Harpegnathos venator

If a building becomes architecture, then it is art
The mysterious and ancient subfamily of Ponerinae ants is the dream of many ant farmers. It is difficult to imagine, but literally 5-7 years ago, such ants could only be dreamed of.
Today, buying poneros is not unusual, but to this day they are relatively rare. And the cost in the "ant market" is quite high. Poneromorphs include both easy-to-keep species that can be easily bred with little experience communicating with tropical ants, and difficult species that only a professional can handle. the two categories are Harpegnathos venator - "hunter with a sickle-jawed jaw" if you literally Russify its name.
These large (about 12-14 mm long) ants are native to tropical Asia. Harpegnathos make anthills in clay soil. The design of these sockets is amazing! In its simplest form, the anthill is a downhill slope and a pair of wide chambers. Due to the fact that in the homeland of the Venators, rain is not uncommon, the nest is often flooded. Here the chamber of the lower floor, located directly below the flat, saves - all the water flows into it, and on the floor above, the ants and their brood.

Our "sickle-shaped hunter" is called a hunter for a reason - the main component of the diet of these ants is protein food. They forage singly; highly developed eyesight helps to find the prey. when trying on, then jumps up and grabs it with long jaws, just like tweezers. Then the predator stings the caught insect between the joints and paralyzes it.
In the anthill, the larvae are prey-fed, which have a mobile worm-like neck and feed on their own.
The appearance of Harpegnathos is so unusual that it is impossible not to fall in love with them at first sight. Even staunch opponents of ponerine sometimes look in their direction. But maintaining this species is difficult. Now we will try to break down the whole process in stages.

Acquisition
It is no secret that all these ants are imported directly from those Asian countries where they occur naturally, as we breed piglets through artificial flight and layering has not yet been established. First of all, when buying such a colony, you should pay attention to its composition. Providers usually provide families with one mother, several mothers, or no mothers. But these queens often have no meaning at all, because in the vast majority of natural colonies their functions are performed by gamergates - fertilized workers. Therefore, the main selection criterion is the number. The higher it is, the more vital the family will be, the easier it will adapt to life in your home.

Parasites
The purchased colony can be infected by the most terrible enemy of these ants - parasitic mites. Ticks look like small transparent or brownish droplets that cover the lower jaws, eyes and limbs of the ants, and with strong reproduction, the entire body. The sick ant constantly cleans itself, it itches, but cannot remove the ticks, which causes severe discomfort. These parasites do not drink the hemolymph, but the constant stress of their presence and difficulty breathing (if the ticks are attached near the spiracles on the abdomen) eventually lead to the death of this ant.
To avoid invasion, it is best to feed your colony only with insects that have been bred at home or purchased from trusted pet stores. If the disease is already raging, it follows:
- timely removal of garbage and leftover fodder plants (adult mites live and reproduce in food debris),
- introduction of ticks to the formicarium - predatory ticks of the genus Hypoaspis, centipedes and springtails.

Feeding
As mentioned above, the administration of natural insects to pets is highly undesirable. Use feed cockroaches, crickets, and other traditional forage crops to eliminate the possibility of parasite infestation. You must be prepared for a varied diet of the ants and, if necessary, remove one crop, immediately replacing another (if Harpegnathos refuse). Some families are very picky about their food choices, so you will have to search for their favorite foods by choosing from the many available. Forage insects should be selected in size smaller than or equal to the hunter, and also easily pass through the entrance opening to the nest. It is advisable to give them alive or slightly crushed. Thanks to the special device of the jaws, Harpegnathos cannot cut their prey to pieces, but only tear off the limbs (the larvae do the rest of the butcher's work), so they cannot bring large victims into the anthill.

Being true poneromorphs, these ants require daily feeding for normal development. A colony of about 20 specimens is enough for 1-2 young (1 cm long) Turkmen cockroaches per day. The more ants and larvae in the family, the more food it should receive. These ants are fed exclusively on insects; freely available carbohydrates are contraindicated. With enough food, the larvae secrete droplets of fluid for adults, which compensates for their need for many substances that they do not receive from protein feed, therefore a colony that has brood at all stages feels much better than one with no larvae or no larvae. several of them.

Breeding
To maintain a colony of Harpegnathos, a formicarium that will keep moisture for a long time is essential. Ideally, the nest should be made entirely of plaster or layers of plaster. If the formicarium provides separate moistening of the chambers, it is even better, because the ants store the cocoons in less humid chambers, and the eggs and larvae in more humid chambers.

Our "Venos" nest is suitable for these ants: a layer of plaster allows you to maintain the necessary humidity (up to a week), and the height of the horizontal chambers allows you to lay the ground layer.
A substrate is required for all ponchos - with its help, the ants help the larvae weave a cocoon. Coconut flakes, chopped sphagnum moss, sand (or a mixture of all these ingredients) are suitable. In the future, the ants will be able to remove all the substrate from the chambers and use the broken shells of old cocoons for pupation.

The Venator family can live in a wide temperature range (from + 18 to +32 degrees Celsius), but the most convenient will be +24 - +27 degrees. It takes about three months to develop from egg to imago. With a comfortable temperature, frequent and varied feeding and a large number of workers, this period is slightly shortened due to the faster course of the larval phase.

The structure of the arena should be discussed separately. It is recommended to cover the bottom with a layer of moist coconut substrate. You can arrange decorations, bunches of moss to maintain a stable humidity. Vision plays a huge role in the life of Harpegnathos, so the arena can be illuminated with a not very bright lamp so that it is convenient to watch and the ants hunt. Despite some substantive difficulties, venators are very interesting, beautiful, graceful and extremely peculiar ants. They always watch you with formicaria with their big eyes. Some time will pass - and the Venators will get used to you, they won't run away, just turn their heads and wave their belly amiably.

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