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

ectomomyrmex astutus journal meat ants

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

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                                                                             CzhtjUj.jpg

 

 

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




ROCKY BEGINNINGS



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.

 

gBue1DO.jpg

 

 

 

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

 

c3wpfgc.jpg

 

 

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.

 

4XB3bzb.jpg

 

 

 

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.

 

prBHC1b.jpg

 

 

 

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.

 

4r1oBGB.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

A SOLDIER TILL THE END

 

 

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.

 

xv7Ulau.jpg

 

 

 

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.

 

 

ANYHOW...lol.

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.

 

 

RxIU6Fa.jpg

 

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

 

 

 

AND THEN THERE WERE ONLY 3

 

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.

 

4QZ68cA.jpg

 

 

 

(Showing Larvae, Eggs, and Cocoons)

 

QcpN9Ro.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

AND THEN THERE WAS HOPE!

 

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...

 

zXLug7a.jpg

 

 

 

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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

 

x5OpZHF.jpg

 

 

 

Like the first person to step on the moon.

 

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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.

 

cHnRJul.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

sxIBHVn.jpg


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 Offline BleepingBleepers - Posted November 16 2023 - 10:20 PM

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BASIC SPECIES INFO

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:

https://www.formicul...known-location/

 

 

 

 

Ectomomyrmex cf. astutus:  An aggressive medium / medium large size 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 they capture. They will, occasionally, take in nectar / sugar water.

 

Special Key Notes about this species:

 

- Probably not for beginners. Intermediate and above, mainly due to humidity requirements, sensitivity to vibration and others mentioned below.

- 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.

- Decent (lowered it down from 'good') ants to observe as they are not too sensitive to light. HOWEVER, they are significantly more alert and easier to startle with sudden 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

(Monomorphic - same worker cast with smaller variations in size (as oppose to polymorphic ants like Carpenter ants). Average worker sizes do seem to increase as the colony becomes bigger when they're more capable of tending and feeding their brood)

 

 

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: 80%~ (high / moist)

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.

 

UPDATE 1/5/2024: Issue with them eating pupae: After some observation, I believe it has a tiny bit due to food, but a lot more to do with hydration / humidity (at least with me). When the humidity is low, it causes the larvae inside the cocoon to dry out faster and not survive the 4-5 weeks in the cocoon, which I think dehydration / lack of water happens before they make their cocoon and during. Also, sometimes the other larvae are needing water but there's little of it, which might cause them to raise the alarm and if the workers don't find a water source of sorts fast, they get desperate and open up a cocoon? Maybe? Because the pupa inside is meat / water source. There's def holes in that logic. So I have found squirting water in definitely does help with the pupae eating. Have thus had it happened probably 10 or so times, which is no small number as there's only 24 adult ants at this point. Condensation is useful to these ants as they drink often from it, however, they do have the habit of covering part or most of it up with substrate.... Definitely try to find a way to connect water source directly into the nest, even if the workers try to do what they do, which can be annoying, but *frown*

 

 

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

(Increasing the food supply seems to significantly boost how fast larva grow and pupate. Since the size of the workers don't differ too much, more food just means they hit their 'max' size in which the larva will begin their pupa stage sooner. Carpenter ants, since they're polymorphic and there can be quite a bit of size difference, more food won't necessarily shorten the time between larva to pupa, they end up just getting bigger)

(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 moisture / condensation to stick the pieces to the glass.

 

 

UPDATE 1/9/2024: Actually don't seem to react nearly as much to light as they do to vibrations. I noted above that one or two reacted to light, it might be the vibration of me getting close to their enclosure with a flashlight was what they were reacting to. Like for the carpenter ants, the only one that seems especially bothered by the light is the Queen (carpenter Queen is quite sensitive to light, the Ecto Queen not so much, showing very little to no reaction most of the time in terms of light). Their thing with using substrate to block the glass might partially be because of light, but I'm also thinking they do have a habit of covering wet spots with substrate (like the nest mate drinking tube) and/or using the substrate to stick onto surfaces they can't climb in order to give them a foot hold so they can climb it (which I've noticed it in one of the smooth surface tubing I have in there which they covered a bit with excavator clay, now they can climb up and around it, whereas before they cannot).

