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German ant keeping!


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#1 Offline Colophonius - Posted January 11 2015 - 10:25 AM

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Hello, 

 

 

Judging from my experience when talking to you in chat and from reading keeping journals, I think that there are some major differences between German and American/Canadian antkeeping. Therefore I will try to explain the German way of ant keeping. I am sure that a fruitful exchange of ideas can lead to improvements on both sides.

 

Trade

German (and European Union) laws on trading ants are very permissive, that is why trade is thriving. There are dozens of ants from all over the world (except Australia) available. If you want to keep a native ant, you can buy most queens with their first workers for under 10€. When you are willing to buy an "exotic" species that does not require hibernation, you should calculate to pay 30-100€. However, there are some species that are very expensive (sometimes >500€), because they are either very rare or are quite large and have a unique appearance (e.g.: Camponotus gigas, C. storeatus, C. fulvopilosus or Paraponera clavata).

Eventhough most ant keepers are pleased with the easy accessibility of interesting ants from all over the world, there are some who are heavily criticizing ant trade and seek to forbid it.

 

Nests

When browsing american ant forums and watching videos (e.g. ants canada), I saw that you are generally using a lot of acryl nests. I don't know any German ant keeper, who uses acryl. In fact, most keeper will strongly urge potential buyers not to use acryl nests. This is mostly based on the idea, that it could be very difficult to control the moisture and keep it clean. For founding queens we mostly use test tubes with a small water reservoir. Later, most keepers either use cellular concrete or gypsum. Both materials are very easy to handle and both are very easy to water. Especially in cellular concrete nests there is seldom any mold, because of the air circulation. In Germany there is a big discussion about covering the nests. Some claim that darkness is absolutly necessary for ants, some claim that ants will easily adapt to a uncovered nest. Many keepers use red foil as reasonable compromise, because on the one hand you can look into the nest and on the other hand your ants got a dark nest.

 

 

Formicaria

There is a popular German ant shop where you can buy glass formicaria. Those are very common among German ant keepres, especially beginners tend to use this easy solution. But we also use plastic boxes, fish tanks and terraria. Some keepers got huge rainforest formicaria that require a special set up.

 

Food

Food is another often discussed topic. While all keepers agree that you can feed your ants with most kinds of insects, the first big question is whether to boil them out.The idea behind boiling them out is to reduce the risk of introducing mites into the formicarium. Many claim that the risk is relatively low and that dead insects are not the main source of mites. Besides feeding insects, some keepers also experiment with different food sources such as fish (fresh or frozen), sea food or cat food. Some people however claim that this is not a natural source of food and therefore you should avoid feeding it to the ants. A similar issue is often put up for discussion: feeding honey or sugar water. While sugar water is pretty cheap, easy to acess and not as sticky as honey, some fear that sugar water will lack vital ingredients and should not be used. I myself am using invert sugar for a while and would recommend it to everyone. It is easy to use, crystal clear and does not mold. More importantly: my ants seem to love it.

 

Community

The last point I want to talk about is the ant community. At first, I wanted to avoid the topic, because there are often problems arising within the community, when someone voices critism. However, I think (and honestly hope) that those problems are quite unique among ant keepers, so I don't want to leave it out.

The German (and Swiss and Austrian) ant community is pretty large and divided into several forums. This is the final result of the mentioned discussions that often became toxic very quickly. One of the major participants of those discussions even claims that he is bullied and hunted by a "mob of people" that try to silence him.

A very small part of the ant community had a great influence on ant keeping. They condemmed keeping of exotic ants and disencouraged everyone to keep them. Instead they urged everyone to stick to native ants (all German ants require a long hibernation). Several people felt that they and their opinions were not welcome and new forums were founded. I was member of three major forums (now it's "only" two) and in my opinion they all got their very own style. One is very suitable for beginners. Lots of journals about affordable ants, lots of help for beginners. Another forum is focusing on exotic ants, there you can find exquisite journals about very interesting ants. The third forum mainly focuses on scientific articles about ants.

 

I hope you liked my thoughts and explanations about German ant keeping. I am looking forward for your replies!


Edited by Colophonius, January 11 2015 - 10:57 AM.


#2 Offline dean_k - Posted January 11 2015 - 11:22 AM

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Hello,

 

yeah, I know about the EU laws regarding insects and am quite jealous of it. I've also been to some German ant forums that are pretty huge. It's another thing I am jealous about.

