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Camponotus barbaricus is one of the biggest ant species in Europe. Very tough.
Shows activity at day and night .They build their nests preferably underneath wood or stones.
Very fortified aggressive ant species (oh yes!).
A radiant heating should heat a stone or an angle of the formicarium in the daytime.

Taxonomy: Formicinae (Camponotini)
Colony form: monogyne (claustral)
Colony size: up to 10.000 Individuals

Distribution: Southern Europe (Spain, Portugal, Sicily), Northern Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Tunesia, Lybia)
Habitat: prefers open areas but avoids arid areas

Queen: 17mm, black
Workers: 8 - 17mm, black, red shine, extremely polymorphic (Minor, Media and Major workers)
Soldiers: not present
Males: black, very slim

Nutrition: Honey- or sugar water and insects
Hibernation: Yes (slight)
Temperature: 20 - 30 °C
Nest building: Build their nest under stones or in soil

Diet & Nutrition
All insect foods are frozen.

Reaction inconsistent
Refused (ignored or dumped)
Not yet found/used

Honey (pure)
Honey water (1:1)
Sugar water (1:1)
Brown sugar water (3:1/4:1)
Marple Syrup (pure)
Frozen Raspberry bits

Sunburst ant nectar
Coconut flower syrup

Drosophila melanogaster (wild colony from kitchen) - recently they seem to prefer other foods and mostly leave the fruit flies untouched
Small crickets (box from pet shop)
Small Grasshoppers in slices (box from pet shop)
Cooked Superworms in slices (box from pet shop)
Wild spiders (they LOVE those)
Meat fly pupae (box from pet shop)
Red mosquito larvae (fish food from pet shop) - sometimes they take them, sometimes they don't
Drosophila hydei (box from pet shop)

Large crickets
Large predatory red mites
Dead honey bee (they get this when they have over 20 workers and a huge pile of brood)

Event Index

Ants are getting proper outworld

First worker (born in my care)

Colony development

16th Nov '16

8th January '17

23rd January '17

17th February '17

22nd February '17

1st March '17

9th March '17

17th March '17

20th March '17

25th March '17

1st April '17

5th April '17

10th April '17

17th April '17

22nd April '17

29th April '17

5th May '17

9th May '17

15th May '17

19th May '17

21st May '17 (some of the ants are definitely in the entrance area and not on this picture)

30th May '17

12th June '17

20th June '17

25th June '17

28th June '17

2nd July '17

9th July '17

14th July '17

19th July '17

23rd July '17

29th July '17 (first majors)
Last edited by Serafine on Tue Aug 01, 2017 6:32 pm, edited 25 times in total.
AaronT liked this
The colony originally belonged to MoonAnts who ordered a colony of Camponotus barbaricus and a colony of Messor barbarus from a shop - and ended up getting two of each. I had already decided that I would want a Camponotus colony soon, so one thing came to another.

The ants arrived in their tube at Nov 12 after a voyage of full five days with DHL - yes, it took them FIVE DAYS for a package delivery from northern Germany to southern Germany. Seriously. At least they delivered the package at Saturday morning (most other mail services do not deliver at weekends).

The colony was in good condition and got pretty active when unpacked, fortunately they cooled down quickly when placed in their emergency setup. I later discovered that one of the workers (the biggest one) had died, either during the voyage or just after their arrival. Since there was no way to remove it without completely disturbing the ants I just left it in the tube (they moved the carcass to cotton block at the front end of the tube while all living ants cuddled together at the wet cotton end).

Here they are in their tube.

So this was their first "emergency setup".
Since I didn't have the time to order anything more sophisticated I just took one of my freezer containers and drilled some holes in it - worked fine for the start.
The ants are under the red "paper tent", still in the test tube in which they arrived.

Here is their first meal, some sugar water (was taken quickly) and a raisin (was ignored entirely) in the plastic top of a pringles tube. They also discarded he dead worker during the second night.
I did not want to remove the cotton at the end of the tube for reasons of hydration and disturbance (don't think they would have liked to nest in a cabriolet) so I just pushed a drinking straw through it. This worked very well and I intend to continue doing this with all my eventual future colonies.

Everything went fine, they were about to be sent into hibernation and suddenly... a wild bunch of eggs appears!

