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Orbyx

Orbyx's Crematogaster cerasi Journal

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Posted Feb 23rd, 2019:

I've always wanted an ant colony and finally got to a place in my life where I could have one - my own house and a spouse that's fine with it. After looking at the various common and uncommon species around, I decided that I want my main colony to be a Crematogaster sp. I love their little heart butts and that they are commonly two tone. It's just a personal preference, but I don't want just little black ants (sorry C. penn). A Pheidole, Prenolepis, and Trachymyrmex colony also sound awesome to me, but they are much harder to find around where I live.

I started learning about the hobby in August 2018 and I figured that I had missed the window to catch a queen and would have to wait until spring. But to my surprise, the ant I wanted was just about to have a nuptial flight. So, I started reading up on when they should fly, good weather conditions, time of day, etc. I have an ecology background, so learning about and finding a species comes naturally to me. 

Then, on Labor day (Sept 3rd), the weather was perfect and my spouse was off work so we went to the local parks. Oh boy, did I nail the timing. I ended up catching SEVEN queens that day.

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[INFO: Sunny warm day after a rain, around 11a-12p. I also saw the beginning of a nuptial flight a few days later a little before 11a, so that seems to be the good time window.]

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I was so excited to have them. Two of them have wings and five do not, so I should be able to get what I want and give away the extra queens. Win-win for everyone!

Once I got them home, I put them in test tubes and built a box to keep them in.

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It might seem like overkill, but I live with parrots soooooo gotta keep the queens safe. I took them to the unfinished part of my basement and checked on them weekly. Once thanksgiving came around, I moved them into the garage on a wall that goes into the house. I checked on them every few weeks and everyone is still alive. The first weekend in March, I plan to move them inside and then give them heat starting spring break (March 11th). I can't wait to start raising them!

Update: March 5th, 2019

I brought my queen box inside over the weekend. Since I moved the box, I dimmed the lights as much as I could and had a piece of red cellophane in hand to check on the queens real quick. It looked like everyone was alive, which is great! I'm trying to disturb them as little as possible since they are in the apparently super-fragile-founding-stage.

I waited a few days, then checked on one queen to get a quick photo:

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It's going to take everything I have to only check on them quickly, once a week. I'm so excited!

Update: March 24th, 2019

Time for an update!

One queen has died - but it was one of the queens with wings. I wasn't expecting her to be fertile, so I'm not surprised. The other queen with wings hasn't laid eggs either and I don't expect her to.

However, the other five have laid piles of eggs! I was finally able to get some pictures recently:
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That's probably all the photos I'll get until nanitics arrive. I usually only uncover a queen for a few seconds during a check. The few times I tried to get photos, I gave myself 1 min to do it. I think in the future once I have an established Crematogaster colony, it would be cool to catch queens again and be more bold with picture taking for an "Ant Care/What to expect" type of documentation. I am currently very concerned with stressing them out too much and having them eat their eggs - especially since I've heard Crematogaster queens are particularly sensitive. 

I noticed eggs around March 11th, so by my count, I'm hoping to see nanitics in about 2 weeks (around April 8th). However, I have no idea when they first laid eggs, so it could be sooner!

Note: I combined my posts from the old forum into one just for ease of transfer. In the future I'll post updates as a reply to this topic. 

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Posted (edited)

Update time!

About a week ago I noticed some interesting behavior from my queens. They had all scattered their brood into a rectangle like shape:

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I figured since everyone was doing it, it must just be what they do. I thought it was kind of interesting. 

However, TODAY, I saw something much more interesting: pupae!

Qun4REmAHsl1UYTsDqQ8FLXg3zITVyR2kqtThRirvR-yF6ZUFcJ2XGkvucfww4AussOiEeBwA6LrCpk8WBKI8M8JnijE64yy0iv28Lt2fZRyObbxHA9ayYLA83YWto6jJXVn5-1UcJst4sp6WnpixcCebRel5uIAdk1owpLl8QP0P7EYwNkG_CcpH7SIn8LKXbk8BYi2zS_0ACU1DE-XArgnmeNEWec9VXB5JvbUYSZmqG-pQGJridcsGVoVMXe6h0mPuEPnXMTBD9UjGXm7fJTlkAPS7N6WHvxenjw20h5XDRMozpKrnNayTWjVWwta_jASuqH6NI9nChSL4ClwDIdoRNURqAymm24sXlxPC0dhq3tCQgTMhs0hqJEXj6yywXKzBqzGdFXU9aUK_dGS11yuqbTrGXEO2JvJIQoQswj6gRWf6xZJq_CCpgfPTqhO-yd6-kuUaBvFM3K-p7-py_2-N73JOaf1z6ZwA4To7nNZ_9QrRYcKVjPs3sSjzWoVIfgWH98SEdHGw5qUrUBisbq9Nz8_3kW0eRj0iK7EV-6VtC9TEn4-APBFlk32TBaYjns3t-WxhvdAaWrWKkEwI79cxKWRgdui3_fo6ov66iNLkZmANTZIV6ROOSn6_etZk9sCEJBFVBTPpgjurUwZ1nf3zvne8Xc=w754-h977-no

