Hello everybody to another Spring, and what a year it has been. Winter has officially ended. Still in lock-down, and yesterday I had my first Covid vaccination. No side effects experienced other than a slight dull ache in my left arm.
In my ant colonies it has been life as normal, and as is usual lots of activity from the Myrmica rubra, and nothing seen of the Lasius niger, with Lasius umbratus somewhere in between.
A couple of days ago I was alerted to the fact that the Germany-based Antstore will no longer send ants or equipment to the UK due to the fact that it’s no longer in the EU. This is a great shame as they sell great ant farms and so many species of ant from all over the world. I have yet to find an alternative supplier that will send to the UK, or any such business in the UK that sell as Antstore did. If you know of any do let me know.
This colony has been active all throughout the winter both within the nest and without. I have been feeding them mainly protein jelly as my cockroach colony died out due, I think, to the cold. A lot of dead workers deposited in the usual corner of the foraging tank, but there still seem to be a decent number of ants alive in the colony. I can’t see the queen yet
I inspected the sand in the nesting box by removing the lid. Fortunately all of the workers were deep in the nest and so I was not faced with angry workers wanting to bite and sting me as I removed the lid. The sand was very dry and so using a pipette I placed enough water onto the surface of the sand to soak to the bottom of the nest. Most of it soaked into the sand, but some did run into the main entrance and subsequently into the tunnels. This did disturb the ants a little but they did not seem to alarmed by it. The flood certainly was not enough to cause any of the ants to drown.
This colony too has been active for much of the winter, though to a lesser degree than the rubra. The colony is still very small in number and I se no eggs, larvae or cocoons. I cannot see the queen, but then again I have seen no evidence of her death. Only time will tell. Again, they have been fed during the winter with protein jelly, though they have not foraged that much. When they do find the food they have been seemingly unenthusiastic about it. This is to be expected with no brood to feed.
Opening up this nesting box I discovered the sand was a little dry, but not to the degree that the rubra’s sand was. Again, using a pipette, I applied water to the surface of the sand. As with the rubra colony some of the water went into the tunnels soaking some of the ants, but again they did not seem to alarmed.
I have seen nothing of these ants at all over the winter. They have been by far the least active of my colonies during these colder months, and that is what I have experienced every winter. Whereas the Myrmica rubra and, to a lesser degree, the Lasius umbratus have been active, the Lasius niger prefer to stay in their beds.
There are no chambers visible against the glass sides of the nesting box, and there is only one tunnel that briefly shows itself before it turns away from the glass sides. No sign of ant ants there.
I removed the lid of the ant farm and was immediately met by three tiny Lasius niger workers, no doubt wondering what was going on. This was a good thing to see as it told me the colony has made it through the winter. However, these could be the only survivors, as I can see no others. But then again I am unable to see into the nest, so hopefully there are a lot more, including the queen, down below.
The sand in this colony was still damp and so no more water was needed.
Why was the Myrmica rubra sand bone dry, the Lasius umbratus sand a little dry, and the Lasius niger still damp? Two reasons.
The Lasius niger nesting box was the newest one I had set up, just before the winter approached last year. However, it can’t be just down to age as the Lasius umbratus colony is much older than the Myrmica rubra.
The Myrmica rubra build much wider tunnels and much larger chambers than the other two species. Therefore it dries out quicker. Though the Lasius umbratus has many more tunnels than the rubras, their tunnels and chambers, though far more complex, are very much smaller.
Thank you for reading this update. I hope all your colonies have survived the winter. Do let me know how they did, and what your ant plans are for 2021.