Camponotus is one of the most widespread genera of ants in the entire world, they span every continent(except Antarctica) and have taken up a variety of different shapes and sizes. Most ant keepers must have come in contact with this these large and complex ants at some point. The genus Camponotus has over 1000 species and 500 subspecies and could well be the largest ever genus of ant ever discovered. Camponotus is a polymorphic genus meaning that worker classes have varying sizes and proportions. For example, minor workers are the smallest and cheapest for the colony to make, medians and minors do most of the foraging while majors have big muscle filled heads designed to fight and kill prey and other ants.
This care guide is only from my own experience, others may have different opinions on how to keep species from this genus.
In total, there are 8 species of camponotus in canada, they are not found everywhere in canada but these species have pretty similar care requirements ,however, some species may require extra care and special needs in order to thrive.
- Camponotus Herculeanus
- Camponotus Laevigatus
- Camponotus Modoc
- Camponotus Nearcticus
- Camponotus Novaeboracensis
- Camponotus Pennsylvanicus
- Camponotus Vicinus
- Camponotus Castaneus
MY NEST SUGGESTIONS:
Camponotus species likes drier nests because in nature they commonly nest in rotten or living trees. Camponotus can also be found under rocks and pavement alongside smaller and more adaptable ants. Although Camponotus is relatively common, they have very specific nesting and care needs.
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, this is extremely important because being able to control humidity may determine how comfortable your colony is. 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. This is a fantastic option for founding queens and small colonies.
2. Insect Supplies Canada Plaster Nest
This larger nest is a great nest for medium sized Camponotus colonies. It has a beautiful design and is very nice to look at. Coupled with the quadruple nest chamber on each side of the structure. The nest comes with a slow water dispersal hole for each chamber, allowing the ants to choose which section/humidity they prefer.
3. Ytong/AAC/Pumice Stone Nests
(Photo credit to Ants Australia)
This is a great and easy alternative to gypsum, and sometimes even better! It is also favored by hobbyists due to the high DIY capabilities because it offers many ways of customization. This material is really unique in my opinion, it has tiny air bubbles which makes the bricks light, and the material is very malleable, it can be easily carved out by a drill or even a screwdriver. The nest lets in water easily but can sometimes fail to keep the humidity in for long periods of time, so the keeper would need to constantly add water to the nest to prevent it from drying out. However, there has been many methods to prevent the water from evaporating way too quickly, with my personal favorite being coating outer surface of the material with a layer of sanded grout or even some non toxic paints, it has shown great results in my testings.
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The ytong nests offer a watering area just like the gypsum nests, however, one can argue it spreads water even better! It is super versatile, allowing the keeper to adjust how much water to add in accordance to the species' natural habitat. Ytong nests also come in many different sizes and shapes, so there are many options to choose from. The different sizes are also very useful, allowing one to simply link one up to another for easy rehousing or expansion.
One of the most basic, yet effective method of raising ants, Camponotus included. This method is cheap, simple, and is great for colonies of all sizes. Test tube set-ups are great because they are easy and quick to set-up and very easy to clean, or you can keep the ants in there for a long time before they outgrow it, and even if they do, we can easily add in another tube, or 10 other tubes according to the colony size. The environment a test tube set up creates with a water reservoir is almost perfect for most ant species, allowing for enough moisture so their brood doesn't dry out, but not so much that it's bad for the ants. For this genus though, larger tubes would probably be preferred as Campnotus is a slightly larger genus of ant.
Camponotus is found worldwide in many different locations, with vastly varying weather and environments. One should account for where their queens came from and what environment it was native to when dealing with the ideal temperature range for these ants.
For most species, keeping them at a steady 23-27 degrees Celsius is a good start, of course, most of the species within this genus doesn't need that high of a temperature, but it makes sure their brood develop faster and the colony more active. However, some species require higher temperatures compared to others, such as the species found in the deserts of California and Arizona, while others prefer a lower temperature, like the ones found in the mountain ranges of Canada.
If you live in the north where your ants require hibernation, do not keep your ants at this temperature all year round, instead heat them only during the summer months and then mimic the outside temperature to give them a natural winter.