I was actually trying to take pictures of the queen and didn't notice the pupae until I was going through photos later. I was very surprised and super excited! Hopefully, by next weekend I'll get to see my first workers.

Edited by Orbyx
Fixed photo
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Potentially, but apparently Crematogasters are extremely fast growing ants - to the point it might be a little difficult to keep up with them. 

Both http://www.formiculture.com/topic/4433-crematogaster-cerasi/ and https://www.reddit.com/r/antkeeping/wiki/caresheets/crematogaster_cerasi report about 10 days for each stage or about a month to go from egg to worker with proper heat. I was keeping them a little too cold the first few weeks (~70F), but have that sorted out now (~75F). I guess only time will tell! 

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13 hours ago, Orbyx said:

Potentially, but apparently Crematogasters are extremely fast growing ants - to the point it might be a little difficult to keep up with them. 

Both http://www.formiculture.com/topic/4433-crematogaster-cerasi/ and https://www.reddit.com/r/antkeeping/wiki/caresheets/crematogaster_cerasi report about 10 days for each stage or about a month to go from egg to worker with proper heat. I was keeping them a little too cold the first few weeks (~70F), but have that sorted out now (~75F). I guess only time will tell! 

if you bring your temps to 80 it can speed up development to about half a month for all stages and i know someone who had Tetramorium immigrans brood develop all the way to nanitics in 12 days at 82 but 82 is max and is slightly risky 80 is a good temp for speed

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Yes, it's heated! And it's working out really well for me. I know my queens are nice and safe and it's easy to move them around, like in and out of hibernation.

The box was largely made out of stuff I had around the house, which is why the felt is black. If I'd change anything, it's the felt color - it's hard to see queens on. A medium toned blue or green would have been better. The felt is to help prevent sharp impacts when inserting tubes and generally help with insulation.

Otherwise, it can hold 10 test tubes, which are held in place with glued in elastic strips and covered with black construction paper hats. This lets me quickly check on one queen without picking up the tube or bothering the other queens. Heat runs down the middle. Originally, I had a hermit crab heat pad in there since it has the perfect temperature range for ants (which makes sense with hermit crabs being exothermic invertebrates as well), but it ended up being too big and heated too much in a sealed container. So now, I just run a 15w heating cable down the middle. There's a small slot carved out in the front for cables. With the cable, the middle stays between 75 and 80 and the edges are close to 70. I have multiple peal 'n' stick aquarium thermometers in there to help keep an eye on temp. If you guys are interested in building something similar, I can get measurements and write up a "How To" guide.

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Any day now the nanitics should come in! I noticed a few slightly darker looking pupae yesterday and today I saw this:

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I'm so excited!

 

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Nanitics arrived 3 days ago - April 22nd!

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I was so excited that I only took this photo as I set them up with a micro-outworld and food. Still took a couple days for them to start going outside, but yesterday they finally emerged and got their first sugar and protein! There are 8 nanitics now and they are about half the size of a normal worker. Still a huge pile of brood cooking too! Can't wait for the real workers now!

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They've been hard to count, but I think they topped out at 17 nanitics before the gen 2 workers started coming in.  They're up to around 25 workers now, it's getting too difficult to count exact numbers. They're growing quick!

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Looks like that will be up to 30 within the next few days. I've noticed that once they pupae start darkening, they hatch within 3 days. Good thing I have more living space lined up for them! 

They've also been super fun to watch. Light doesn't seem to bother them, and the queen and brood will commonly be in the light over the heating cable. I'm hoping to be able to get a lot of nice pictures once my new camera comes in. They are also very active and not afraid of anything. Heck, they've attacked my honey dropper as I'm  trying to give them food ... and then just start drinking once they realize it's honey making it extremely difficult to not drown them as I give them more food 😂Super feisty, 10/10 will catch more queens. Definitely my favorite ants.

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They're up to about 30 workers already! and more on the way. People weren't kidding when they said Crematogaster are fast growers

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Say, what method are you using to heat your ant box? I love the idea, by the way, and may end up implementing it myself.

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