To Stop Ants Escaping, Let Them Escape! – Colonies Update 3 September 2020

Lasius niger

To Stop Ants Escaping, Let Them Escape!

Last update I talked about how my Lasius niger were escaping, and I could not see how they were doing so. Well, yesterday I finally discovered their escape route.

In order to find out how they were escaping I had to encourage them to escape. This may sound counter-productive, but it was the only way. Therefore, I kept an eye on the worktop on which all my ant farms are located. Yesterday I noticed a lone Lasius niger worker running about on the worktop. Therefore, I dabbed a small piece of honey in her path. She quickly found it and started feeding on it. My next intention was to watch the ant and hope that she would then run back to the nest, laying a scent trail down. This would produce a line of ants, indicating where their escape route was.

Typically, she ate from the honey and then continued to run about, apparently aimlessly on the worktop. Perhaps she was experiencing a sugar rush. So I gave it about an hour and came back to check on them. I found four workers feeding from the honey. Great! Part one of my plan worked. Now all I had to do was wait and watch. I was waiting for either another ant to emerge from the ant farm, or one of the four present to return. It was the latter that solved the mystery of how the ants were getting out. I needed to stop ants escaping!

Escape Route Discovered

One of the four ants broke away from the honey and made a direct run home. She approached the ant farm, and climbed up the outer most edge (from the foraging tank side). She then disappeared under the nesting box covers. Gently lifting up the covers I immediately saw how they were getting out.

I had checked this ant farm several times over the past few weeks. I was trying to find a tiny hole that they were squeezing though. That was my error. My efforts were so much on finding a tiny hole or crack in the ant farm. I failed to noticed the gaping hole that was there.

Though these glass ant farms are very good, you occasionally get one where there is a gap in the seams. This is what was happening here. Where the metal strip on the side of the ant farm meets the lid, there was a gap. I was rather annoyed with myself for not having noticed this before. In fact, now that I think about it, I do recall having a “dodgy” ant farm some time ago. I had stored it away for emergencies. I had used this ant farm for this colony, forgetting about it being for emergency use only.

So now I have sealed the gap with some Gorilla tape (“Harry Black Maskers“, for those in the know!). Hopefully I have stopped ants escaping. I will be keeping a close eye on this for the next few days.

Other than that, the Lasius niger has been fairly active, feeding from insects that I have given them. There were ten workers feeding on a dead roach I gave them. I could also see some more nest expansion evidence, as well as cocoons in one of the chambers.

Gorilla Tape
Stop ants escaping! The Gorilla Tape (“Harry Black Maskers”, for those in the know).

Lasius umbratus

When I had emptied out the old ant farm, and placed the workers that had remained into the foraging box, there were 20 or 30 ants looking very lost. I am pleased to say that they have now found the new nesting box, and have joined their nest-mates within. It took them about 24 hours to leave the pile of excess soil from the old nesting box, and move into the new.

Still plenty of foraging activity going on, and I actually saw the queen in the new nesting box the other day. She looked well, which is great news. There is also some eggs present.

Myrmica rubra

Wow these ants have been very active indeed their ant farm. A couple of days ago it reached 33 degrees centigrade in the ant room, and the rubra seem to love it. They were out foraging in large numbers, and many were drinking at the water supply. In fact, it seemed to be covered with ants for much of the day. Therefore I ensured it was always topped up.

There have been some winged males present, who got a little too amorous at times, trying to mate with the workers. Talk about desperate!

There is still a lot of brood present, which answers the question of why the ants are constantly foraging in large numbers. I have had to provide them with a lot of food. I have been conducting one of Dermy’s over-feeding challenges (as he used to do with his dermestid colony) with the rubras. The result is an explosion in the number of brood and new workers present.

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