What are these tiny worms?

Discussions about the care and keeping of ants

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lunarcoexist
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Joined: Sun Apr 08, 2018 12:52 pm
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What are these tiny worms?

Post: # 35004Post lunarcoexist
Tue Apr 10, 2018 8:44 pm

I have a Camponotus sp. queen in a standard test tube setup. The queen was captured last summer and currently has 5 adult-stage workers, with a few individuals transitioning from larval to pupal stage and tens of eggs and small larvae. They just came out of diapause a few weeks ago. Their test tube setup is inside of a small cooler with several cans of soda to provide thermal mass and thermal stability. The average temperature is approximately 74F / 23C and there is usually no visible light i.e. it is dark.

I usually feed them Drosophila fruit flies, small crickets, and honey. I was temporarily unable to get any Drosophila or small crickets, so I fed them some "mini mealworms" for approximately 3 weeks. I am not sure what the species is. They are smaller than normal mealworms and about 5-8 mm long.

Typically, they would eat the fleshy parts of these mini mealworms and discard the hard, chitinous carapace near the dry side of the tube. At one point, though, they began to put the mini mealworm carcasses on the wet cotton. Within a few days, I noticed the wet cotton had a shimmery appearance and on closer inspection, appeared to be covered with hundreds or thousands of tiny worms, 1-2mm in length and approximately the diameter of a very fine mammalian hair, such as fine fur or vellus hair. They resemble the "vinegar eels" that commonly live in raw, unprocessed vinegar.

Are the ants attempting to cultivate these organisms as a food source? Are these organisms potentially harmful to the ants?

As a safety precaution, I moved all of the ants -- eggs, larvae, pupae, and adults -- into a clean, freshly-prepared test tube setup and will resume feeding them Drosophila and crickets and discontinue feeding them mini mealworms.

Any information on these little nematodes or whatever they are would be very beneficial and greatly appreciated.

Thank you!

(Edited to correct spelling error)

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