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Weaver Ant Farming



Dear AntAsk Team,

Weaver ant larvae is a commodity here in Indonesia, we use weaver ant larvae for dietary supplement to improve the performance of songbirds before bird singing competition and carp fishing bait. Throughout the year weaver ant larvae is harvested and sold, because demand for weaver ant larvae has increased in recent years some areas are being over harvested and as a result diminishing in weaver ant colony in the nature.
From that point, I and some friends trying to establish a weaver ant farm so we could meet the demand for weaver ant larvae and by doing so also help to reduce over harvesting in the nature.

Right now we have 42 jar of weaver ant nest in our colony which started from 30 jar of nest (the farming have started 1.5 month ago).
The diet of our farm is sugar water, caterpillar, crickets, diluted honey, diluted white egg, diluted fish oil.
Note: we haven't tried to harvest the larvae. Attached pictures of our farm setup.

DSC_0007.JPG DSC_0195.JPG

My question is:
1. Is it true that weaver ant tend to grow in population the most in shaded or dark places(because of these rumor we build a shed using paranet)?
2. What diet is the best for weaver ant to produce more egg?
3. After 1.5 month from the initial start now our weaver ant produce less and less egg what could go wrong?
4. How to join the antblog? I registered but there is no confirmation e-mail for activation.
Thank You in advance. I apologize if I'm not courteous enough or there is any mistaken words since English is not my native language.

Best Regards,

Mario


Hello Mario,

Thanks for your questions, and congratulations on your initiative: edible insects are the way to go!

We contacted an expert on many aspects of Oecophylla biology, Dr. Joachim Offenberg; and here is what he had to say:

"1. In nature they prefer sunny places for their leaf nests. However, as it looks like you keep the ants in plastic bottles it may be better under shady conditions as the bottles are transparent and temperature may build if exposed to direct sunshine. You can find a study on this issue via this link. On the other hand, the ants prefer temperatures usually above 30 degrees Celsius. Brood development increases with temperature.

2. The diet you describe seems to be adequate for the ants but it is important they have ad libitum access to a 20-30% sugar solution (they seem to prefer sucrose) and also remember to provide pure water ad libitum. In general they accept most types of protein but they prefer it in a wet condition. I.e. fresh rather than dried meat and fish etc. As insects are their natural source of protein it think it would be wise to include insects to some extend in their protein diet.

3. First of all you need to be sure that you do not mix nests from different colonies. In that case they will fight each other rather than producing offspring. Secondly you need to be sure that the maternal queen of the colony is included in your ant farm. The maternal queen (the queen without wings) is the only member of the colony that can produce eggs that are able to develop into brood. Weaver ant colonies will not accept introduced queens which makes it important to find the maternal queen of the colony (which can be difficult!). A last reason for limited brood production could be limited availability of space in the ant farm. I know from my laboratory colonies that colonies that live under limited space, reduce the production of new workers, since the colony is able to match the production of new workers to their actual need. I do not, yet, know the mechanism behind this regulation and have therefore not found a way to trick them to continue a high brood production. If you find a way I will be happy to hear about it!

4. Lastly, it is important to protect the ant farm against smaller ant spices as e.g. Pheidole spp., crazy ants etc. They like weaver ant larvae as much as the birds and are in many cases able to win a fight against weaver ants.

Good luck with your ant farm and best wishes,"

Joachim Offenberg, Flavia Esteves & the AntAsk Team

p.s. Mario, you began your AntBlog membership when you sent your questions to us! We really appreciated that, and hope to hear more interesting questions from you soon!
p.p.s. Your English is great!


We have had ant problems in the house every spring and summer and have had good success in getting rid of them by using Terro. It is now September and we have a new wave coming inside but this time of year they are not going to the Terro. What is the reason for this?

Dean


Dear Dean,


Greetings from the ant world!

Baits contain poison mixed with materials that attract ant foragers (i.e., worker ants looking for food or water). The ants will take small poisoned portions back to the nest (and eventually transferred to other nestmates, including the queen), and those will kill the entire colony.

Key points to use poisoned baits correctly:

1. The intoxicant used must be slow-acting, so the foraging ants have time to make their way back to the nest and feed other members of the colony before they are killed. Pre-packaged bait stations (like Terro) usually contain 5.4% borate, and they efficiently kill foragers in the home, but will take effect too soon and leave the queen(s) unaffected. Liquid borate products (derivate from Boric acid) with a lower percentage of active ingredient -- less than 1% of the active ingredient -- will have more impact on the colony, although it may take several days to a week to see results and they need to be used in larger, refillable bait stations.

