Can queens restart a colony?

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BlueLance
Posts: 18
Joined: Sat Jul 18, 2020 8:17 pm

Can queens restart a colony?

Post: # 72406Post BlueLance
Sun Jul 19, 2020 7:12 pm

Ello all, I am new here and thought I should come say Hi and ask a few questions!

My mum bought me an ant queen and brood a while back as a b-day gift, Camponotus Barbaricas, Sadly all the workers bar 1 died, and shortly after receiving the present she also ate the brood, I have had them in a cupboard in a small box with the test tube open since and eventually I noticed they had 1 egg (Unsure of the stage) but about 2 weeks later I checked on them to see how they were doing but I noticed their test tube was mouldy, the worker had died, and the egg also gone, the queen just kinda sitting near the entrance of the tube.

So I have now moved the queen to a new test tube setup, but I am unsure if it is now too late at this point for the queen? I have put some fruit flies and sugar water at the entrance and plan to leave it alone for another 2 weeks, can a queen recover from such set-backs?

Also, can you feed them boiled egg white and boiled yolk?

Is it better to have less space in a test tube or does it not matter? I have some pretty long test tubes so the ants have about 3 inches of space in-between both cotton balls

And thank you for any help I get!!

SkeleAnt
Posts: 97
Joined: Thu Apr 11, 2019 2:51 pm
Location: Pennsylvania

Re: Can queens restart a colony?

Post: # 72410Post SkeleAnt
Sun Jul 19, 2020 11:14 pm

First, that's an awesome b-day gift, your mom is very cool.

Queen ants are not meant to forage, unless they're semi-claustral at least. Camponotus ants are fully claustral, so they're meant to find a home and hunker down without food until their workers arrive. This also means she'll probably be more comfortable if her test tube is closed rather than open, and therefore vulnerable to predators in the queen's view. Since she's past her founding stage, she won't have her energy reserves from her wing muscles left, so you are right that she'll need food. Your problem will be getting her to eat in the first place.

Small (and I'm talking SMALL, smaller than the queen's head) drops of honey will most likely be accepted, it's already a liquid and she can just drink it. Protein is going to be your problem. Lost of ants (but not all!) don't necessarily eat solid food, they want the liquid, soft parts (think of how humans need to crack open crabs because they can't eat the shell, they want what's inside). Their mandibles are for breaking things apart, carrying things, and fighting if necessary, not chewing and breaking down food. I believe they even take the food they hunt/scavenge and bring it to the brood to break down and process first, since the brood needs protein to grow so they're mouths are made for more solid offerings.

Possibly you'll have some success with a softer/liquid egg yolk, but be wary of how quickly this can get moldy. You'll need to be vigilant in removing whatever she doesn't eat and keeping her test tube clean. I HIGHLY recommend putting her food on a small piece of aluminum foil or wax paper instead of directly on the test tube. That way you can easily add it and remove it without getting the tube itself dirty and causing more stress for the queen when you need to clean it. If you're giving her flies, make sure they're crushed and their insides are exposed, because that's the part she can eat. The best protein for your ants is from bugs, so I'd recommend only trying egg yolk if it seems like she absolutely is not eating what you're offering her. Your other issue is that you will need to disturb her more often than she'd like to make sure she's getting food, which will make refounding her colony even harder.

Finally, your last hurdle is how long it takes camponotus ants to grow. It takes months for one of these ants to go from egg to worker, which means you'll need the queen comfortable enough to get an egg to that stage without eating it out of stress/a need for protein, which is going to be difficult because of how often you'll be opening her setup to give her food. I won't say it's impossible to refound a new colony, but it is going to be very difficult. Don't be surprised if things don't work out in the end; this isn't an uncommon thing to happen with ant keeping from what I understand, and sometimes ant colonies just fail in the early stages even if you do everything right.

Last bit of advice, keep the queen warm, but not hot, at least in a room that doesn't have a ton of AC but isn't boiling. Warmth is great for colony growth because it promotes faster development of eggs/brood (but can make it easier for mold to grow because it promotes condensation in the test tube, so keep that in mind). It will still take some time because of her species, but any boost in growth will help her here since she needs workers faster than when she was first founding.
2 founding formica subsericea
1 aphaenogaster rudis
1 brachymyrmex depilis
More still founding!

BlueLance
Posts: 18
Joined: Sat Jul 18, 2020 8:17 pm

Re: Can queens restart a colony?

Post: # 72429Post BlueLance
Mon Jul 20, 2020 1:24 pm

Man that's a lot of info but its extremely useful.

I am definitely worried about stressing her through trying to feed her, but it is good to know it isn't impossible to have her restart.

Do you suggest crushing fruit flies, or do you think it would be better to go with a bigger fly and crush that? I do have some Meal Worms and Morio Worms which I could chop a small portion off and hopefully allow her to eat that if you think it would work.

A bit of a random thought, do you think an ant would drink a small amount of chicken stock?

Also the aluminium idea is such a great idea! I have been wondering if there was a better option because of the way mould just ends up appearing so quickly, even with sterile equipment it just shows up. I ended up attaching another test tube to it with the food in it to try and help, but I am not sure if she has even gone there.

Also yeah I am aware of how long these ants take to fully mature, it will be a long hurdle! but I am hoping with your advice and some patience that it will pay off! I will post an update in the hopes I am successful though!

NKantsalberta
Posts: 124
Joined: Wed May 23, 2018 6:48 pm
Location: Sherwood Park, Alberta

Re: Can queens restart a colony?

Post: # 72435Post NKantsalberta
Mon Jul 20, 2020 8:00 pm

BlueLance wrote:
Mon Jul 20, 2020 1:24 pm
Man that's a lot of info but its extremely useful.