Well... no hibernation then.

That means they're gonna need some protein. I already added some honey (which didn't seem to drain much interest) and caught some fruit flies, cooked them for a few seconds and added them as well. The fruit flies were taken instantly (three were eaten and discarded the rest stored in the tube at the dry cotton end), except the last one (which was ignored).

The local pet shop had superworms so I bought a box, fed them for about four days with paprika and apples, then boiled them and put them in the freezer. They probably gonna last me for a year, if not more.
The first one was directly fed to the ants (crushed plus a bit of water) and got massive attention - the worker sat there for hours and just filled up on superworm fluids.

Shortly after that the ants effectively canceled all foraging and I haven't seen them out for almost a week. Apparently they were full up to their antennae with tasty superworm soup.
Last edited by Serafine on Wed Dec 07, 2016 2:28 pm, edited 2 times in total.
So I ordered a massive setup at AntKit (enough for years to come)... and then the fire destroyed their director's home, their development labs and their entire product storage.
My setup won't arrive here for at least two months, probably three. I don't have any issues waiting and wish AntKit the best but that also forced me to act.

This primitive setup won't hold for three months - when all the new workers hatch I'm gonna be in trouble. Even worse the foraging worker doesn't seem to have any problems walking over the surfaces I sprayed with PTFE and is potentially small enough to squeeze through the ventilation holes. I needed a new box.

Fortunately the local hobby market has a broad variety of storage boxes and after some search I even found one that doesn't allow ants to just walk out between the bottom box and the lid.
This should be sufficient even for half a year if needed. I even added insect grid to the the air holes at the sides just to be sure in case they can really walk on the PTFE areas.

So... the colony just got relocated to the new container (still in the tube under the tent). Wow, they were not amused. When picked up the tube to take a look at them they became quite busy. When I replaced the drinking straw with a bigger one that is potentially large enough to let the queen pass, in case they want to relocate, they got REALLY busy - well, at least one of them.

Their reaction was quite interesting, these ants do not only have a clear distribution of tasks (one worker is the only one foraging, one worker is always carrying the brood around, not sure what the other two are doing) they also seem to have very distinctive personalities.
The foraging worker is clearly the most aggressive - she was the only one who instantly attacked the new straw. The other ants were more like "yeah yeah, don't freak out I'm coming already" or even "meh, I don't care", while she was like "OMG, OMG, Intruder, everyone attack it!". I just hope she didn't spray around any formic acid in the nest.
She even rushed out after I placed the tube in the new box and was looking really angry and ready to throw herself at everything.

Hopefully they will calm down now and do well in their new home. I don't think I'm going to be able to make any more pictures of the tube in the near future (I will add some better ones of the setup though) as I don't want to disturb them any more and that hyperaggressive worker will probably freak out again.

While I relocated them I also had a short clear view at their tube and wow - at first I though it was mold but then I realized that they've stored about four fruit flies and several superworm bits at the dry cotton end of the tube. They probably have enough food piled up to bring the larvae through their first two stages of development without having to forage.
These ants are some serious harvesters!
Here's a better pic of their setup. The yellow pebbles aren't grains/seeds but smaller rocks.

And that's their warehouse full of dead fruit flies and stuff. They have literally used up all the space at the front of the tube for food storage.

They are still carrying their eggs around which should hatch soon/any day now.
Just a quick heads-up.

First thing - the colony has larvae. I had to relocate them back to the old setup because I had forgotten that it might be a smart idea to spray the long sides of the container as well. When putting them back into the new container I quickly checked up on them and saw a small patch of larvae at the bottom of the tube. Looks like 4-6 of them, not sure if they have laid less eggs than estimated, ate some of them or there are some more hidden larvae.

They are still barely seen outside but that seems to be the problem with a young Camponotus colony - they have such huge stomachs that they forage once and then don't need any more food for a week.

Anyway I've crafted another thing (most likely won't need it for a while though).