 

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 diet and some of their hydration needs are through the insects that they capture and eat, hence why they're considered 'meat ants' under simple terms. They will occasionally take sips of sugar water, juices from fruits, nectar, etc, so please remember to also have some available to them at all times.

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.

 

Note and Emphasis: Because they have really small social stomachs, I think it's a good idea to supply smaller feedings often, once, maybe twice a day. As mentioned, they get quite a bit of their hydration from the juicy insects that they eat.

 

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)

- Pacific Oyster (boiled) First they didn't like it, kept their distance. Then they found out how much they like it. The meat and the gutsy green part. They even fed a bit to their larvae (accidental or not), which is rare for these 'exotic' foods.

 

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.

 

UPDATE (1/25/2024): Got some live feeding videos uploaded! It's in the post linked here:

https://www.formicul...tutus/?p=235709

 

 

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.

 

 

 

OBSERVATION NOTES and OTHER STUFF I LEARNED:

 

- Noticed some bits of bullying, but rarely. Might be the workers 'revitalizing' their new workers. Have noted one instance of one kinda biting another into submission, but the weaker one found the opportunity to walk away and nothing else happened. The other one was a day old worker or so being continuously lifted up and put down, kinda like how you lift weights. Did it like 6+ times, then once it stopped, worker walked it off.

- They have a habit of using debris to cover or block stuff they don't like. This so far includes most areas where air seems to flow into their nest, even very small currents. They will cover food and water they dislike. They will also use debris to cover the glass cover either to block out light and/or to make the glass surface climbable since they can't climb smooth surfaces.

- After having a bigger brood, they're not as easy to startle or their recovery is faster, within limits of course.

- It also seems like the more practice they have capturing a prey, the better they get at it. Either that or just better luck or some individuals excel at capturing prey more than others. Definitely don't underestimate size, some small individuals kick more [censored] than others, smaller ants can be feisty! I've seen some VERY impressive takedowns of decent size live prey.

- Queen use to produce eggs once every other day, now once a day or so. Have seen one time when I think I saw her pop out 2-3 in a day and have a thinner gaster because of it.

- Fascinating thing I'm starting to witness: They will use substrate and surrounding material, including old cocoon pieces, and stick them onto walls (especially smooth surfaces) that have condensation or moisture in order to create patches of areas that they can hang onto in order to climb higher. They are purposely doing this, not by accident, because I notice them trying to place the material as high up as they can (less material, longer distance) and have attempted to climb, with some bits of success. I have to actively knock these pieces down or they'd hit the top of their tiny mini hearth outworld.

- Have seen them try to dig into the formicarium nest, rarely but they start to especially when they get hungry. It's kinda loud too, like a clicking sound.

- Think I've had one partially hold a featherweight together. I was trying to tweezers feed a fruit fly to one, ant grabbed onto the tweezers instead, I let go but tweezers wouldn't open for some reason. Definitely surprised. Tweezers was a tad dirty so maybe some gunk held it together as well but dunno.

- Ants use stinger to not just sting and disable / kill their prey, but also to scoop up prey so they can grab them better with their mandible, kinda like how you use a fork to scoop stuff into your mouth. They do this a lot with small prey that they're trying to quickly grab.

 

 

 

FUTURE UPDATE PLANS:

 

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, February 3 2024 - 12:28 AM.

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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 December 2 2023 - 9:52 AM

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Update?


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#4 Offline BleepingBleepers - Posted December 2 2023 - 7:56 PM

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Update?

 

 

The colony has been doing pretty good! (y)

I am ALSO very pleased to say that I MAY have figured out the problem that plagued the colony in the beginning :yahoo: !  Had an issue where I ended up losing 5 larvae during their process of either attempting to cocoon or while they were in the cocoon.

 

I haven't had any deaths since and, knock on wood, hope it stays that way.

 

So basically, I think the problem was:

 

- Hydration issue / Being too dry . I am also wishing the water tower was a lot bigger as well.

