Manica Hunteri, also known as the "Red winged ant" is commonly found nesting in higher elevation habitats, usually in the mountains of the pacific northwest. Although they prefer to nest in the mountains, they can also live alongside more common ants like Lasius and Formica down at sea level. Sightings of them have reached into the prairies of Canada all the way down to the deserts of California. They are one of the rarer species in Canada. However, their beautiful bright red coloration, large size, and aggressiveness will make them the crown jewel in your collection! For the first time ever, we sell Manica Hunteri queens and founding colonies after their nuptial flights in late august!
In this blog post, I will be discussing tips on how to raise this intermediate level ant as well as my experience with this species, how I raised a colony in captivity successfully.
(Disclaimer: this is all based on my personal experience with this species, many colonies or queens may have different personalities and behaviours, but this guide can be used as a general guide to successfully raise this species.)
My experience started 2.5 years ago when I was up hiking up in the mountains with a friend and I caught a queen, a freshly mated Manica hunteri dealate. This was my first encounter with this beautiful species. Since then this queen has made herself a colony with 40-50 workers and has been my favourite colony up until recently. This colony was full of surprises and challenges that really developed my interest in the hobby of ant keeping.
This species founding is quite slow, they have to be hibernated before laying eggs and the queens are semi-claustral meaning that they have to forage for food when their eggs hatch into pupae. When housing this species, a good setup for them is a tube attached to an out-world or the "tubs and tubes" method. I explained this in further detail in my pogonomyrmex-occidentalis-care-sheet.
My queen laid eggs the day after she was caught but they didn't hatch for a month after, it was pretty worrying but when they eventually did hatch, there were like 20 larvae, suddenly I was feeding her mealworms twice a week! Unfortunately, most of her larvae did not survive and she came out of the summer with 5 nanitics.
I decided to move the colony into a freshly purchased bamboo tube. In the new spacious home, the queen laid a new batch of eggs that managed to hatch before hibernation that year. This species traditionally lives in colder climates so hibernating them for 3-5 months a year is ideal. In the picture above, it shows the colony with the same old larvae and another new batch of eggs, it seemed that in year 2 their growth skyrocketed.
This bottom photo shows the colony by the end of the second year with about 20-25 workers and producing a lot of brood.
Manica hunteri are often found mountains and hilly terrain, meaning they can survive in slightly colder temperatures. In nature, the ants can dig tunnels deep into the ground if they so wish to find a warmer spot, or make chambers right under the surface to absorb as much of the sun's energy as possible.
For my colony, I keep them at a consistent 25 degrees Celsius, or 77 Fahrenheit, there is a gradient heating effect as I am using a heat mat taped to the side of an insulated box as the heating source. It makes that the closest tube to the heat mat is the warmest, and the further away the nest is, the cooler it becomes. I've noticed the ants like to stack up as much of their brood as possible in the tube closest to the heating mat, so it's safe to say that although this species lives in the cold mountains, they welcome warmth with open arms.
1. One of my favourite all-around nests: The bamboo-tube
They are super versatile, one can easily adjust the amount of water added in order to adjust the humidity, a very thin layer of gypsum is used to spread water throughout the entire tube, and the chamber design is great to make queens feel secure. My first bamboo tube was used to house my Manica hunteri colony and it was a stable home for them, much resembling the wild.
3. Test tube setup with substrate and outworld/tubs and tubes set up
One of the most basic yet efficient ways to found semi-claustral ants like Manica hunteri is a simple test tube set-up most ant keepers should be very familiar with, and some sand or dirt as substrate. The substrate will absorb water from the cotton and become malleable for the queens to construct a small chamber to surround herself within. You feed and clean her foraging ground just next to the founding queen. This technique was made popular by Ants Australia.
A typical tub and tube set up:
Manica hunteri is quite unique when it comes to dietary needs, for the most part, it is just protein for brood and the odd sugar water for the adult workers and queen. In the wild they hunt on smaller ants and steal their brood, almost like army ants, their larvae love to eat other ants brood. In the picture below, a Manica hunteri larvae munch down on Lasius pupae that they stole.
1. Protein - Manica seems to enjoy hunting live fruit flies, small crickets and most other types of feeder insects commonly found in pet shops, I've experimented with many different types of food sources and the most welcomed ones were by far mealworms, fruit flies, and other ant's brood.
2. insect-protein-jelly - This is a good way to feed many species of ants their sugars and proteins since many of them (including Manica) are very picky and selective and will often refuse sugar water and mealworms.
Here is my personal feeding schedule:
Monday: half a small cricket,
Wednesday: 2 hydei fruitflies
Friday: Half a mealworm
Sunday: 2 hydei fruitflies
For Small colonies(1-25 workers)
Monday: a small cricket,
Wednesday: a small cricket
Friday: Half a mealworm
Sunday: 2-10 hydei fruitflies (dependent on colony size)
For large/mature colonies(25 workers - 100 workers or more)
Monday: 2 large crickets, sugar water (if accepted)
Wednesday: 10+ hydei fruit flies, 1-2 large mealworms
Friday: 2 large crickets, 1 large Surinam roach
Sunday: 10+ hydei fruit flies
Feel free to add protein sources of your choice to this diet, and give occasional different food source like waxworms. However, I would advise against catching live insects in the wild and feeding them, to eliminate the chances of parasite or bacterial infection.
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