This is a feeder box made from a 125 gram butter box. Depending on how the lid is placed it allows for small or big ants to pass. That way I can feed them larger food but prevent them from dragging it into the nest in one piece where it might cause a mold outbreak when their eyes are bigger than their larvaes' stomachs.
Last edited by Serafine on Thu Mar 30, 2017 9:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
I grabbed the cotton ball at the upper end, angled the straw a bit and gently pushed it through the space between the cotton and the glass tube wall. This probably wouldn't really work with smaller ants (there's a small gap between the straw and the glass tube large enough that for example Solenopsis fugax workers could walk through without using the straw) but for larger Camponotus it works fine. You can also simply remove the cotton, place the straw and then put the cotton plug back in.
Be aware however that more defensive ants may get quite agitated and attack the straw. One of my workers went really berzerk, tried to bite the straw and even ran out ready to attack my fingers after I had placed the tube back into the outworld.

If you want to keep the queen inside you can use a straw that is just big enough for workers to pass but not the queen (works fine unless you have majors). However I replaced mine with a bigger one that should even let the queen pass in case they want to relocate because the tube will probably run dry in 2-3 weeks (they already have a larger tube in their container so they can change tubes whenever they want, although I expect them to remain in the dry nest for a bit longer if the larvae pupate before the tube runs out of water).
So I checked up on them again and removed the red (or more like magenta) acrylic sheet because it didn't do anything anyway and they're definitely not hibernating, in fact the queen has layed another batch of eggs. They also pulled a bit of the cotton to make some sort of nest for the larvae.

They still do not like light at all but they (involuntarily) confirmed that the queen fits though the straw (barely though) as she tried to hide in there first when I put them into the light. She can't turn around inside but obviously she can walk backwards just fine.

The tube is almost dried out so I expect them to move within the next weeks and offered them a fresh test tube (well, actually I just filled up the water tube that was already present in the setup). We'll see how it goes.
I also removed all food (except the honey) from the foraging area because obviously they don't need it (and don't want it anyway).

Serafine wrote:You should read the Journal :-)
I know they're not harvester ants, I'm just making fun of their habit to store massive amounts of food in their tube (like harvester ants do with their seeds) :wacky:

Haha! I had a quick scan of the original posts but missed that part :D. No wonder nobody mentioned this :D.
So their tube finally ran out of water and they needed to move.
I just put the two tubes together with a straw and a bit of light was enough to encourage them to move, although the queen did take quite some time (2-3 minutes or so) to become active.

They are currently VERY active in their new tube, scouting out the place and probably rearranging everything (I put the top cotton blob from the old tube into the new tube with most of the fruit flies they had stored there, I guess they will put the food to the new outer cotton end like they did with the old tube).

Contrary to my believe they don't have larvae yet, still only eggs (might be tier1 larvae but it's hard to see).
But all of them look healthy and well-fed, so it's fine (and yes they're still four workers, it's just really hard to get all four on a picture).

Old tube:

New tube:
Update time!

The cheeky little buggers tricked me, they DID have larvae all along. They just fed one really well, while the others remained tiny, almost egg size. And they sticked all the other larvae (and the additional eggs they layed yesterday) to that big one larvae, so if you just look at it without magnification it's really hard to comprehend what's going on because the pile looks different everytime you look at it (depending on the angle of view).
Here is a picture of them all together - I accidentally took one with flash on and was like "OMG, crap!" thinking they would go totally nuts but actually they didn't border in ANY way and remained completely calm.

Since they seem to be more active again I increased their fruit fly ration to 4 fruit flies per day. The first load was completely obliterated (the queen alone ate 3 of them and she ate EVERYTHING - there was literally nothing left of them after an hour), the second load was partially eaten (1 is gone, 1 is being eaten by the larvae) and partially stored at the dry cotton end (2 of them).
Not sure yet if it is too much as they have already started stocking up on them again but time will tell as I watch their stocks closely, although they did take in the additional 2 fruit flies I placed in their outworld yesterday night, something I didn't expect.

Yesterday afternoon they also got their first cricket which was met with a lot of excitement - I have never seen so much antkissing anywhere, it was like a kissing orgy. When observed last time early this morning they were still busy tearing the cricket apart (they had successfully dismembered it, only the center of the body is left). It got placed at the dry cotton end on the other side of the straw (not with the fruit flies). I wonder if they are sorting the stored food.