 

The community in America seems to be fairly small and I noticed there are not that many very-active ant keepers around.

 

Regarding acrylic nests, it has its uses. I do own one and the colony has been doing fine, not perfect but okay. I am starting to see some issues with acrylic itself and plan to relocate mine to a more neutral nest.

 

As for ants being exposed to light, they do certainly seem to get used to being exposed to light. My colonies are always exposed to light (not sun light but ambient light) and they don't bother when my shadow covers them anymore.


Edited by dean_k, January 11 2015 - 11:22 AM.

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#3 Offline Miles - Posted January 11 2015 - 1:34 PM

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The American and Canadian ant community used to be larger. However it has since dwindled, largely due to the new presence of a small group who have taken the fun out of it. I've lost dozens of my former ant friends due to it and other reasons. I am still optimistic that the community will experience a rebound soon.

I think that European and American ant keepers have a lot to learn from each other.


Edited by Miles, January 11 2015 - 1:52 PM.

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I’m passionate about a lot of things — conservation, public service, milkshakes — but ants reign supreme! I’ve been studying ants and their care for over a decade. Inspired by Steve Irwin, E.O. Wilson, and Sir David Attenborough, I share interesting facts and stories about insects and the natural world to get others excited about conservation and science.

 

Right now, I’m finishing up my degree at Montana State University and developing a science communication company called The Ant Network. I’m also involved with a handful of projects, including Yellowstone National Park’s Phenology Project and the Insects of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem Photo Book.

 

I have experience in entomological field and lab research, public policy development, documentary filmmaking, and science communication.

 

Website | YouTube Channel


#4 Offline Gregory2455 - Posted January 11 2015 - 2:04 PM

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I would not quite say dwindling, as a LOT of people have joined specifically from California last year, but yeah.



#5 Offline Mercutia - Posted January 11 2015 - 2:23 PM

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Community

The last point I want to talk about is the ant community. At first, I wanted to avoid the topic, because there are often problems arising within the community, when someone voices critism. However, I think (and honestly hope) that those problems are quite unique among ant keepers, so I don't want to leave it out.

The German (and Swiss and Austrian) ant community is pretty large and divided into several forums. This is the final result of the mentioned discussions that often became toxic very quickly. One of the major participants of those discussions even claims that he is bullied and hunted by a "mob of people" that try to silence him.

A very small part of the ant community had a great influence on ant keeping. They condemmed keeping of exotic ants and disencouraged everyone to keep them. Instead they urged everyone to stick to native ants (all German ants require a long hibernation). Several people felt that they and their opinions were not welcome and new forums were founded. I was member of three major forums (now it's "only" two) and in my opinion they all got their very own style. One is very suitable for beginners. Lots of journals about affordable ants, lots of help for beginners. Another forum is focusing on exotic ants, there you can find exquisite journals about very interesting ants. The third forum mainly focuses on scientific articles about ants.

Yes I heard about this too and it's very saddening. You'll find that the North American community also shares divided opinions about many things although this particular forum, we try not to let those things get in the way of our friendships. Exotic ants are always a hot topic, and here where it is illegal, it is even more contraversial. Some people look down on the entire ant trade even if it is only local, some do not care or do not see threat, etc. Etiher way I wish people weren't so married to their opinions. A disagreement or criticism about opinions shouldn't ever escalate to the scale in which it did for you guys.

 

Unfortunately the biggest dividers in the North American community doesn't even have to do with ethics, but about consumerism. Leave it to America to get worked up about money and business. I suppose some people prefer a monopoly rather than a little friendly competition.


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#6 Offline drtrmiller - Posted January 11 2015 - 2:32 PM

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Here are my thoughts, point by point:

 

Trade

Reasonable people can disagree on the matter of the transport of ants and other potential plant pests. Care should be taken not to introduce invasive or tramp ant species to non-native habitats where they can potentially devastate the ecosystem and its inhabitants. Local trade is the best compromise in stifling the spread of invasives to non-native habitats.

 

Nests

I intend to elaborate on this topic in a forthcoming manifesto, but my summary is that nests made of natural materials do have advantages over nests made of synthetic materials for one reason and one reason only: they are porous.  There is nothing wrong with acrylic, but almost all nests made of acrylic are poorly engineered, so as to make them impractical for serious antkeeping.  Without knowing how to use synthetic materials, by emphasizing their strengths, and downplaying their weaknesses, they become inferior to those materials that work with fewer engineering requirements.