 

- Not enough workers. I believe at the time, there were only 2-3 workers including the Queen and so they didn't have the ant power to keep up with all the hungry mouths to feed and also to tend to like giving them water.

 

 

FIX:

 

1. Having more workers. I can't believe how much more efficient the colony is now in terms of feeding the larvae and helping them cocoon. Before, when there were only 2-3 workers, I think some larvae even exhaust themselves to death during their attempt to form the cocoon due to the lack of help. The workers weren't fast and efficient enough and too much energy was spent during the cocooning stage. It is now SOOOOO much better :yes:  . I have not witnessed a single facepalm WTBleep-are-they-doing?? moment since. With enough workers, they quickly cover them with substrate and cocooning goes A LOT smoother, definitely breathing a sigh of relief. It's definitely reassuring to see their rough beginnings begin to iron itself out and become a lot smoother. IMO, these guys benefit more so than my carpenter ants when they get even one more new worker. The success rate of the colony increases so much from each additional helper.

 

2. Kinda found out that it's best to have condensation or a water source directly in the nest. Some of the ants like the Queen (even though she's semi claustral, she's a bit too shy to venture out most of the time) and the newer workers rarely leave the nest. When I first had these guys, I didn't consider this as much but once there were some condensation inside the nest, I notice them quite often lapping away at the condensation, obviously thirsty and happy to have a close drinking source. While the Mini hearth XL is a great nest, I find that unless you run the heat cable across the water tower, the humidity is slightly below what they would prefer. What evidence do I have of this? As soon as I squirt water on the substrate below, they quickly move some of their brood down into it. Unfortunately, it also fogs up the glass, which makes it harder to see but they use that condensation to drink so every couple of days, I use a needle syringe to squirt a tiny bit of water on the substrate (excavator clay) that I added inside and/or I also squirt quite a bit of water in their small outworld above and some of the humidity kinda drifts down to the nest below. I also read that some workers sometimes soak substrate with water and bring it to the larvae? I haven't noticed that much. But anyhow, because the water source is closer, I think they're also able to hydrate their brood a lot better and hence the increase success. Oh and the ants also use the condensation as a 'glue' to block the glass with substrate. They're not great at it YET and I hope they'll forever fail at that task because then I can't see them if they block too much of the glass LOL. The Tar Heel nest mate (the tube they created to be inserted into the nest holes to give the ants water) is ...um..... so so. They dry out rather fast or the water that pops out at the tip isn't as much as I want, but it is what it is, I just don't see myself confidently depending on it.

 

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

12 / 02 / 2023

 

Queen + 11 workers + 10 cocoons + 20+ larvae + 15+ Eggs

 

SIDE NOTE: Better pictures soon to come, my Black Friday camera shopping is about to arrive! :yahoo:

Can't wait to have something better to take pictures with than my phone and my shaky hands.

Dual Image stabilization please!! :D

 

(Showing all workers below, tending to the brood)

 

Uk1E12H.jpg

 

 

 

W80E9YD.jpg

 

 

 

All 11 workers and Queen confirmed!

To think that not too long ago, they only had 2 workers for a short time! That made me a bit worried / nervous. Glad it's getting better and better!

 

XL7H4Rf.jpg

 

 

 

 

Quite a few larvae now. There's a few newly hatched teeny tiny little ones there, hidden behind their older and much larger sisters, they're about 2 millimeters or so in size! But they'll greedily latch onto dead insects that are laid near them!

Out of focus on the right but the Queen doing her usual thing, which is holding a newly laid egg in her mouth for safety. If she needs to eat, she usually hands the egg off for another worker to hold until it hardens, which would make the egg more safe from being crushed or possibly eaten by it's voracious larvae sisters.

 

hPb2w2x.jpg

 

 

 

 

FUTURE UPDATES:

 

1. Feeding videos

2. Close up videos showing their development process like how the ants help with the cocooning process, eclosing, egg laying, etc.


Edited by BleepingBleepers, December 3 2023 - 12:27 AM.