I also recognized a role change - instead of 3 brood tenders and 1 forager/defender there now seem to be 2 brood tenders and 2 foragers/defenders (an aggressive one which is probably the older forager, and a more calm one that is always coming to help although it still often hangs around with the brood when there's nothing to do).
And their distribution of food is a bit hilarious as it often goes forager feeds queen -> queen feeds brood tender -> brood tender feeds brood. No idea why they are doing it that complicated, maybe they just love to share food with each other (although It might have something to do with them passing hormones to each other).

The larvae have so far been growing VERY slowly (the eggs where layed mid november so they're over 2 months old by now), I hope they pick up speed otherwise it's gonna take them 2-3 weeks to even pupate. Although my hopes are high since they have started taking food again and the queen layed an egg yesterday night (I couldn't have told from the size of the pile but well, she did it right in front of my eyes while the workers were cutting up the cricket) with probably more eggs incoming.
On another note I am amazed how clean these ants are. I had zero mold so far, neither in their old tube (where they lived for almost two months) nor in the new one.

In their old tube they pulled some cotton from the front plug to make a toilet area and in the new bigger tube they use the middle cotton ball for that. They only poop in dry places so it doesn't mold. And they store all their food in dry places (mostly the front plug) as well, so that doesn't mold either.
Well, so I bought a cup of fruit flies at the pet store and yesterday night I tried to give them to my ants.

I gently pushed them into their test tube and well, their reaction is best described with these memes:




They examined the fruit flies for a few minutes, then a worker took them and dumped them into the outworld (together with the remains of the cricket). At least these ants keep their home clean.

Later they got a few fruit flies from the "wild colony" in my kitchen and while they didn't break out in excitement, they didn't throw them away either. In fact they seemed mildly interested but probably they're still full (although they completely ate all the older kitchen fruit flies they still had in store when I last checked up on them). I hope they give them to the larvae so they get some more workforce soon.
Last edited by Serafine on Fri Feb 03, 2017 12:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Jodie liked this
So I tried something new. Three days ago I gave them red mosquito larvae (fish food) and some fruit flies. The mosquito larvae came dry (they were dry-frozen) so I put them in a cup of warm water that they get squishy again and easier for the ants to eat.
After the initial greeting ritual for unknown food ("I don't know you, here take some formic acid!") they ate two of the fruit flies and no idea what thy did with the mosquito larva, it just disappeared.

On the next day I tried a bit more and gave them two red mosquito larvae and a small cricket. They went completely crazy over the mosquito larvae to a point where for a short time all four workers went to the front of the tube to feed on them (something that has never happened before).
They completely consumed them (I could see the ants eating them like pretzel sticks) and when they were done they all looked like this:
(ants in the picture are Prenolepis imparis)

I didn't even know Camponotus workers could get that fat. Hopes are that this will accelerate their brood development which seems to take an eternity, however I've read that they develop slowly when below 28°C (currently they're at about 25°C), so we'll see what happens.
One larva is becoming really big (almost as big as the nanitic workers) and the others look like they had also grown a bit as well.
I was a bit worried about it first but they still seem to be okay two days later and after reading a bit into it this is apparently normal for Camponotus barbaricus.
They're also said to be very active ants that like to wander around a lot but I guess that applies more to older colonies - they have however found a drop of honey that was accidentally left on the side wall of the container and they've disposed several fruit fly remains at the far ends of the box so they have to be active during night to some degree.
Here is a picture series of the entire setup. Note that this is just a provisionally setup until the proper stuff arrives, although I intend to keep some large containers like this as part of their setup (I might even try to raise aphids in one).







Last edited by Serafine on Fri Feb 03, 2017 10:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
These are larger "party straws", not regular drinking straws. The queen actually fits through as well - I've seen her crawl into there a few times when they were in the smaller tube, she can't turn around but she's pretty good at walking backwards if needed (although I'm not entirely sure if she really still fits considering the bloated state she currently is in).

What is the purpose of having that straw there? Why not just take the cotton out what's the disadvantage of doing that?
Also why have cotton in the middle?

just trying to understand your setup, your obviously more informed on ants than I am so just trying to learn from you :)
zlez93 wrote:What is the purpose of having that straw there? Why not just take the cotton out what's the disadvantage of doing that?

