Sunday, November 22, 2009

Camponotus castaneus (journal)

Both colonies are still alive and to my surprise none of the workers have died yet. They're not in the most photo friendly setup and I haven't really been trying either. Both colonies have fair sized piles of brood too, comprised of probably all 2ed or 3rd instar larva. The winter brood, laid in August or September, develops much slower then past broods, sometimes stopping all together. This is to help remove stress on the colony to forage over the winter time. To many hungry larva and the ants will simply start eating them.

The room they're currently in is among the coldest in our hour. My hands are freezing just typing this and it's supposidly 56F outside. Lighting the fireplace down in the living room doesn't help much and hopefully my colonies do well because of it. I feed them a cricket once a week or whenever I see workers foraging. They don't so much forage as, I'll see a worker standing around in the foraging area.

I've wintered colonies in our refrigerator before but supposidly it's to dry an environment. This is okay for some ants as winter time usually doesn't offer any humidity at all. Certainly nothing far above 20% or 30%. They should still have access to humidity though to be safe. I've seen other people who remove Camponotus colonies and assume their queen didn't survive. The workers all wake up but the queen remains motionless and apparently dead. In actuality Camponotus queens tend actually go into a deeper hibernation and it may take some 2 or 4 more weeks of warm temperatures to bring her out of it. Filtering may help speed this up, a process I developed where the expired ant is placed on a damp tissue or towel and left there for some time. I normally use it to revive drown ants or those who've "died" from to much carbon-dioxide poisoning, usually from rotting insects in a closed space.

The other option with hibernating colonies is a cold basement or garage. The issue here is the ants need to be kept in above freezing temps. So they need to be in a well insulated container that still offers ventilation. They need ventilation because condensation can kill the ants. The other issue is mold. Basements with musky odors and especially ones that feel damp are teaming with mold spores. This is a sign that the basement itself has poor ventilation and isn't ideal for keeping a colony.