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#5 Offline ANTdrew - Posted December 3 2023 - 3:09 AM

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Cool little colony! Maybe you could put the whole formicarium in some sort of an incubator box, so the outside and inside temps would be the same? That way you could keep a very moist nest without much condensation. Additional darkness could also help prevent them from wanting to block up the glass by sticking substrate to it. Just some thoughts…
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#6 Offline BleepingBleepers - Posted December 3 2023 - 8:37 AM

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Cool little colony! Maybe you could put the whole formicarium in some sort of an incubator box, so the outside and inside temps would be the same? That way you could keep a very moist nest without much condensation. Additional darkness could also help prevent them from wanting to block up the glass by sticking substrate to it. Just some thoughts…

 

That's an idea and I'll try to figure something out but the main purpose of moving them into the XL with the museum glass and for me keeping ants is the full observation, studying and documenting (text, pics, videos) of them.

 

The work around that I've found was just to saturate the outworld and keep it moist and sometimes spray a bit down in the nest for condensation to build up for 2-3 days. Then it'll dry up a bit and the visibility would come back.

I've also used an extension with a Q tip at the end to gently clean the glass, otherwise the above pictures would be much harder to get or not possible (especially at that clarity).

I do keep these guys in a room that's dim / dark 90%+ of the time.

 

But I very much appreciate your thoughts and I'll brainstorm some kinda way.

 

I'm also preparing equipment to begin my DIY nest building. For these guys, I'm planning on a top down view (maybe, these side view formicariums are def starting to grow on me)

I hear ants that tend to block the side glass don't do it so much for glass from above.


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#7 Offline Full_Frontal_Yeti - Posted December 4 2023 - 11:17 AM

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For keeping my ant's general area at a better temp during winter i use a 25watt overhead incandescent bulb on the outworld during the day. It's bright enough light to see them well and provide "day light" indoors for them. While being just the right wattage to give off some heat but not too much.

Also if you can make the heat cable be in some direct contact with the nest glass, it will prevent the condensation at even really high levels. Condensation is mostly about the temperature differential of the inside nest temps vs. the temp of the much cooler glass.
 

In this example image the cable is in place from tension alone. It wants to be more curled up and tension on it between the two magnets making it straighter keeps it in place, no tape or anything used.
post-7513.jpg

The cable only just comes into contact with the glass along the top edge between the two magnets. this little bit of glass warming prevets the condensation in a mini hearth.

 

 

Though i did discover that size of glass really matters. On my large top down nest there is so much surface area to let off heat, a lot more cable contact was required. I had to spiral the heat cable over the glass top. Only leaving about 1/2 to 3/4 inch between each spiral at most or there would be a line of condensation growing in a spiral in between the cable spiral.


Edited by Full_Frontal_Yeti, December 4 2023 - 11:20 AM.

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#8 Offline BleepingBleepers - Posted December 4 2023 - 12:05 PM

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Yeah, I recall some of you guys doing this too (saw one guy tie a knot on the side lol even though I recall a manufacturer warning literally saying to keep the wires 2" from each other and avoid crossing / contact due to possible overheating / fire dangers)

I did my setup in which the cable went behind the formicarium because I thought it looked a bit unsightly with cables roping through the front like that. I still kinda think so. However, maybe for the colder months I can run an independent and temporary, always-on heat cable past the front glass for dealing with the condensation.

 

Do you have a picture or link of your cable setup on the top down nest? I'm more of a visual person. I'm planning to maybe setup a top down large DIY formicarium for these guys in the upcoming months and I want to see what I'm dealing with in terms of heating and condensation issues. EDIT: You mean this? https://www.formicul...alis/?p=232843 or is there another one?

 

 

All being said, I tend to mostly have the condensation issue because I'm purposely passing part of the heat cable past the water tower on the backside. So if I don't do that, the glass is still not so bad. I don't do it during the Summer because the humidity is on the higher side, cold season is when my room sometimes hits 30~ humidity, it's so dry sometimes even my eyeballs feel it.

 

Thanks for reminding me about this. I've seen a lot of these stuff already but I also have a horrific memory which I think is genetic.