 

There has been little capital investment in the antkeeping community to research and design formicaries of synthetic materials that would overcome their primary, inherent disadvantage—impermeability. Customers who support the prevalent commercial ant product manufacturers are seemingly content continuing to purchase products from those who would appear averse to acquiring knowledge and performing experiments that would utilize advanced technologies or modern fabrication techniques such as laser cutting, 3D-printing, or CNC milling.

 

The Chinese are pioneering the way forward with serious formicarium technology.  At the same time, I would speculate that the people designing these things are not the ones with knowledge of ants, but rather are being instructed as to how to go about designing them. As a result, some of the ideas, while good in theory, are poorly executed or implemented, leaving much to be desired in the final product.

 

My company, byFormica, is learning from every success and failure with regard to synthetic nest fabrication technique, and is and has been constantly investing significant capital into designing the next generation of formicaria for antkeepers.

 

Food

Firstly, I rarely see any antkeepers mentioning boiling insects. I often see mentions of freezing to get rid of parasites, but not boiling. My philosophical issue with insects and other food items concerns the excess of waste that is produced. Much of insects' exoskeleton inevitably ends up in a waste pile, which could be either inside or outside the nest.

 

My company is developing a complete line of synthetic foods, similar to, but different from the "jellies" that are being manufactured in China and distributed throughout Europe, including in some German stores.  There is a good amount of published scientific research that shows that complete synthetic diets are not only possible, but that they have the potential to outperform natural diets in many commonly kept species.

 

With regard to your mention of invert sugar—I'm not convinced that fructose and glucose would have any profound impact on feeding response or nutritional assimilation, since sucrose (table sugar) is broken down by gut flora, anyways.

 

Community

Likewise, the North American antkeeping community is divided into competing factions, driven mostly by the commercial side of antkeeping, rather than the ideological side of the transport/sale of ants.

 

As Miles has alluded, our antkeeping community is broken.  For several years now, the community has divided itself into gang-like factions, each with their own territory and often fierce loyalties.  This opaque atmosphere of isolationism, malevolence, and groupthink is a venomous virus that stifles the progress of milestone breakthroughs in antkeeping products and other developments that carry the potential to benefit the community as a whole.

 

As antkeepers, every action we take in keeping ants is, by its very nature, experimental.  There are few things we know, and many we don’t.  As a result, there will be conflict and differences of opinion.  But let’s be clear—no one ever accomplished anything by burying their head in the sand—by flat out ignoring and refusing to work with others simply out of spite or personal animus.

 

I believe we in the antkeeping community can accomplish magnificent things if we work together—things that will change everything you thought you knew about keeping ants.  But divided, we all lose.


Edited by drtrmiller, January 11 2015 - 3:11 PM.

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byFormica® is the manufacturer of the iconic nectar feeders and Sunburst Ant Nectar.
byFormica ant products always deliver consistent performance, convenience,
and reliability, making them among the most beloved ant foods and kit enjoyed by
ant keeping enthusiasts worldwide. For more information, visit www.byFormica.com.

#7 Offline Miles - Posted January 11 2015 - 2:44 PM

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Mercutia:

 

"Unfortunately the biggest dividers in the North American community doesn't even have to do with ethics, but about consumerism. Leave it to America to get worked up about money and business. I suppose some people prefer a monopoly rather than a little friendly competition."

 

 

I don't think that's quite the issue here.

 

Drtrmiller hit a bit closer to the problems.


Edited by Miles, January 11 2015 - 2:44 PM.

I’m passionate about a lot of things — conservation, public service, milkshakes — but ants reign supreme! I’ve been studying ants and their care for over a decade. Inspired by Steve Irwin, E.O. Wilson, and Sir David Attenborough, I share interesting facts and stories about insects and the natural world to get others excited about conservation and science.

 

Right now, I’m finishing up my degree at Montana State University and developing a science communication company called The Ant Network. I’m also involved with a handful of projects, including Yellowstone National Park’s Phenology Project and the Insects of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem Photo Book.

 

I have experience in entomological field and lab research, public policy development, documentary filmmaking, and science communication.

 

Website | YouTube Channel


#8 Offline Mathiacus - Posted January 12 2015 - 3:23 AM

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Why no australian ants?
Permits are possible for the export of native species that are bred in captivity.
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#9 Offline Colophonius - Posted January 12 2015 - 4:13 AM

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Hey,

 

there were some Australian ants on the market for a while, but one of the major importers was caught. I guess that this fine will scare away most importers to collect ants in Australia. 