2. Effectiveness of baits will vary with ant species; bait material, and availability of alternative food. Ant preferences, for example, can change throughout the year; to increase your success rate, set out different formulations of various bait products in a single baiting station, giving ants a choice. It would be something like a "cafeteria": simply line up a few drops (liquid foods are preferable because you can mix them evenly with the poison) of different kinds of food on some wax paper, and see what the ants go for (you can use peanut butter, sugary solutions, and pureed tuna fish).

3. Don't use any insecticide sprays while you are using baits, and check and refresh bait stations regularly. Baits can dry up or become rancid and unattractive over time. Also, to improve bait effectiveness, be sure to remove any particles of food, residues of sweet liquids, or other attractive material from cracks around sinks, pantries, and other ant-infested areas.

However, we, AntBlog people, just love ants - they are really amazing creatures, and have a lot to offer to our society (see here). Ants are, most of the time, good roommates, and will keep other insects out of your house; and you can observe, in the comfort of your home, how they interact with each other! Also, poison baits in your house will be a permanent risk for children and pets, and it can also contaminate wildlife and water supplies. If the ants in your house are unbearable, you can seal the cracks where the they are entering, vacuum up the ants, and apply boiling water in the nest entrance.

We hope this helps,

Flavia Esteves & the AntAsk Team

Ants and Disease



Hello, this is a very strange situation but I have a 10 month old baby in my home and I am concerned.

A couple of weeks ago I went in to the backyard and noticed my dog was playing with something unfamiliar. As I walked towards it I realized that it was a bird. This bird must have been there for awhile because it was unable to move, and had defecated so much that ants were (I'm sorry for the graphic details) actually crawling inside of this poor bird and apparently eating the fecal matter. This poor guy was obviously in a significant amount of pain so we had to do something very sad to stop it from suffering any longer.

This just so happened to have occurred next to a wall in our home that is the exterior wall to our dining room where we eat and where my 10 month old's high chair is. Today, I was eating at our table and some of my paper work and pens were sitting on top of it. As I was picking up my plate I noticed the same species of tiny little ants crawling all over the table and my paper work. There was not even any food or anything on the table that could have lured them there. I instantly took my son upstairs, and began disinfecting the table, vacuuming and such.

I do not know anything about ants but my concern is that these ants might be carrying disease from the bird. Can you please tell me if I need to be worried about this? They are the tiniest little transparent orangish colored ants. We live on Oahu, in Hawaii. Thank you very much for your time.

Alix

Ok, Alix. I've got good news and bad news.

The bad news: Ants (just like any animal that moves from one place to another) can transmit infectious bacteria, including Salmonella and Staphylococcus. (I'm not trying to throw your dog under the bus by any means, but your dog is definitely more of a vector for bacteria coming in from outside than these ants.) As indicated in a quick literature search (click here ), it's been reported at least as far back as 1914 (Wheeler) that if an ant walks through an area densely populated with infectious bacteria, they track it along in quantities large enough to show up in a petri dish.

The good news: Petri dishes don't have immune systems. The quantities of bacteria ants transport and slough off as they saunter across your counter tops will probably be small compared to the infectious dose for healthy humans. The quantities of bacteria that remain on the ants' feet after taking the thousands of little ant-steps between a source of infection and your table would presumably knock off the vast majority of the bacteria, leaving too few to constitute an infectious dose.

So what I'm trying to say is: thought it is theoretically possible for ants to transmit infectious bacteria to humans, as far as I'm aware (other members of this blog, please speak up if you know better!) there are no records of ants being definitively implicated in someone catching a disease. As best as I can tell, all of the articles that reference ants' potential to be vectors for infectious bacteria are based upon laboratory studies in which nothing besides some agar in a petri dish got sick. Ants, as you know, are quite common, so it seems to me that if they were serious actual (as opposed to potential) disease vectors, we'd have heard about it.

A well-intentioned tangent: This is, of course, neither a child-rearing nor a health advice blog, but I think this recent article on the "Hygiene Hypothesis" makes a good case for not keeping too sterile a house:
http://time.com/2828841/why-you-should-let-kids-eat-dirt/
Some arguments, both pro- and con- Hygiene Hypothesis haven't been rigorously scientifically tested, so take everything you read with a grain of salt...or a pinch of dirt.

Hope this helps!
Jesse Czekanski-Moir & the AntAsk Team

Ants in concrete foundation



Hi - and help!?

We live in Northern Alberta, Canada. Over a year ago, we discovered ants - lots of ants - coming up into our furnace room through a crack in the concrete foundation of our basement. My husband put poison down the crack and seemed to work very well, getting rid of them and not coming back. Until now.

Last night he went to check - as he does periodically - and now they are large ants coming from the same crack in the concrete. He again put poison down the crack, and vacuumed up the few dozen (he may have been lessening the amount to avoid my freak out). My daughter's bedroom
is right beside the furnace room. She went to bed last night - only to be woken up by something flying and hitting her in the forehead...my guess is a flying queen ant.