Edited by BleepingBleepers, December 4 2023 - 12:12 PM.

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#9 Offline Full_Frontal_Yeti - Posted December 4 2023 - 12:41 PM

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I so tried to resist the heat cable look. I really didn't like that look i saw when i was doing my prep research to keep ants.
But within a  couple days of having them i changed my tune. Just cable aesthetics > condensation aesthetics to my eye. As much as like the cleaner look of no heat cable draped on things, i dislike the condensation more. Also my ants will quickly move to build dirt up on the water, covering the glass when it's wet.  So i for sure put the effort in on condensation control.
 

In this first image the small 5"x5" nest in the back has two big water tower chambers, and that little cable loop on top to prevents condensation.
The cable is in place using pressure tension between the three bits of blu tak. It is just laying there, but wants to unfurl more. The blu tak is not holding it down, just providing a solid surface to push against. The pushing pressure against the three points keeps it in place without stickying it in place.

post-7513-0-81806800-1695754854.jpg

Harder to see but the 4x4 fallen fortress nest is there too, and it only has one small water tower. The single line of cable crossing over the tower chamber is enough to prevent condensation in the nest.

This is the larger nest i made where the one big glass releases a lot more heat. The water tower chambers are on one long side, and the main heat cable contact to the nest is on the opposite side. But it still got a lot of condensation until i got the cable on glass positioning just right.
IMG_20231203_162541_HDR.jpg

 

Took me a few days of tweeking the cable position to prevent condensation spots/lines. And overnight while it's getting colder here, i also place a thin blanket over them (dish towel/hand towel). I found it was cold enough during the night they would always have some heavy condensation in a few places. A little bit of cloth on top keeps the full glass warm enough to stop that. I take their blanket off every morning at 7am when their lighting comes on and don't get any condensation during the day.

Oh yeah and because of the way heat cables come wanting to bend in certain ways on their own. On the larger glass i had to use the blu tak to hold the cable down in a couple spots where it wanted to be bending upward away from the glass. But again the cable is mostly in place just laying there with pushing pressure tension between the blu tak bits keeping it in the shape it is in.


Edited by Full_Frontal_Yeti, December 4 2023 - 12:44 PM.

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#10 Offline BleepingBleepers - Posted December 4 2023 - 2:40 PM

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Noted noted! (y)

 

Thanks man. Nice colonies you got there btw!

 

I'll think about your setup and what you said, especially when I'm doing the DIY nest.

 

 

 

 

Thanks for the comments everyone.

 

Side: I'm constantly watching and hoping my carpenter ant colony gets its first major! There's one cocoon that's going to eclose today or tomorrow, here's hoping! Can't wait. OOOOO LOL

 

 

 

 

Adding two more photos I got yesterday. Tackling a Dubia Roach. Got some of it on video too so I'll upload it later for those that wanna watch these guys in action. Quite brutal decapitation, RIP Mr Roach and thanks for your sacrifice and supplying sustenance to these ants.

The workers are pretty systematic in their procedure in preparing prey to the brood

 

t4f2Ern.jpg

 

 

 

And I thought a pretty interesting picture of the larvae feeding on the limbless body of that dubia roach.

 

VWEUU1q.jpg


Edited by BleepingBleepers, December 4 2023 - 2:43 PM.

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#11 Offline Hiromilovesmealworms - Posted December 5 2023 - 2:27 PM

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Savage! %)  :blink:


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#12 Offline BleepingBleepers - Posted December 12 2023 - 2:50 PM

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JUST GOT MY NEW CAMERA AND MOST OF MY MACRO GEAR!!! :yahoo:

 

Some still heading my way an then I gotta figure out how to use them lol.

 

But a lot less taking pictures with my shaky hands and phone! Though, at least for me, the pictures weren't so bad for a phone camera with no attachments.