 

Selling ants that are bred in captivity would be possible, but breeding ants is difficult and I assume that lots of ants might die on their way to Germany. 



#10 Offline dean_k - Posted January 12 2015 - 5:29 AM

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He wasn't an importer. He was a smuggler.



#11 Offline Colophonius - Posted January 12 2015 - 8:25 AM

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He was an importer and trader who used smuggling as a method to obtain ants. But let's not fight about choice of words.


Edited by Colophonius, January 12 2015 - 8:33 AM.


#12 Offline dean_k - Posted January 12 2015 - 8:33 AM

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Well, a fact is a fact. With proper importing permits, one does not get caught. But then I also realize that breeding ants in captivity is excruciatingly time-consuming and hard.

 

An importer who uses smuggling as his way of obtaining ants is in fact a smuggler. No need to sugarcoat his actions. But, at the same time, I wouldn't blame him for smuggling, either. If I went there, I would also try to get a bull ant colony for myself and try to somehow get it past customs and get them home.



#13 Offline Mathiacus - Posted January 12 2015 - 1:48 PM

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I have alates of both sexes from different colonies. I will be attempting to breed them soon. If i get all the papers sorted maybe we can talk?

#14 Offline benjiwuf - Posted January 12 2015 - 2:00 PM

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i'll be sending you pms next year :P but I won't be keeping a single one haha, they're probably the only species I have no desire to keep.



#15 Offline dean_k - Posted January 12 2015 - 2:21 PM

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I am not sure if I want bull ants to be honest. I know i like watching them and I like big ants but ... bull ants = pain.



#16 Offline Teleutotje - Posted January 12 2015 - 2:28 PM

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Here we go again.... Smuggling is smuggling even if you try to hide it under an other name! Countries like the U.S.A. and New Zealand and Australia have strong laws about traffic of animals because they know what problems exotic species can cause. Eurpean laws aren't good and some people want to bend those laws to earn money but they don't care about nature and the environment. Many scientists try to show why this traffic isn't good for our nature and what problems can come into exsistence for us, nature and scientific research and, in certain places like some European forums, they are under attack because they try to show what these problems are! And yes, two of the forums are from Germany and yes, on both forums posts are deleted or changed by rule of the administrators. Even some administrators think that these attacks on the scientists are wrong and shouldn't have happend... And yes, some of the remarks in the first post of this topic are about these attacks and yes, they want indeed to silence the scientist and if we take the fun out of antkeeping, let it then be that way. But we, the scientists, are already long here and know what we are talking about.


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#17 Offline Teleutotje - Posted January 12 2015 - 2:32 PM

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More about those attacks on The Ant Farm and Myrmecology Forum in the topic European Madness!



#18 Offline drtrmiller - Posted January 12 2015 - 2:41 PM

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I don't even have to read all the replies to say that this discussion should not devolve into a debate between differences of opinion regarding ant trade. That was not the intention of the reasonably objective first post.


The OP posted here to state a few facts and observations, having spent time in both German and North American forums.

 

This thread was not meant to be a discussion or debate about anything, much less the merits of regulating or deregulating ant trade.  Such a discussion, in light of the very clear laws we have in place within the US, would be pointless.

 

For the official position of most antkeepers in North America and around the world, I quote myself:

 

Reasonable people can disagree on the matter of the transport of ants and other potential plant pests. Care should be taken not to introduce invasive or tramp ant species to non-native habitats where they can potentially devastate the ecosystem and its inhabitants. Local trade is the best compromise in stifling the spread of invasives to non-native habitats.


 
byFormica® is the manufacturer of the iconic nectar feeders and Sunburst Ant Nectar.
byFormica ant products always deliver consistent performance, convenience,
and reliability, making them among the most beloved ant foods and kit enjoyed by
ant keeping enthusiasts worldwide. For more information, visit www.byFormica.com.

#19 Offline Barristan - Posted January 12 2015 - 2:47 PM

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Smuggling is smuggling

I agree with you.

 

Eurpean laws aren't good

 

They aren't perfect but they are quite good. No they shouldn't be more restricted regarding ant trading.

 

To the rest: well we already had this discussion you think ant trading is devil's work, I don't think so  :)


Edited by Barristan, January 12 2015 - 2:48 PM.


#20 Offline LAnt - Posted January 12 2015 - 3:28 PM

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This reminds me of good ol alza.




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