Please tell me what we should be doing to ensure we have gotten to the bottom of this ant problem. Should we get the crack filled? Will they find another place to come in? In order to get access to this part of the foundation concrete, they have to be coming in very deep under the back yard as that part of the foundation must be at least 6 feet underground.

Help.

Cathi


Hello Cathi,


Thanks for writing to the AntBlog!

Ants are an important part of the natural world, and play a great role in an ecosystem. Their extreme diversity and abundance, wide spectrum of biology and interaction with other groups of organisms, make them affect the pattern of distribution and abundance of plants and other animals. The good news is that this is also applicable to your home environment: ants will control populations of other housemate arthropods, like spiders, fleas, clothes moths, bed bugs, and so on. We can also learn a great deal with ant behavior (to see how ants have inspired human societies, take a look here).


Full face view of Polyergus breviceps, a slave maker ant species that occur in your area (image by Shannon Hartman/AntWeb.org). See more on how it makes slaves here.

So, if it were my home I would just control their population, prevent them from accessing my food, and marvel myself with them crawling around. Procedures like proper food storage and waste management, and daily surface cleaning, will reduce the number of ant workers indoors.

However, if you really cannot live with those wonderful creatures, I think the most effective way to prevent them from accessing your home would be to seal the cracks (you can use clear silicone, or other sealant).
Please, note that commercial sprays are ineffective against ants, killing just the foragers, while the rest of the nest (deep underground) continues intact. Poisoned baits generally work well to eradicate ant colonies (workers feed on the bait and take it back to the nest where they share it with their nestmates), but this approach may take several weeks to several months to produce an effective result. You can read more on baits here.

We hope it helps,

Flavia Esteves & the AntAsk Team

Neighborhood ant farm?!


I have an ant infestation in my house and I have just begun terro traps. I have already attempted an ant killer by black flag but unfortunately that failed because they weren't attracted to it. I was speaking with one of my neighbors today and it seems that they have the same issue. Also the same issue for a neighbor that lives a street over. I'm worried that the traps are nothing compared to the abundance of ants. Any advice on getting rid of them?

Cortney


Dear Cortney,

Thanks for writing! Regarding your question: since your traps are not attracting the ants living in your house, I would try something like a cafeteria experiment. It consists of offering them an array of food items that they might eat on (e.g. peanut butter, jam or jelly, and tuna). Once you discover which item works better, add the appropriate poison, and set the traps. You will find really important information on traps and baits here.

However, ants are quite important for our surrounding environment, providing services like bringing nutrients to the surface of the soil, aerating the soil, dispersing seeds, and predating pest species. Many of them are beautiful too (like our special guest here). I hope you will fall in love with them while observing their interactions on your baits, and find a way to coexist with them!

I hope this helps,

Flavia Esteves & the AntAsk Team

Battleplan


Hi,

I stumbled upon your site while googling 'how to make peace with your ant infestation' (there seem to be no suggestions on that, by the way). I thought perhaps someone could offer advice for our particular situation.

I live in south Florida. In March, my husband and I bought our first house. Before closing, I did see a pile of dead ants in a corner of the family room, but the home inspector's report didn't find signs of any infestation, or at least 'wood destroying organisms'.

Once we moved and settled in, I began to realize that there were serious ant colonies on the property, and noticed ants in the Florida room, also in one of the bathrooms. I think in the beginning, they were all dead ants on the window sills and in that bathtub. As summer progressed, the problem got a bit worse. They can walk right through our windows and front door.

I did a bunch of online research, and I'm thinking they are carpenter ants. Not as big as the ones up north, but carpenter seems to fit the description. Because I have a toddler and two cats, my first line of defense was a borax/powdered sugar mix. I scored a big hit when I found old timbers half buried in the front yard near the walkway and removed them, and also pored boiling water at the foundation under a window in the back. We also replaced the weather stripping at the front door, and I've been caulking baseboards and around windows. For about a week, maybe two, it seemed like I was making some real progress, however this morning I saw ants swarming again out front in the morning. Late this afternoon I noticed ant hills surrounding potted plants in the back (near the house). I shook the pots a bit, and ants also started swarming out of the pots, up the trellis, and carrying eggs up into a previously unseen hole in the eave. Great.

I'm not positive, but I think the ants I've seen over the last few days are smaller than the originals, so maybe these little guys have stepped in to fill the void of the bigger ones. Regardless, we have ants in our walls, and apparently in our attic. I know that to truly keep these guys out we have to replace some rotting wood at the door in the back, but our windows are so old that they can literally crawl right through them - the windows themselves, not gaps around them. I have a little one and a couple critters that prevent me from putting down serious poison, and our budget is falling a bit shy of relaxing the doors and windows.