I am definitely worried about stressing her through trying to feed her, but it is good to know it isn't impossible to have her restart.

Do you suggest crushing fruit flies, or do you think it would be better to go with a bigger fly and crush that? I do have some Meal Worms and Morio Worms which I could chop a small portion off and hopefully allow her to eat that if you think it would work.

A bit of a random thought, do you think an ant would drink a small amount of chicken stock?

Also the aluminium idea is such a great idea! I have been wondering if there was a better option because of the way mould just ends up appearing so quickly, even with sterile equipment it just shows up. I ended up attaching another test tube to it with the food in it to try and help, but I am not sure if she has even gone there.

Also yeah I am aware of how long these ants take to fully mature, it will be a long hurdle! but I am hoping with your advice and some patience that it will pay off! I will post an update in the hopes I am successful though!
I would suggest a small potion of meal worm (whatever has the most guts when you cut it, (as that is what she is after) added with the small drop of honey mentioned above. Make sure it is real honey, preferably organic or better yet from a local bee keeper. If you cannot provide that, use a small portion of an organic apple. Do this twice a week, less so if she doesn't appear to eat. Definitely use the foil to feed, it is a tried and true method I use as well. Also, try to keep her at about 24-26 celcius. I would avoid any other processed forms of food ( chicken stock, etc) due to the high content of salt. Move her into a clean test tube set-up if the current one is moldy, seal it off as you would a new founding queen, and with the fore mentioned diligence and patience, you may yet save her. I have been successful in similar attempts many times.
On a side note, most of my camponotus queens will actively eat by themselves once food is introduced after nanitics arrive. I have one now that even "guards" the tube when I swap out food.
Raising 3x Camponotus novaeboracensis, 2x Formica podzolica, 2x Lasius neoniger.

BlueLance
Posts: 18
Joined: Sat Jul 18, 2020 8:17 pm

Re: Can queens restart a colony?

Post: # 72436Post BlueLance
Mon Jul 20, 2020 9:47 pm

Thank you very much for the advice and support, when I referred to chicken stock though I was meaning made from actual chicken breast, but I don't know if that's what you classify as processed, so I will stay away from it.

Also Yeah I tried it with tinfoil, it took a bit of a laugh getting it in, but after cutting it to size its perfect. Hopefully she will eat, I have put her away in the meantime and will check on her in a few days to change the food, fingers are crossed, and here is hoping to a better start than her original one!

SkeleAnt
Posts: 97
Joined: Thu Apr 11, 2019 2:51 pm
Location: Pennsylvania

Re: Can queens restart a colony?

Post: # 72606Post SkeleAnt
Tue Jul 28, 2020 7:44 pm

BlueLance wrote:
Mon Jul 20, 2020 9:47 pm
Thank you very much for the advice and support, when I referred to chicken stock though I was meaning made from actual chicken breast, but I don't know if that's what you classify as processed, so I will stay away from it.

Also Yeah I tried it with tinfoil, it took a bit of a laugh getting it in, but after cutting it to size its perfect. Hopefully she will eat, I have put her away in the meantime and will check on her in a few days to change the food, fingers are crossed, and here is hoping to a better start than her original one!
Insect protein is the best, but if you're having trouble getting her to take it at any point, it can't hurt to try something else. If you made chicken stock straight from the meat itself it won't have the preservatives pre-made stock might have so it should be a safer bet, but definitely stick to bug protein as much as possible.

Also I'm sorry about the huge information overload, I know it was a lot to read! If any of it was helpful, I'm glad!
2 founding formica subsericea
1 aphaenogaster rudis
1 brachymyrmex depilis
More still founding!

BlueLance
Posts: 18
Joined: Sat Jul 18, 2020 8:17 pm

Re: Can queens restart a colony?

Post: # 72654Post BlueLance
Thu Jul 30, 2020 8:17 pm

Loads of information is better than none!!! I gave her some crushed fruit flies, a small amount of honey, and I have left her tube since then, I plan to check it on the 14th of August and see if there is any luck/progress and I will post any news here

SkeleAnt
Posts: 97
Joined: Thu Apr 11, 2019 2:51 pm
Location: Pennsylvania

Re: Can queens restart a colony?

Post: # 72747Post SkeleAnt
Tue Aug 04, 2020 10:51 am

Good luck! Keep us posted!
2 founding formica subsericea
1 aphaenogaster rudis
1 brachymyrmex depilis
More still founding!

BlueLance
Posts: 18
Joined: Sat Jul 18, 2020 8:17 pm

Re: Can queens restart a colony?

Post: # 72778Post BlueLance
Wed Aug 05, 2020 1:32 pm

Ok so Its been a wee while since I left the queen alone, I got paid, so I bought a heating mat and thermostat and when i went to move her into the box I checked up on her, She has a small clutch of eggs 3-5 in there and some fruitflies that she has either stuck to the cotton ball i put in or she put them on it, unsure which. But all in all it is good news that she has felt comfortable enough to lay eggs again, I will be leaving her in the box and allowing her to use a slightly warmer environment to hopefully help speed up the process, I will be checking her again on the 15th to introduce some crushed fruitflies in again and then leaving her alone again, fingers crossed, at least if I check and there is larva next time It might mean there is a chance!

Thanks to everyone for the advice!

BlueLance
Posts: 18
Joined: Sat Jul 18, 2020 8:17 pm

Re: Can queens restart a colony?

Post: # 73917Post BlueLance
Thu Sep 17, 2020 8:02 am

So just a quick update, Its been 6 weeks since my last.

Good news is my queen has 3 Larva and 3 eggs, and boy is she voracious. Anything I feed her is pretty much ripped apart, and then disposed of after she is done with them. She is still in her heated container but she seems much more comfortable now with disturbances which is good because she really goes through the food faster than I thought

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