Some people prefer to give their ants a night time drop to simulate their natural habitat, and some people just keep the temperature at a consistent degree all day long. Both methods have been proven to have good results. You choose!
Humidity is another key requirement for keeping Camponotus species, luckily, it is a requirement quite easily met. Most Camponotus species prefer to nest in the Trees, rotten logs or sometimes even under rocks. In their natural habitat, the ants have the ability to tunnel deep and search for optimal humidity and temperature levels for themselves and their brood.
In captivity, the ants have fewer opportunities to do that, so we as keepers need to make sure we provide them with the right amount of humidity. Ants within the Camponotus genus prefer a medium level of humidity, meaning moist, but not wet. around 25-50% humidity is perfect for them. This can be easily achieved for single queens and small colonies by housing them in a simple test tube setup, however, for larger colonies, it might prove to be a bit more difficult.
My recommendation for larger colonies is to keep them in nests where one can manually adjust the humidity level. For example a larger ytong nest, or bamboo tubes, or simply even just multiple test tubes attached to an out-world. With ytong nests, us as keepers can choose to water one side of the nest, letting the water seep through thus creating a gradual humidity effect, with the watered side being moister where the ants would most likely prefer to keep their brood, and the drier side more suitable to other needs.
Bamboo tubes are one of my personal favorite nests, for nearly all ant species, the multiple chambers with a layer of gypsum at the bottom allow the water added in the water reservoir to slowly seep through the material, once again making a gradual drop in humidity the further away from the chamber the water reservoir is. Allowing the ants inside to choose which humidity level they prefer.
Finally, one of the simplest ways to manually control the humidity level in your nest is to connect up multiple test tubes to an out-world, give some of the test tubes a normal water reservoir, some double cotton, and some no water at all! this provides the ants with the choice to choose between whichever tube they prefer, and after a while, one may change all the tubes to the type they prefer to provide more suitable nesting space.
Food and Nutrition:
Camponotus is usually a very forgiving genus when it comes to feeding, most colonies would readily accept a variety of different foods including protein, and especially sugars. I've found that smaller colonies, while also quite hungry and will actively chow down on food, are much more timid than larger colonies. With a general rule of thumb, colonies under 50 workers will be much shyer than the ones above 50 workers, and accept less diversified food.
Here are some foods I recommend giving to your Camponotus colonies (Camponotus species don't collect or consume seeds as protein):
Protein: Crickets, mealworms, super-worms, termites, fruit flies, roaches. (Make sure to switch up the variety once in a while, it is beneficial to your ant's health.)
Sugars: Sugar water, crystallized sugar, protein jelly, pure honey, honey water, honeydew extract, fruits like apples, pears, or watermelon.
Hibernation is a topic commonly discussed by ant-keepers and hobbyists around the globe, some do it, some don't. Hibernation is a time where the colony takes a well deserved rest and regains energy for the next season, the queen stops laying eggs and all the ants' metabolism slows down, there is no need to feed the colony at this time, just keep it moist and they will be just fine. The reason for hibernation is to let the queen rest, without it, the colony will slow down gradually to a point. It is widely known that hibernation causes the colony's lifespan to be reduced, it's like a machine running non-stop, it will eventually overheat, so giving it rests allows it to work longer.
The general rule of thumb of hibernation is around 3-4 months depending on where you live, 2 months minimum for your ants to do the best the following year. A temperature of 8 degrees Celsius is generally recommended for hibernation as well, it can be lower, but not low enough to kill the ants, and can be a little higher as well, but not high enough where the ants' metabolism doesn't slow down properly and they starve to death.
In Canada, temperatures during the winter months easily drop below zero, and sometimes waaaaay below zero in parts of the country. The ants survive by producing a type of anti-freeze. Ants caught in those parts, hibernation is almost crucial, because it's such a large part of their yearly cycle, without it, a colony could die. However, in parts of United states, or more tropical countries, hibernation is merely a short time in room temperature (21 degrees Celsius) for the ants to thrive. Lucky you!
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