Following the winter demise of my cockroach colony, with which I use to feed my ants, I ordered more from Virginia Cheeseman. They arrived yesterday and I immediately placed them in my new cockroach bin. I then used one to feed my ants.
Within minutes of putting a piece of freshly killed cockroach into their foraging tank, the rubras were swarming all over it. A vast majority of the colony turned out for it. I gave them the largest piece as they are perhaps now the largest colony I have. They certainly are the most active and hungriest at this current time.
Although the umbratus also reacted quickly to the presence of fresh food, they did so with rather less enthusiasm it seemed. They certainly did not send out so many ants as the rubra did. For the past couple of Springs, as I feed my ants, I have been saying to myself that this will be the last year for this colony. The queen is 12 or 13 years old now and her egg-laying over the past couple of years has dramatically reduced. The colony population is following the same trend. Will this be their final year? Only time will tell.
As with most, if not all, of my previous Lasius niger colonies, I tend not to see any signs of activity during the winter months. The same has been for this colony. That is, with the exception of last week when I opened the lid of their nesting box. I had done this to water the sand within, and to my surprise I saw three confused workers running about.
To feed my ants, I put a piece of freshly-killed cockroach into their foraging box and checked back after thirty minutes. I was delighted to see 8 Lasius niger workers excitedly feeding on it. For me there are two signs that tell me that Spring really is here. The first is the emergence of my captive Lasius niger colony from hibernation. The second sign is that of the Lasius niger in my garden emerging from their hibernation. This garden colony is not the one that was once a captive colony of mine. They, it seems, have died out after going for almost twenty years.
So I was very happy to see not one, but 8 workers feeding in my captive colony. I hope to start seeing some signs of nest extension going on within this colony soon.