fly at a time.






(Showing Larvae, Eggs, and Cocoons)










Another week or two passed, but it felt like an eternity waiting for a worker to arrive.

It was on the 4th week, I recalled the carpenter ants only taking about 3 weeks, which made me anxious and worried.

"What if they don't hatch?" , "Maybe these guys take two months to eclose?? :o " , "Did I do something wrong?" thinking all my fails finally caught up and doomed the colony.



Then 4 weeks.....1 day later...










A huge sigh of relief as the first worker eclosed. I missed it, however, I have a few videos of the other eclosing which I'll post up soon in the future.

But I'm glad she made it. She's small, but very cute!




I also decided to redo the heat cable for better heat distribution and add a large second Outworld. It's a plain outworld for now, but we'll see about future updates






Like the first person to step on the moon.







So to explain it a bit, I drilled two holes on the outside and connected two tar heel nest mates for the ants to drink water from. Two because water is important and twice as easy to find, IMO.

The travel tube from nest to left outworld is a 3/8" vinyl hose is connected with a straw, I wanted to give them the bigger inner diameter space to travel through as they're on the slightly bigger side for ants. I also abraded the inside a bit to give the ants some grip, didn't want them slipping and sliding inside some holes that had smooth surfaces as these ants also can't climb. Also shows me redoing the heat cable. I used hot glue because I found the grip of the hot glue to be just right; definitely didn't want it too damaging nor permanent in case I want to move things around, but enough to hold things together especially if I enforce it with more glue / anchor points.









We don't know what the future may hold, it's hard to tell.

But for the moment, we can ride on the hopes that are not just our own.




Edited by BleepingBleepers, November 17 2023 - 1:25 AM.

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

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

#2 Online BleepingBleepers - Posted November 16 2023 - 10:20 PM


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The following info is what I've gathered from researching around online and also speaking with other ant keepers.

It's information that will be updated continuously to hopefully one day incorporate more of my own experience and findings.

Please use the following info at your own discretion and also do your own research to verify. If you find anything new and/or useful that I might've missed, please leave a comment!


How I came upon these ants and me trying to ID them:






Ectomomyrmex cf. astutus:  An aggressive ant species that subdues its prey with a painful sting. They are considered one of the 'meat ants', in which the bulk of their diet is protein from insects that it captures. It will, occasionally, take in nectar / sugar water.


Special Key Notes about this species:


- Probably not for beginners. Intermediate and above.

- Can't climb smooth surfaces :yahoo:

- Nest MUST include some kind of substrate so their larvae can use as anchor points to build their cocoon.

- Does seem to have a social stomach (food sharing stomach) but it is very small and therefore food sharing is not often witnessed.

- Brood prone to drying out and needs high humidity

- Food consist of 90% protein with 10% sugar water, juices from fruit, etc. (give or take of course)

- Can sting with people saying it's around as painful as a wasp sting.

- An interesting characteristic is that they, like opossums, can play dead if startled. Well, opossums don't have a choice actually, so I guess it's a little different.

- Not picky on food

- Adaptive and surprisingly hardy

- Some Queens have been noted to take half a year to start laying eggs

- Queen is semi-claustral, she will go out and hunt for food during her founding stage.

- Good ants to observe as they are [edit: not too sensitive] to light. HOWEVER, they are more sensitive to vibrations than my carpenter ants and seem to pick up scents and air currents better.

- Listed as epigeic generalist predators

- Not as clean as some ants in terms of disposing of waste, so with high humidity, beware of molds. In the wild, they got plants and a bioactive environment which includes springtails, mites. But not so much with us.

- Not as sensitive to electrical currents as my Carpenter ants, but after awhile, they do seem to pick it up and I had to rework my thermostat probe (which u can kinda see in the pictures)




Queen – 16 mm

Worker – 10-13 mm



Temperature: 75F - 80F

NOTE: This species has been noted to be sensitive to high heat. Queens seem to be prone to heat stress and will eat their brood when temperature gets too high. So around 82F and above, beware!

I try to keep my temperature at 76-78F


Humidity: 70-80%

Unlike the Camponotus CA02 (carpenter ants), these ants are much more reliant on humidity and moisture. They will rest their whole brood on the water tower, cocoon included, in order to keep the humidity high. These ants, brood especially, are prone to drying out. Have lost 4 larvae thus far while they were in the cocoon, not sure if it's hydration related, but watch out (Edit: Might also be temperatures on the low end being too low so I've increased it, hoping to prevent this in the future). A water source should be supplied in the nest for newer workers that don't venture out much and to help them hydrate their larvae. They are seen very often licking the condensation off the walls to hydrate themselves.



