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Posted: Thu Nov 15, 2018 12:12 pm
My fifth grade class is working on a project. We are exploring ways to sustainably raise ants in space. We are exploring if we can grow red algae (Gracilaria Pacifica) to derive agar which could become the ant's primary food source. What else would we need to add to the diet to make it sustainable? Please keep in mind that any foods would need to be raised in microgravity with very limited input. As part of our project, we are required to consult an expert. Would anyone be willing to have a video chat with my students to answer more questions?
Re: Class Project/Agar
Posted: Tue Nov 20, 2018 7:43 am
Ants need protein and sugar to survive. They may be able to get the sugar they require from the algae (not sure) but I don’t think the algae would provide much protein (also not sure).
Astronauts have brought ants to space before. They used that blue gel that you can find in “ant farms”. The gel was designed to be a digging medium in space as well as a protein/sugar and water source.
There are “harvester” ants. That mainly only eat seeds. Perhaps you could look into those for your project. And find a plant that grows quickly and produces lots of seeds such as grass.
There are also ant species that get all or some of the nutrients they need from aphids. They actully “farm” these aphids by protecting them from predators. And in return they are able to collect and eat the secretions that these aphids secrete.
Perhaps instead of looking into the algae your class could look at a plant that an aphid colony could survive on. Then the ants could “farm” the aphids as a food source.