 

Anyhow, an amateur photographer still learning his gear, will read up and hopefully improve as I go along, I just got my tripod today too, wish I had it for these shots but here goes:

 

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

 

12 / 12 / 2023

 

11 workers + Queen, 20~ larvae, 16 cocoons, 16+ eggs

 

 

For everyone but @Full_Frontal_Yeti for reminding me about the cable in the front. I utilized the magnets to my advantage and OMG it is so much better at holding the cable there than tape etc and easily taken off without leaving any marks. I'm able to now keep it quite humid inside without the glass fogging up too bad and it definitely helps prevent the workers from blocking the front.

However, I still think the cable through the front is horrible looking and is a nuisance for taking picture and even just observing but until I find a better way, this will have to do. However, it does give me an interesting idea for my DIY nest

 

nZlka9d.jpg

 

 

After being able to keep them moist, they've moved a lot of their cocoons off the tower and into the bottom substrate. They definitely appreciate the moisture / humidity.

 

VaDQL3v.jpg

 

 

Improved picture of the Ecto Family

 

wp8mvEB.jpg

 

 

Rare show of a worker about to attempt to share food with a larva, they have really small social stomachs and I don't see it as often.

 

RLcqcah.jpg

 

 

 

Guarding those cocoons!

 

kaJIYeQ.jpg

 

 

 

Trying to get those macros! Love the look of these larvae!

 

sxDadYH.jpg

 

 

A close knit family prowling together :D

 

k0sJKSp.jpg

 

 

So far, I've only witnessed one other death during cocoon stage probably 5 days ago or so. I haven't had a new worker for quite awhile, their development stage is definitely more than carpenter ants, feeling like it's 5 weeks or so for cocoons to eclose.

But I'm not in too much of a rush I guess. I'd be fine if these guys stay around 100 workers, would be fun, especially during feeding time to watch them catch those flies or wrestle the roach that's bigger than they are.

 

Will work on my photography skills and hopefully one day deliver the quality images I sought to achieve (y)


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#13 Offline JesseTheAntKid - Posted December 12 2023 - 5:59 PM

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They're doing good! When are you going to move them into a formicarium or have you already done so?


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Currently keeping: Pheidole obscurithorax (FINALLY I CAN STUDY THEM AND HAVE THEIR COOL MAJORS  B)), Tetramorium bicarinatum, Solenopsis spp. (probably xyloni, the queens are tiny hehe)

Wanting: Atta texana, Camponotus planatus (PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE CAN SOMEONE HOOK ME UP WITH ATTA)

Previously kept: Monomorium minimum, Pheidole dentata

 

"ATTAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!" -Me

"AAAAAAAATTTTTTTTTAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" -Even more me

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"- Me personified


#14 Offline Full_Frontal_Yeti - Posted December 14 2023 - 10:38 AM

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oh i like how you leverage the magnets, wish i had thought of that.

Have you experimented with cable placement? I was able to keep the condensation off the whole glass of my mini while only having it in contact along the top edge of the glass.

 

My next DIY nest try will be to place a copper heat pipe along the top edge of the nest so the glass is resting directly on it. I believe that as long as the glass is not too big that should be enough direct heating to keep condensation from forming.

If that works out,  then the heat cable will just be passed though a copper pipe along one nest side for both nest and glass warming. Keeping it off the glass fully and no tape/glue/tak needed to keep it in place anywhere.

But going to be a while before mine need more space, so i won't have this idea in the lab anytime soon to find out. The one thing i plan for sure moving forward is keeping my glass sizes to about 5"x5" or less. A large surface area is just too much heat dissipation to not have heat applied on all parts of it to keep off the condensation.


Edited by Full_Frontal_Yeti, December 14 2023 - 10:38 AM.

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#15 Offline 100lols - Posted December 14 2023 - 3:47 PM

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New camera setup is producing some clean results!!! Lovely updates. This colony sure has caught my attention. Cheers!
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#16 Offline BleepingBleepers - Posted December 26 2023 - 9:25 PM

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12 / 18 / 2023

12 workers + Queen, 21~ larvae, 24 cocoons, 20~ eggs

 

So what felt like FOREVER (almost a whole month), I finally got one more worker!

 

I'd name her but lets be real here, I wouldn't be able to tell the difference which one it is and it took me a whole month to remember my coworker's name and his name only has three letters.

