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Messor structor (steppe ants): home care

Building an ant farm in a home or office setting is becoming more and more popular. For this, unpretentious reaper ants are best suited. Before you get these insects, you should familiarize yourself with their specific features: life, the external environment, the features of reproduction and maintenance.

Short information

Latin name: Messor structor

Difficulty: for beginners.

The size of individuals: workers from 4 to 9 mm, soldiers up to 11 mm, mother up to 12 mm.
Colony size: up to 5000 individuals.
Habitat: steppes and semi-deserts, from Portugal to Kazakhstan and south to Iran.

Temperature: 20-27 degrees.
Humidity: gradient, from 30% in the arena to 90% in the nest.

Diet: plant seeds, dead insects.
Wintering: not required

General information about the genus Messor
The genus Messor includes 110 species of ants adapted to living in a desert zone on almost all continents.
The most common species:
Messor aciculatus;
Messor denticulatus;
Messor kasakorum;
Messor rufitarsis;
Messor structor;
Messor capitatus;
Messor muticus;
Messor wasmanni.

The name Messor (reaper) was born thanks to the method of harvesting grain from the fields. The specificity of nutrition is due to the limited number of plants in the desert climate. According to research, ants from the same family can bring up to 1.5 kg of grain to underground storage facilities. The question: is the reaper ant a pest that steals the fruits of human labor, it must be answered that this is not true. It only reaps its harvest from the ground, from previously damaged spikelets. The seeds are stored in humid underground chambers for a long time and germinate periodically. Then the ants bite the cuttings, and the seeds themselves are ground into a powder, moistened with saliva and fed to the larvae.

The appearance of reaper ants varies:

large size of people;
calm behavior;
digging, nest-building in the spring.
Let us consider this genus in more detail on the example of the species Messor structor (steppe reaper).

Messor structor
The description of Messor structor
The steppe reaper ant is the largest in comparison to other ants, they are the subfamily Myrmicinae. The color is dark, reddish brown. The length of the working insect varies from 4 to 9 mm, the queen - up to 11-15 mm. The body consists of three parts: head, chest, abdomen, connected by bridges, thanks to which the insects are flexible, mobile. The massive square head of the ant is equipped with jaws, which close like a trap when bitten. It is convenient for transporting food and grinding beans.

GOOD TO KNOW: This is interesting: the reaper's fearsome jaws are not an attack tool, but a grain processing device.

Workers have stings that they use for self-defense. Ants are calm and slow. The species is characterized by polymorphism, i.e. the presence of various forms of individuals: females, males, workers, soldiers and transitional forms. Each category of reaper ants carries out its duties.

By examining the question of how long ants live, information was obtained that workers live up to 3-5 years, and the queen - up to 20 years.

The reapers live in families of up to 5,000 individuals.

The aboveground part of the anthill is in the form of an opening surrounded by a shaft of earth and mulch from grains brought in. Underground, the nest looks like a long vertical tunnel with chambers moving on the sides. The family uses the same house for several years.

Development conditions

Egg - 2-3 weeks
2 weeks larva (large 2-3)
2-3 weeks doll depends on the size. Imago appears 4-5 days after full pigmentation of the pupa.

The appearance of males and females.

Full-fledged females develop when the number of workers reaches about 400-500, and males - from 1000-1500. If females and males have appeared earlier, then they are killed and eaten rather quickly.


Steppe Messor - a resident of steppes, deserts. Its nests can be found in the countries of the Mediterranean coast, in southern and eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Israel. On the territory of Russia in the Republic of Tatarstan, this species is listed in the Red Book due to the threat of extinction.


Reapers - ants from deserts and steppes. Such a life developed an interesting trait in them. Almost all the ant species we meet grow up in the spring among young males and females, so at the end of spring or summer they can fly away and create new colonies.


The eating habits of reapers have created several transitional forms among working ants. Considerable effort is required to grind cereal grains. As a result, the head of the soldiers is large and they have developed massive occipital muscles responsible for the work of the mandible. The prepared seed pieces are processed by smaller working ants as it requires less effort. Then the grains are turned into flour, moistened with saliva.
In addition, ants also eat animal food: they collect dead insects or organize a collective hunt themselves. However, this type of food is secondary.


The living conditions left their mark even on the reapers' reproductive functions. Most ants keep mature specimens until the end of spring or early summer. The reapers appear at the end of summer and spend the winter in the nest, breeding in April. This gives them the opportunity to build an anthill under favorable conditions, until the steppe land is dry and the ambient temperature is not too high.

There is only one queen in each ant nest. There may be several in the nesting stage, but then the ants chase away or eat the excess queens. Males die after fertilization of the female.

Beginning of the colony

Since the mother herself founds the colony, the standard scenario of colony development is played out. The mother is placed in an incubator and hidden in a dark place until the first workers show up.

Incubator, Formicarium, Arena


A standard test tube or syringe incubator is used for the initial colony. Then, as the number increases, a feeding arena is added to the incubator. An additional dry tube for storing seeds can also be installed.


It is recommended that the reaper be stored in an acrylic and aerated concrete formicarium, preferably of a horizontal type, because of the need for large areas for storing grain. It can also be a cork formicarium. In formicaria of this type, a concentration of moisture is created - the ants will store the seeds in dry chambers. Seed germination occurs in humid chambers, most ants live in moderately humid chambers, and store seeds etc. The concentration of moisture is extremely important to reapers!


It is not recommended to use sand or soil as a substrate in the formicarium structure - ants are able to stick glass in the formicarium very quickly, reducing visibility almost to zero, and they will also regularly cover their entrance. You can just leave the plastic (glass) on or pour a thin layer of plaster over the arena.
Systematic cleaning of the arena is required! Reapers, given a special diet, produce a lot of organic trash (husks) which can rot and cause mold.

Place a water bottle in the arena.

The edges of the arena can be smeared with petroleum jelly (or a similar protective compound) and then opened. With some plastics, harvesters generally don't know how to walk upright.

This species has its own characteristics:

the ant farm is a very exciting project, but you should not light it up at night, shake it or bother the insects. This slows down the development of the colony, the ants are afraid;

high humidity causes the death of reaper ants;

these insects store large amounts of grain, a larger nest is needed than for other species;

by reducing the protein content of food, ants breed special food larvae, and it is better not to feed them with syrup.

- Non-standard protein - it's better to keep them on the grains themselves.

- Rough Handling - Reapers are fairly fragile despite their large heads and seemingly formidable appearance.
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