The disadvantage is that the tube (which already is rather dry but that doesn't really matter since Camponotus are dry-loving ants) would loose humidity and dry out faster.
Also I'm very sure the ants can notice that they are in a rather enclosed setup (instead of one with a colossal opening) and feel safer there. Ants do not like too much air flow in their nesting space which is why it is often recommended to vent the outworld well so the ants won't nest there. Plus they really like to store food at the dry front cotton plug so it doesn't spoil.

zlez93 wrote:Also why have cotton in the middle?

Well, originally this was the old front plug of the old tube where all the fruit flies where stored. When they had to relocate because the old (smaller) tube ran dry I decided to put the plug into the new tube, together with all the fruit flies that stuck on it.
They haven't been very interested in fruit flies recently but the middle cotton ball still has the benefit that it effectively makes the tube a bit smaller (because it really is a bit huge for just five ants) and it sort of separates the tube into two chambers. Most of the time the ants are in the rear chamber while food is stored in the front chamber. That way I can add new food to the front chamber without immediately disturbing the queen (she hasn't left the rear chamber for weeks).
Michael wrote:How many workers do they have? 3?

Four workers (originally they were five but one was already dead when they arrived).

Michael wrote:You also could get rid of the straw and the cotton, and they will close the entrance with the sand of the arena as it pleases them most.
I did it as well, and one day they decided it is time to move out and demolished the wall so that the queen could fit through as well

I don't wanna disturb them too much now that they are finally developing their brood. Also they seem pretty satisfied with where they are and currently have nowhere to go anyway.
Wow, this is kinda outdated, so... update time!

Well, I tried a 15W heating cable but it didn't really work out. There was just a tiny bit of condensation at the top of the tube but after a while the workers started to extensively groom the larvae and what I think they did was they actually tried to cool them as the tube got too hot. Since the room is already at ~25°C and the ideal nest temperature for them is 24-28°C I won't heat them anymore. They should be fine with room temperature.

Also working with them got a bit tricky since they become some sort of Ferrari racing ants when the temperatures go higher.

Next thing is, these little creatures are smart. They've already learned that when their tube is shaking usually something "invades" their nest (= the food I push through the straw with a wooden stick). So as soon as I touch the tube one or two of the workers will run to the front chamber and stand guard which means I have to wait a few minutes until they calm down again before I can add any food to their tube (the queen doesn't care btw, it seems she always stays relaxed, even when two workers are running around like mad waving alarm flags).

I also had to clean out the front chamber of their tube (remove the cotton, brush everything out, wait until they calmed down, put cotton back in) since they wanted to dispose the crickets but weren't able to do so because the dried hardened legs didn't fit though the straw. As a result they now get legless crickets (I remove the legs before feeding them).

Adding a sugar water tube was a good idea, these ants drink sugars in bursts. The sugar water level doesn't change for days, then over night suddenly a huge portion goes missing.

Their appetite on protein is fine so far. After some fruit flies and crickets I caught a big spider in my kitchen which was feasting on the wild fruit flies there (it had almost the size of the queen). After a day in the freezer I removed the legs and put it into the tube. It got the regular greeting ("I don't know you, have some formic acid") and two of the workers seemed fairly interested. When I checked on them the next day the spider was gone. Like, literally gone. I can' find a trace of it anywhere, it completely disappeared. No idea what they did with it but the queen looking like a replete (her gaster is essentially transparent) is a good hint - I guess she just ate it entirely the way she likes to do with the fruit flies. Maybe the larvae ate some of the harder parts as well.

Speaking of the larvae, they have picked up in development. The largest one is now really big, larger than the nanitics (still no sign of it pupating though) and the smaller ones also have doubled in size. Plus a few days ago the queen laid a new batch of eggs.

Finally, yesterday I fed them some raspberries (actually it was two of the tiny bubbles that make up a raspberry and yes, they also got the acid greeting). It was really interesting to watch them eat these - they ripped off tiny bits by biting into it and then quickly pulling back, I've never seen them doing something like this before (wait, now that I'm mentioning it I did see this before when they encountered dead insect food - but I always thought that was more of a "is it dead?" test). They were pretty well-fed already so they didn't eat much but they pushed them to a dry cotton part which usually means they like it and wanna keep it so they can eat it later.

Since they are so extremely well-fed I decided to not disturb them at all for a week and just let them do their thing. Maybe I can report the first pupa then, or a new batch of larvae!
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