 

 

Anyhow, meet my 12th worker!

I'll upload her eclosing video some days from now, think hers is one of the clearest one's I've got.

 

JS0PlFM.jpg

 

 

I do notice that new workers try their best to avoid using their mandibles but are quick to find some kinda sustenance / food item they can slurp up to fill their tummy after eclosing. As you can imagine, after being inside a cocoon for over a month, they'd be starving and thirsty

 

pzbJ2Hn.jpg

 

 

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

12 / 22 / 2023

16 Workers now!

+ Queen + 14 larvae + 22+ eggs + 31 cocoons

Unfortunately, I still seem to have some issues of them opening up cocoons and eating the larvae/pupae inside. It's happened a couple more times since my first noticing and I have started to add a variety of different protein source in hopes of alleviating the issue. I also somewhat suspect that these are thirsty ants that require an in nest water source and the tar heel nest mates, IMHO, are not adequate or reliable enough, with some issues of the ants also having the habit of covering up wet spots with substrate.

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

 

 

Here's some nice close up of some cocoons including one that was very recently spun (hours before)

 

qrqd2Jr.jpg

 

 

 

And don't call the FBI here, but I managed to 'kidnap' a cocoon and was able to take a very closeup shot of it. This is a cocoon that is about a few hours or a day or so from eclosing. It's sometimes very hard to tell but in this case, you can see how worn out it is. I know this cocoon would hatch very soon because surprisingly, it so happened that this cocoon was stuck onto another cocoon as the two larvae spun them right up against each other at almost the same time. I saw her eclose but was not able to capture it. Same with this one. The eclosing time of these cocoons are, interestingly enough, very tight; they seem to eclose very close to the same time as one another, like if two of them spun cocoons, they seem to eclose almost around the same time, hours or a day from each other in my experience.

 

hKbretr.jpg

 

 

Here's one eating a cooked squid or octopus piece. Surprisingly, I found out that while they do seem to enjoy eating it (I think they still slightly prefer just eating bugs), they don't seem to want to feed it directly to their larvae. The workers love to eat it amongst themselves but I've only seen them share a small bit of it with their hungry larvae, as oppose to insects in which they'll happily feed it to them. This also applies to my attempts at feeding them cooked shrimp and dry dog food. Quite interesting.

 

hljP2Cn.jpg

 

 

Now here's slightly off focus picture of the Queen, but it is neat because I think it's one of the clearest picture showing her three 'eyes' on the top of her head. To be honest, the first time I noticed it was when I got this camera and was able to see it in the pictures and at first, I even thought she had some kind of mite or parasite latching on to her head, but am happy to say that isn't so. More closeup of the Queen further below. She is a lot easier to photograph as she doesn't seem nearly as sensitive to light as the Camponotus Queen.

 

cvZf1It.jpg

 

 

My usual Ecto Family feeding picture. Also going to post some live feeding videos in the upcoming days, I have some that I thought were interesting / entertaining to watch.

 

XJNAsrj.jpg

 

 

 

Closeup of Queen Laying Egg. She does this once a day or every other day.

 

R7o5ebk.jpg

 

 

And after she lays it, she always holds it gently in her mandibles (which she also uses to tear apart and decapitate prey!). She doesn't put it down until it hardens, I'm guessing for fear of it being eaten by the insatiable, gluttonous larvae sisters or it getting smushed somehow.

 

LjrwzVd.jpg

 

 

Closeup of the eggs after they harden

 

A30NuHs.jpg

 

 

 

And finally, closeup of the Queen and if you look closely, you can see those eyes on her forehead.

 

eE0UgDG.jpg

 

 

Hope you enjoy and hope we all have a good New Years

 

 

 

 

They're doing good! When are you going to move them into a formicarium or have you already done so?

 

This is a formicarium, no? It's a founding formicarium from Tar Heel Ants.

 

Have you experimented with cable placement? I was able to keep the condensation off the whole glass of my mini while only having it in contact along the top edge of the glass.

 

My next DIY nest try will be to place a copper heat pipe along the top edge of the nest so the glass is resting directly on it. I believe that as long as the glass is not too big that should be enough direct heating to keep condensation from forming.