Is there any advice you can give on how to begin to win this battle? The house was empty for a long time, and the responses of ants in different areas let me know that's it's a big ass colony, or that the satellites have close communication.. Any hope you can give me is greatly appreciated-

Alyssa

Dear Alyssa,

Thanks for writing! I am glad you are still trying to make peace with ants that live in your house. Most ants are beneficial for our surrounding environment (including yards) - they actually rule our terrestrial world: cycling and bringing nutrients to the surface of the soil; aerating the soil; dispersing seeds; predating pest species, among many other "services". Also, children generally like to spend time observing ants just pass by, or being attracted to a bait, and it can stimulate their curiosity towards our natural world. You can read more about how good ants are here.

If after all you think its better to get rid of your crawling roommates, you should know you are already doing some of the most effective things to eradicate them from your home, and here you will find important information on baiting. Further, you can drown ant colonies in the plant pots, using warm water, and leave some clove sachets in strategic areas of your home (like in the food shelves) to repeal them.

If you really have carpenter ants, this may indicate you have a more serious problem, because they often build nests in compromised wood. I would first be sure they are really carpenter ants - try this and this for identification; and, if positive, you can try this to eliminate them from your place.

Please, look for more tips here, and have a good lucky in your endeavor!

Flavia Esteves & the AntAsk Team

Hi Antweb,

I am a PhD student in Synthetic Biology and I've read that you talked about artificial insemination trials in ants, which have not be very successful. Would you mind giving me the references of the papers talking about that?

Best,
Xavier


Hi Xavier,

Thanks for your question! As you have read in this post on "How to breed ants", artificial insemination in ants has not been very successful and only been tested on very few species. Cupp et al. (1973) conducted an experiment in which the authors decapitated males. Queens were anesthetized with CO2, and stroked against the males to induce ejaculation. This experiment was done using fire ants (Solenopsis invicta). Read here to find out more about the red imported fire ant.

In a study by Bell et al. (1983) instrumental insemination was conducted, also using the fire ant Solenopsis invicta. Virgin queens were induced to fly, anesthetized with CO2 and inseminated with either a mixture of sperm extracted from the male seminal vesicles and accessory gland contents or sperm alone. Of the females we artificially inseminated 65% produced workers. Artificial insemination techniques have also been carried out using Atta leaf-cutter ants (den Boer et al. 2010).

A recent review article on the copulation biology of ants has been published by Boris Baer (2011) in the journal Myrmecological News. Here is a link to the pdf. In this paper, some more references to studies conducting artificial insemination in honey bees and bumble bees are given.

All the best,
Steffi Kautz & the AntAsk Team


References

Ball DE, Mirenda JT, Sorensen AA & Vinson SB (1983) Instrumental insemination of the fire ant, Solenopsis invicta. Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata 33: 195-202.

Baer, B (2011) The copulation biology of ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Myrmecological News 14: 55-68.

Cupp EW, O'Neal J, Kearney G, Markin GP, (1973) Forced copulation of imported fire ant reproductives. Annals of the Entomological Society of America 66:743-745.

den Boer SPA, Baer B, Boomsma JJ (2010) Seminal fluid mediates ejaculate competition in social insects. Science 327: 1506-1509.

My name's Ian and I have a little delima I thought you could help me with. I started an ant farm about six months ago off of three queen ants i caught in the wild. Their pretty well settled into the habitat and have grown to a number in the upwards of around 2000 ants. The problem is, the habitat is too small for the current number living there. I need to know how I can move the queens safely from the existing habitat to another (I have already prepared one). Any inside tips would be greatly accepted.

Ian, Missouri, USA


Dear Ian,

Thanks for your question. You may be more worried about your ants than you need to be. Ants are very tough and collapsing tunnels on top of them will likely not hurt them so long as you recover them relatively quickly. Firstly, I would suggest connecting the old nest to the new habitat with some sort of tubing to get the ants comfortable in their new habitat. Hopefully, they will explore the tubes, find the new habitat, and start building a new nest. You can try to attract them to the new area by feeding them there. If you are really lucky the workers may even move the queens and brood to the new habitat. Otherwise you should just wait for as many of the workers to get to the new area as possible and then start digging through the old nest. You will probably want to dump the sand into a large tray with a thin layer of oil, vaseline, or fluon painted around the edges to keep the ants from escaping. Depending on the amount of sand in the old habitat and the size of your tray, you may want to dump the whole container in the tray or go little by little. Sift through the sand gently and pick out as many ants, brood, and queens as you can. They will probably be somewhat upset at their house being dumped out so you should move quickly to get them into their new habitat. If you do not already have them, investing in featherweight forceps and/or an aspirator would be very helpful for collecting fast moving ants. Good luck and I hope your ants like their new home!

Ben Rubin & the AntAsk Team

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