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Ant Keeping - ask me anything about the hobby!

Discussion in 'Insects, Other Invertebrates & Arthropods' started by soul, Sep 14, 2018 at 2:37 PM.

  1. soul

    soul Arachnopeon

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    Hey everybody!

    Ant keeping is getting more and more popular lately and I thought I'd reach out to the community here on Arachnoboards!

    Ask me anything about ant keeping and I'll do my best to answer.

    Some pics!

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    A great clip of what a colony can look like: https://www.reddit.com/r/antkeeping/comments/98uh50/my_camponotus_pennsylvanicus_colony/

    Introduction to the hobby video:



    List wouldn't be complete without an ants canada video:



    A few of the active spots on the web!

    Ant keeping discord: https://discord.gg/qrAqPAQ

    r/Antkeeping https://www.reddit.com/r/antkeeping/ and r/ants https://www.reddit.com/r/ants/

    Formiculture.com: http://www.formiculture.com/

    Will do my best to answer all questions in the thread that I can :) thanks for taking a look!
     
    • Like Like x 2
  2. pannaking22

    pannaking22 Arachnoking Active Member

    It's interesting, I've always thought about starting an ant colony, but never really knew what it took to get one going or where to get the supplies for it. I'll have to spend some time reading through all that later today. Thanks for the post and welcome to the forum!
     
  3. Ajohnson5263

    Ajohnson5263 Arachnosquire

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    what is the largest species thats native to the US?
     
  4. I believe that queens of the two Atta species found in the US are the largest ants, although those are only found in the extreme southwest and are notoriously difficult to keep. Also, most of the workers aren't particularly large.

    By far the most common large ants are the various carpenter ants (Camponotus), the largest one i'm familiar with is Camponotus castaneus. Harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex) rival carpenter ants in size.

    Really what makes particular ant species more "impressive" than others isn't the size of the individual workers. None of them are large insects. The most impressive ants to keep are those whose colonies grow rapidly and take over the nests you provide for them, such as Solenopsis and Crematogaster.

     
  5. The wolf

    The wolf Arachnobaron Active Member

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    U.K.
    What's the generally accepted opinion on keeping exotic ants in for example the uk

    I can give em some good heat and I don't mind fussing over humidity

    If it's a yes then where could I get some in the uk
     
  6. soul

    soul Arachnopeon

    As SalmonSaladSandwich said, Atta queens are huge! Atta texana queens are massive, for ants. They are difficult to keep though, and they can have upwards of 30 million workers. MOST colonies do not get anywhere near that size.

    Atta queen! They're also polygynous (can have more than one queen in a nest) which can balloon the size even more.

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    The largest worker ants in the US... probably Camponotus Ocreatus. I believe their Majors can get up to 20mm.

    Here's one I caught a while ago, sorry for the terrible photo.

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  7. soul

    soul Arachnopeon

    Exotic ant laws are pretty lax in the UK. There are a number of ant stores you can buy from, such as antsrus.. please join the discord and ask around for more stores. Importing is illegal without a rather expensive permit in the US.
     
  8. schmiggle

    schmiggle Arachnoprince Active Member

    One of the coolest things about keeping ants would theoretically be seeing them construct tunnels, but most methods that I've seen instead construct their chambers for them. I've seen one idea where you take a large, shallow wooden frame with two sheets of plastic and put dirt inside, but I think that that was recommended against (and I can't remember why). The weird food gel things are supposed to be terrible for ants, which makes a lot of sense. Is there anything else you can do to be able to see the tunnels they construct? Obviously one alternative is to just give them a bunch of dirt in a tank, but then you won't be able to see most of the chambers or tunnels ever or most of the ants at any given time. One thing that occurs to me is putting a border inside a larger tank, so that you can pile dirt around the edges--would that work (it's easier to store than a huge wooden picture frame)? Are there any other things people do that I just don't know about? As a complete beginner, would it be a reasonable goal to want to see the ant tunnels?
     
    • Like Like x 1
  9. soul

    soul Arachnopeon

    Wood frame with glass is a viable nest. It's hard to do well, and some species are more likely to pile dirt up on the glass anyway than others. You have to get the width between the panes JUST right and even if they cooperate, it'll still be dirty.

    There's 3 general methods:

    1) Square box with another box inside it.

    Empty:

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    Filled:

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    Tunnels:

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    You can do this with vases too:

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    But the pane method works well too!

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    The challenges are the same though. You can also have camponotus (carpenter ants) and give them cork nests for them to construct the tunnels.

    Last method is to just give them a dirt box and put a heating cable around the edges of it. They'll tend to want to dig near the heat because the brood need it.

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    Drainage, overwatering, underwatering (tunnel collapse), food molding, etc are significant problems when you can't control things too well in the dirt. Some species care is very tricky as well, such as honey pot ants we californians get to enjoy :)

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    These guys almost NEED stuff to dig in, because they need space to hang. Very hard species to take care of though!
     
  10. soul

    soul Arachnopeon

    Aphaenogaster tennesseensis! Great color on these.

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    • Like Like x 1
  11. Speg

    Speg Arachnosquire

    Are ant colonies doomed to eventually die out? There doesn't seem to be enough room for a mating flight... or am I misunderstanding how ants make their colonies?
     
  12. soul

    soul Arachnopeon

    Depends on the colony, some mate in the nest and have effectively immortal colonies. Others will accept new queens, and some are gamergates that will replace the queen every few years. But yes, most species have one queen that can live between 8 and 30 years.

    If you're a talented keeper, after a few years your colony will produce alates and if it's responsible to, they could have a flight, but they typically don't.
     
  13. Speg

    Speg Arachnosquire

    Thanks for the info!
     
    • Like Like x 1
  14. In the US even transporting native ants across state lines is illegal and generally be frowned upon by hobbyists. If you go onto a US antkeeping forum and talk about keeping exotics you'll be flayed alive.
     
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    • Agree Agree x 1
  15. pannaking22

    pannaking22 Arachnoking Active Member

    Neoponera villosa is another extra large species and they're very active. Haven't found a queen to try keeping them yet. Not sure if I want to lol, since they're pretty defensive and are supposed to have a nasty sting. They may be hard to keep as well, I haven't looked up anything on them yet. I only ever find random workers down here, I haven't tracked down a colony yet.
     
  16. soul

    soul Arachnopeon

    You're actually right, I just checked with a few people and they agreed. I actually know a few people who keep them, but definitely uncommon.
     
  17. pannaking22

    pannaking22 Arachnoking Active Member

    Huh, it might be worth the effort then if I can get them a secure setup. I vaguely remember my old university having a colony briefly, but it didn't last long because the queen was very hesitant to lay eggs. Not sure if that was a problem with care, problem with her, or maybe even the setup was wrong. There wasn't any real difference in care that I could see between the different species of ants they were keeping.