If that works out,  then the heat cable will just be passed though a copper pipe along one nest side for both nest and glass warming. Keeping it off the glass fully and no tape/glue/tak needed to keep it in place anywhere.
 

 

Yeah, it seems my nest is especially humid and is a bit hard. Like there are times when the cable has cooled down where the condensation is just right below it. I literally take a syringe and drip water right into the nest to keep them 'wet' enough.

But I'll fiddle with it a bit more later on.

 

One con of not having condensation in there and that they have fewer spots to drink from. The nest mate doesn't seem as reliable and wet spots, they seem to cover it up with substrate.....

 

Interesting idea, I also have a plan in mind but I'll either do it first and tell you guys about it or pass it by when it gets close to my time to try my hands on DIYing. I think for the upcoming nest expansion, I'm just going to connect another XL to one of the ends as I have a few of them laying around.

 

 

New camera setup is producing some clean results!!! Lovely updates. This colony sure has caught my attention. Cheers!

 

Ha thanks. I'm trying. I do take a TON of pictures (hundreds or a thousand) just to be able to choose a handful to edit and even from those edited ones, I only choose about half to post onto here.

I hope one day I become not only better at it but more efficient and smarter at choosing which shots before I take them. It's a bit frustrating but getting there.


Edited by BleepingBleepers, December 26 2023 - 10:10 PM.

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#17 Offline Locness - Posted December 26 2023 - 9:41 PM

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Very nice update, excellent photos!
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#18 Offline Voidley - Posted December 27 2023 - 6:10 AM

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I do take a TON of pictures (hundreds or a thousand) just to be able to choose a handful to edit and even from those edited ones, I only choose about half to post onto here.


Macro photography in a nutshell (ESPECIALLY with small, fast moving ants)

Also, it is so neat seeing their obround eggs—it’s so much different than any other ant species I’ve seen. And it’s cool how they keep them in parallel bunches too.
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#19 Offline 100lols - Posted December 30 2023 - 10:09 AM

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I agree! Everything about these ants screams exotic. I love that you’re getting such quality views into the life of these ants for us. Cheers!
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#20 Offline BleepingBleepers - Posted January 9 2024 - 9:50 AM

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Alright, so I got some time this week to do some video editing and uploading, planning to add some videos as I mentioned before.

Also got some interesting shots.

So expect something in the next few days :)

 

 

Very nice update, excellent photos!

 

Thanks! Always aiming to improve!

 

 

....


Macro photography in a nutshell (ESPECIALLY with small, fast moving ants)

Also, it is so neat seeing their obround eggs—it’s so much different than any other ant species I’ve seen. And it’s cool how they keep them in parallel bunches too.

 

 

That and dealing with how deep the formicarium is. It's definitely a challenge to get enough light in there at the right angle, time restraints of the front glass fogging up (sometimes as fast as within a few minutes), the glass getting dirtier and dirtier each day so I gotta maneuver around those areas and hope it's not blocking a nice shot, even too much light can bother the ants (this is especially true for the carpenter ant as the Queen hates the light). I got some macro gear but they're more for photographing of objects / animals out in the open, not so much in such a narrow opening. I am lucky to still get some decent pictures but will figure out how to get better. I've deleted a LOT of pictures due to underexposure, things blocking the way, angles that just weren't right and so forth, interesting and frustrating.

 

Yeah, also thought the same way about the oblong egg shape. It's like they're almost designed to be stacked like that too, the ants definitely know to do that. These seem thinner but longer than the carpenter ant eggs, carpenter eggs are just grouped into clusters, these guys def stack them side by side, kinda like neat little containers lol.

 

 

I agree! Everything about these ants screams exotic. I love that you’re getting such quality views into the life of these ants for us. Cheers!

Thanks! :D

I am pretty thrilled I moved them into the mini hearth with its museum glass, it definitely makes for a nicer viewing experience and am glad to be able to witness the action so close up. Will try to get more footage in the upcoming days.

 

 

And thanks for following along guys ;)


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

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






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