Ant Colony Updates – 17 Jan 20 – Ants in Winter.

Ants in winter. It’s the middle of winter, and there has been very little activity outside of the ant nests.  However, the ants of all three species remain fairly active inside their nests.  This is not unusual.  Even in the wild, hibernating ants can still be fairly active during the winter months. Especially on the milder days. 

Myrmica rubra

They have been staying in their nest ever since the winter weather has set in.  I can see some activity within the nest, especially when I remove the dark covering to peer inside.  There is a small amount of winter brood, but other than that I can see nothing else happening.

Lasius niger

Still in their test tube, which is good for me as it enables me to see clearly into the small colony.  Here I can see the queen and workers clustered around some winter brood.  There is not much activity to observe, though the queen does move about a little, causing the workers to do likewise.

Lasius umbratus

By far the more active of my three colonies, despite a huge drop in population numbers.  I would say there is probably no more than 100-200 workers present now. I can see some brood too.  Usually when I peer into the nest, I have a great difficulty in seeing the queen, if I see her at all.  She is a black belt in the art of hiding. However, today I saw her immediately after removing the nest box coverings.  She looked healthy and active enough. Good news indeed.  Will she lay enough eggs to bolster the population numbers this year? Who knows!  She’s 10 or 11 years old now – in ant years that is ancient!  It’s possible that her egg-laying capabilities are greatly reduced due to old age.

I am still feeding my ants during this winter. I have just fed my ants with some freshly killed cockroach from my cockroach bin.  The umbratus are investigating already.  The rubra and niger – well, they are still in their beds.

Plans for 2020

Hey Myrm, what are your plans for your ant colonies this year?  Will you be getting any more ants?  I am glad you asked. Am I getting any more ant colonies this year?  In a word, no.  I want to concentrate my efforts on the colonies I already possess.  Another factor in this is that my ant room surface top is already cluttered with ant farms.  I don’t really want it to become anymore packed.  

I plan on seeing how prolific the niger and rubra queens can be if I increase their food supply.  My friend Dermy used to do what he called his “over-feeding” challenge with his dermestid colony. I am going to copy his example, with my ants. I also plan on capturing some wild male rubra during this year’s mating flights, to see if I can encourage them to mate with any new queens that my rubra colony produces. 

If the over-feeding challenges are successful, I may need all the worktop space I can find in my ant room.  Lasius niger colonies can grow very fast and large if they have enough food, and this is another reason why I am hesitant on obtaining any more ant colonies this year.

Website development

Hopefully 2020 will be an exciting year for my ant colonies.  Also I am hoping my newly improved website will climb higher in the website serch engine rankings.  When I first created this website, back in 2000, there was very little information about ants avialble on the internet.  When I created my website it very quickly became one of the most popular ant information sites on the web.  I would get hundreds of emails from people asking question about ants.  Unfortunately, I knew nothing of meta-tags (as was needed in websites, back in the early days of the internet), which allowed search engines to find your site and rank it accordingly.  

At first my lack of knowledge here wasn’t much of a hinderance for my site.  However, over the years more and more people created ant information sites, people with a far better knowledge of how to create successful websites, with far superior skills with SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).  Slowly, over the past few years my website dropped down the search engine rankings, and now it appears near the bottom of the major search engines. 

Better Times ahead?

It’s not all doom and gloom though.  As you are aware I completely re-vamped this website back in September of this year, moving away from the awful and far out of date website creation software that I had been using.  With this new site I am using the extremely popular WordPress software, and I have a far better understanding of SEO.  Therefore, I am hoping that my website will still to gain more popularity and as a result be easier to find on the search engines.  I don’t think it will be as successful as it once was, as there is far more competition out there, and there are people with far more knowledge about ants creating sites. Let’s hope 2020 will be a turnaround year for my site. 

That just leaves me to say, thank you to everybody who visits my website, whether you’re a one-time, never coming back again visitor, or a regular. Thank you to all of you who have supported me over the years.  I am extremely grateful to you all. 

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