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Everything you need for a Weaver ant colony

When one speaks of weaver ants then usually species of the genus Oecophylla are meant. These are considered "real" weaver ants. However, there are also species of the genus Polyrhachis and even two species of the genus Camponotus, which "weave" their nests. Weaver ants are named like that because they build their nests with the silk from their larvae. These excrete the silk while being carried around by workers, a fascinating spectacle. In contrast to the Leafcutter ants, which only occur from North to South America, weaver ants are only found in Asia, Australia and Africa. The main difference between Oecophylla species and other weaver ants is that Oecophylla constringes leaves (not fallen leaves) for their nests and then only weaves them with silk. Other species (Polyrhachis, Camponotus) actually use all of the material they can find to build their nests (earth, stones, parts of plants) and than use silk to build a cocoon-like structure. They mainly use existing cavities, for example in crevices or hollow trees.

Weaver ants are a little more demanding to keep. They form large colonies and depending on their geographical origin, they need very specific climatic conditions. In addition, Oecophylla actually needs large-leaved living plants in the formicarium in order to be able to construct their nests as naturally as possible. However, if you pay attention to the peculiarities of the respective genus/species and provide enough space, they are also suitable for less experienced ant owners. In addition, weaver ants do not hibernate, which makes them interesting to watch all year round.

Food for weaver ants

In the wild, weaver ants feed relatively similarly. All of them need proteins to survive successfully and therefore they hunt smaller insects. All weaver ants also need sugar. In the wild, for example, there are reports of a symphilie between the caterpillars of some butterflies and weaver ants. The caterpillars secrete honeydew (a sugar-containing secretion which is formed from plant sap) on which the ants feed and are in return protected by the ants. Otherwise the ants also like to feed on nectar.

Food for weaver ants in the formicarium

In the formicarium, water and honey solution or sugar water and proteins should be given. Naturally living protein food such as flies, mosquitoes or small crickets is ideal, and larger insects for  large colonies. Polyrhachis dives also get along well with protein substitutes, while Oecophylla is very fond of hunting and accepts live food much better.

Oecophylla or Polyrhachis?

The difference between Oecophylla and Polyrhachis in keeping is first of all practical. While Oecophylla needs real plants at best to build nests out of their leaves, Polyrhachis only needs suitable material such as plant parts or a cave (cork tube or similar) to build nests. A real plant naturally takes up significantly more space. In addition, plants that are already tightly woven together may perish over time and need to be replaced. Oecophylla needs very specific climatic conditions and Polyrhachis can cope with larger fluctuations in temperature and humidity. Both genera are real outbreak specialists, especially when there is a lack of food and can defend their nest aggressively. Polyrhachis dives colonies in particular can grow very quickly because they can be polygyn (have several queens). So here must be expanded faster and more often than with Oecophylla.

Visually, Oecophylla definitely wins with ant lovers. There is an amazing variety here, from the well-known emerald-colored species to gold / yellowish to red or brown species. The observation of nest building is also much more interesting with Oecophylla.


Oecophylla smaragdina

Oecophylla is native to Australia and Southeast Asia. This ant species lives on trees in the wild. As the colony grows, they build several nests there, which they weave from leaves with the silk of their larvae. Together they form long chains from their bodies and pull the leaves close enough to allow other workers who carry the larvae to weave. In addition, the animals bite into each other and carry a multitude of their own body weight. The constant transpiration (evaporation of water) of the living leaves creates the ideal nest climate inside. Oecophylla is monogynous and therefore has only one queen, even if it has several nests at the same time.

Oecophylla are very aggressive and defend their territory against all enemies. In Asia, they have been kept as important biological pest control agents for centuries by actively and passively driving away other insects through their excretions on the leaves. Foraging takes place both on the ground and in the inhabited vegetation. In addition to the leaf cutter ants, Oecophylla certainly has one of the most sophisticated communication systems, which is composed of pheromones, touch and sight. Many other species of ants communicate primarily through pheromones and have very poor vision. Their formic acid is extremely effective against mites, which in the wild means that they are often used by birds who want to clean their plumage.

Larger colonies can also inflict painful injuries on large attackers (or keepers) through the combination of hundreds of bites and the use of their formic acid. If there is danger in the immediate vicinity of their nest, the ants immediately sound the alarm. They start knocking in hundreds or thousands on the inside of their nests, signaling potential enemies that they should better stay away.

Oecophylla are very good and above all aggressive hunters. They corner their prey together and literally tear it apart by pulling on it from all sides. They also do not stop from attacking other ant colonies, which makes them extremely unsuitable for keeping together with other ant species.


Polyrhachis dives

Polyrhachis dives also comes from Asia and Australia and has a slightly larger distribution area. Characteristic of this species is the silver like to gold like stripe on the otherwise black-brown abdomen of the animals. They are slightly smaller than Oecophylla, often live close to the ground and like to build their nests inbetween stones or tree bark. They use their larvae to weave the nest, but from a scientific point of view they do not belong to the "real weaver ants" like the Oecophylla, although in principle they use almost the same weaving technique. Species of the Polyrhachis genus sometimes have very small colonies of a maximum of a few thousand animals. According to reports, however, Polyrhachis dives can even form colonies with several hundred queens and up to several hundred thousand workers under the perfect conditions.

Polyrhachis dives is polygyn, which means that she can have several queens at the same time. This means that the colony size can grow very quickly and they have a very large need for food and space. The formicarium systems should therefore also be expandable. Due to their colony size, they are quite agile and true breakout specialists. Therefore, a good escape protection must be ensured.

In the Formicarium, Polyrhachis dives accepts almost any building material that is offered to her. From sand, small animal litter or leaves to cork and pieces of wood to small stones, they weave everything that "nature" offers around their home into their nests.


Formicarium for weaver ants

Of course, we also offer the right Starter Kit for weaver ants. Since weaver ants, regardless of their genus and species, like to build their nests above the ground, we opted for a tall formicarium. The starter set contains everything you need to successfully start a weaver ant colony. However, since we wanted to keep the set general and not restrict it to a specific genus, neither plants nor nesting material is included.

For Oecophylla smaragdina, a plant with thin, large leaves should be chosen. This should come from an organic nursery or a specialist terrarium store to avoid exposure to pesticides or fertilizers. Alternatively, you can keep a plant at home for about a year without adding fertilizers and then put it in the formicarium. After about a year, all fertilizers and pesticides should be washed out.

Artificial plants or other structures made of stone, cork or wood are also suitable for Polyrhachis dives. It is only important that the ants are provided with a stable "framework" for their nest, as can develop a certain weight due to the construction with different materials. We also recommend our "natural nest balls", which the ants are very happy to accept.

Due to the special demands on the climate in the Formicarium, we recommend the use of technology to control the temperature and humidity. The best climatic conditions for weaver ants are unfortunately not identical due to the very large area where they come from, so we cannot make any precise statements on this topic here. For precise information on temperature and humidity in the Formicarium, simply go to the profile of the respective species in our shop.

Food  Mix Set - Honey
supplementary food
9,90 €
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