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Difference between revisions of "Messor barbarus"

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==Diet & Nutrition==
 
==Diet & Nutrition==
 
===Sugars===
 
===Sugars===
Messor harvester ants get their carbohydrates from eating seeds and grain products. Usually they are given brid seed mix and canary seed mix but you can also feed with noodles, rice and similar grain products (only use them as a food supplement as they lack protein and other nutrients compared to seeds).
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Messor harvester ants get their carbohydrates from eating seeds and grain products. Usually they are given bird seed mix and canary bird seed mix but you can also feed with noodles, rice and similar grain products (only use them as a food supplement as they lack protein and other nutrients compared to seeds).
  
 
Buying large sacks of bird seeds is price-efficient but risky as these sacks are often infested with grain mites (they do not harm the ants but can become very annoying). Keeping most of the setup dry can help as these mites can only survive in moist environments. Also you should not give them too many seeds at once. As long as they don't run out of space they are likely to harvest as much as they can and might build stocks that last for months, sometimes years, which can lead to reduced foraging activity.
 
Buying large sacks of bird seeds is price-efficient but risky as these sacks are often infested with grain mites (they do not harm the ants but can become very annoying). Keeping most of the setup dry can help as these mites can only survive in moist environments. Also you should not give them too many seeds at once. As long as they don't run out of space they are likely to harvest as much as they can and might build stocks that last for months, sometimes years, which can lead to reduced foraging activity.

Latest revision as of 04:33, 14 February 2020


CareSheets.png





Messor barbarus
Messor barbarus.png
Taxonomy
Scientific Name: Messor barbarus
Familia: Formicidae/ants (Latreille, 1809)
Subfamilia: Myrmicinae (Lepeletier, 1835)
Tribus: Stenammini (Ashmead, 1905)
Genus: Messor (Forel, 1890)
Subgenus:
Species: Messor barbarus (Linnaeus, 1767)
Subspecies: Messor barbarus barbarus (Linnaeus, 1767); Messor barbarus gallaoides (Santschi, 1929), Messor barbarus mediosanguineus (Donisthorpe, 1946), Messor barbarus nigricans (Santschi, 1929), Messor barbarus politus (Karavaiev, 1912), Messor barbarus sahlbergi (Forel, 1913), Messor babarus santschii (Emery, 1908)
Care Information
Difficulty: easy, can be challenging at times though
Founding Type: fully claustral
Colony Type: monogynous
Queen Size: 15-18mm
Worker Size: 3-14mm
Colony Size: 15.000 workers
Growth Rate: average
Can it Sting: No sting, no acid. Majors have extremely powerful jaws though.
Hibernation: 3-5 months at 15°C/60°F, usually starting in early/mid December
Preferred Temperature: 25-30°C
Preferred Humidity: Need a dry part for seed storage and a moist part for the brood



Description

Seed-eating ants from the genus Messor can be found all around the meditarranian sea and in parts of Asia, with Messor barbarus located in Spain, Portugal southern France and Morocco. Messor barbarus is the largest of the European Messor species. They are very active, creative yet a bit clumsy ants and essentially the McGyvers of the ant world. As seed-eating harvester ants they are very cheap to care for and their constant building activity makes them great to watch (if placed in a proper setup that actually allows them to dig) which has led to them becoming one of the most popular species kept in Europe. They are not without their challenges though as with great creative power seems to come great destructive power as well, usually directed against the decorations of their setup, feeders, nesting materials and tubing pieces - these ants can be challenging at times and may demand creative solutions from their keeper but are definitely one of the most entertaining species when doing their daily business.

Appearance

Workers: 3-14mm, glossy, black body, majors heads red-brown or black

Queen: 15-18mm, black body, head red-brown or black

Males: 7-8mm, black, small head, very hairy

Behavior

Messor barbarus are very active, creative ants that love to dig, build and modify their environment to fit their needs. This makes them very entertaining to watch but also has it's downsides – Messor colonies above a certain size can become incredibly destructive, completely reshaping outworlds, unrooting plants, wrecking decorations or even carving out the entire grout layer of one outworld to carry it to another place where they think it's more needed. They may also damage water feeders, stick debris between the nest block and the nest lid until the lid snaps off and chew holes into the nest material or the tubing parts.

