How to...: October 2014 Archives

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