Lifespan: Unknown. My guess for the workers is around the same age as carpenters, about a year.



Productivity Rate (How fast their colony picks up from FOUNDING Stage): Slow to Medium speed (for a 500~ worker colony). Queen seems to produce an egg every other day or two. These ants are surprisingly adaptive. Slow because there has been some folks experiencing Queens that did have issues adjusting and not laying for half a year. I do notice that these ants benefit greatly (much more so than my carpenter ants) from each additional new worker. They have a rather rough beginning because each larva requires so much assistance in being fed, but especially the cocooning stage is much more tedious and requires a lot of attention and work from their matured sisters. So bigger the workforce, the more often each larva gets the attention it needs and the success rate and health of the colony improves dramatically.



Worker's Development Cycle:


Egg to Larva (hatching) is 1 - 2 Weeks


Larva to Pupa (cocoon) is 1.5 - 2 Weeks

(IMO, their cocooning process is a much more tedious procedure than carpenter ant's. They also require substrate of sorts to spin it, read further down substrate for more details)


Pupa to Adult is 4 - 5 Weeks

(Unlike the carpenter ant cocoons, it's hard to tell if one is about to eclose based on how gray they become. After several days, new pale cocoons look about the same as all the other cocoons. You can probably make guesses based on wear and tear or very slightly darker colors but it's definitely harder to tell. Their cocoon walls def seem thicker and more sealed off than carpenter ants)

(Also unlike the carpenter ants, the worker ants don't chew and partially eat the cocoons after the larvae discards them. They just throw them away)



(Similar development time as my Camponotus CA02, except each stage is 3-5 days longer, especially the last stage being a week or two longer)



Hibernation: No. They're a tropical ant, they run year round.



Ventilation: As long as there's high humidity, so beware of mold if the ventilation is too low and there's also uneaten foods.


Lighting: None required. They seem to be a nocturnal species, mostly active at night. But they still do stuff throughout the day.

While they are not that sensitive to light, they do seem to notice it a bit when I shine a light in real quick. One or two will react, while the rest don't. They have also used some of the substrate to block the viewing glass a bit, not sure if intentional or not.

Edit: Yep....it's definitely intentional........  :/

They use the humidity to hold up the pieces to the glass.


Substrate: Sand, clay, dirt

Special Note: Substrate in the nest is a MUST for their larvae to spin their cocoons. You want it to be sand like but not too fine / powdery as it's harder to carry and I would think harder for the larvae to deal with and definitely not big pieces (view above pictures for example). I use a clay excavator clay and the nice thing is, big pieces can be broken down by the ants (or yourself) if needed. Not saying excavator clay is the ideal substrate or anything, just saying it has it's pros.


Stinging: Yes. It is said to be about as painful as a wasp sting.


Colony Size: I'm reading 500~


Temperament: Currently, they're not aggressive. HOWEVER, that changes when their brood is threatened. I've poked my fingers around them without much reaction, but during the time I was picking them and their brood up with tweezers to move them to the XL, they bravely stood their ground and protected their brood, not giving an inch.



Foods: They are surprisingly easy to feed, I've not had them turn down any insect. 80-90% of their food and some of their hydration needs are through the insects that they capture and eat. They will occasionally drink sugar water, juices from fruits, nectar, etc.

Listed as epigeic generalist predators, so they hunt stuff in and under the soil like grubs, larvae, worms, beetles, roaches, etc. They seem to be much more capable in capturing, incapacitating, and cutting their prey into smaller pieces than the first year carpenter ants that I have. However, they're decent at it, but not great yet due to low numbers and smaller size of workers. We'll see how it is in the future.


Have successfully fed them:

- Flightless Fruit Flies (Hydei)

- Dubia Roach

- Red Runners

- Wet Cat food (Tuna) (Seems to stay with my original thought, not picky, actually seems to like it quite a bit, but I probably can't feed them this flavor anymore as it smells)


No real favorites, again, not picky on protein, they're happy with most.


Unlike my carpenter ants, I haven't gotten a chance to try other protein sources. I try to fatten up my roaches before I feed'em to the ants tho.


Most Active:  Nocturnal

I see them moving around inside their nest through much of the day, but more activity like venturing out of the nest for sugar water / hunting happens more at night.











Videos and pictures on the development cycle of these ants.

I've collected A LOT of videos of these guys, including feeding live prey, the whole development cycle, egg laying, etc etc.

Edited by BleepingBleepers, November 30 2023 - 3:19 PM.

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

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

#3 Offline Hiromilovesmealworms - Posted Today, 9:52 AM



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