The workers will use water from feeders or water tubes to moisten the ground so they can dig tunnels and pile up small anthills in the process. Sometimes they carry seeds into the outworlds and water them which causes the seeds to germinate and grow into tiny green gardens. Their feeders also have to be extra safe as they love to chew on them or pile up dirt on them until they start leaking. Steel cotton as feeder safety mechanism (popular for use with bird water feeders) is not recommended as they will often pull it out and use it to build stuff elsewhere.

! Messor barbarus majors can chew through wood, gypsum, plaster, Ytong and sandstone. It is recommended to place such a nest within an additional container so they can't immediately escape should they breach through the nest. They can also chew holes into thin vinyl tubing.

Diet & Nutrition

Sugars

Messor harvester ants get their carbohydrates from eating seeds and grain products. Usually they are given bird seed mix and canary bird seed mix but you can also feed with noodles, rice and similar grain products (only use them as a food supplement as they lack protein and other nutrients compared to seeds).

Buying large sacks of bird seeds is price-efficient but risky as these sacks are often infested with grain mites (they do not harm the ants but can become very annoying). Keeping most of the setup dry can help as these mites can only survive in moist environments. Also you should not give them too many seeds at once. As long as they don't run out of space they are likely to harvest as much as they can and might build stocks that last for months, sometimes years, which can lead to reduced foraging activity.

Young colonies require very small seeds like grass seeds or dandelion seeds, larger colonies with big majors on the other hand can even crack sunflower seeds. It is often said that Messor do not drink sugar water, this isn't exactly true. Many colonies will happily accept sugary liquids, especially while they are still small.

Protein

Messor can cover a large part of their protein requirements by eating protein-rich seeds and nuts, however for a good colony growth some really high protein stuff is recommended - this could range from feeder insects (fruti flies, flies, mealworms, roaches) to ham or boiled/scrambled egg. In fact Messor can be kept completely without feeding them insects when they regularly get some boiled or scrambled eggs. It's best to experiment with protein and keep feeding what they like.

Development Time

at °C / °F

Workers: 5-6 weeks

Egg - Larva: Around 2 weeks.

Larva - Pupa: Around 2-3 weeks.

Pupa - Worker: Around 1-2 weeks.

Notes:

Ant Keeping Information

Recommended for beginners: Yes, but be aware that Messor colonies can grow faster than you might think they'd do and reach massive size. Also they can sometimes be a bit difficult.

Temperature: Outworld: 20 - 30°C, Nesting area: 20 - 26°C

Humidity: Outworld: 30 - 50%, Nesting area: 40 - 60%

Nest types: Sand-clay farm, gypsum, Ytong. Acrylics and 3D-printed nests are possible but should have a bottom coat of sand-clay or grout. Messor ants need a dry nest part (to store their seeds) and a moist nest part (for their brood). The moist nest parts should not be too wet.

Formicarium size: Even small colonies should be provided with a decent sized outworld. From there on the setup should fit the current colony size.

Formicarium accessories: Heat source (heat mate, heating cable or heat lamp).

Substrate type: Messor are often described as being a bit clumsy but they can still walk well on most surfaces like sand, clay, grout and vinyl tubing. They're not that good at walking on glass and acrylics, so a bottom layer of sand-clay, clay or grout is recommended. If you see that they have issues climbing steep tubing a big cotton thread can help as it gives them something to grip on to.

Additional Information

Theoretically Messor requires very little water as they can extract most of the water they need from seeds, effectively however in reality they may require vast amounts of water as they use it to support their building activities.

There should not be any open water areas in the setup. Messor are a bit clumsy and tend to drown in larger ponds, that is if they don't bury them with substrate first.

Messor barbarus don't do tropholaxis, instead they chew seeds into ant bread which is then distributed within the colony. Antbread has a short lifetime so only a part of the stored seeds is processed at a time.

Ant Information

Origin: Around the western meditaranian sea (Spain, Portugal, Morocco, southern France)

Habitat: warm sand and steppe areas

Colony form: monogynous

Colony size: 12.000-15.000 workers

Colony age: up to 25 years

Founding: claustral

Workers: extremely polymorphic

Nesting sizes: soil nests under stones and bushes

Feeding: Graniphagy (seeds, grains, nuts, almonds), Zoophagy (dead insects)

Hibernation: see below

Diapause: short "hibernation" (3-5 months at 15°C/60°F), can be done in an unheated room, has an endogenic rhythm. This species doesn't really hibernate, they become just very inactive.

Reproduction: nuptial flight in September - November