The ants can dig their own nest just like they do in the wild and as far as i can tell, there is a whole lot more activity in general.
Every time i feed a colony, i can see them expanding their entrances to drag their prey beneath the surface.
Also, additional creatures like woodlice, springtails, earthworms and millipedes can be introduced to keep the setup free from organic waste and preventing mould or mites etc. I also have real plants in the setups.
Ever since I use these setups, i had a hard time checking on the queen(s) of a colony to see if she is okay.
I just had an idea that works great for me.
I started heating my 3 colonies in the soil setups about 2 to 3 weeks ago.
I attached a test tube setup wrapped in aluminum foil on a piece of tubing to the tank with the soil.
I only heat the test tube, not the tank itself.
I did that right after the hibernation period, the test tube is therefore the warmest spot available to the colony.
The queen(s) are instinctively going for the warm spot and every now and then i can pull the cover off to see if the queen moved in.
Once i saw the queen is alive and healthy, i expose the test tube to light and heat the tank instead.
Once all ants moved out, i detach the test tube and block the port on the tank, knowing that that the queen(s) survived the hibernation okay.
It should also be possible to leave the test tube attached to have a dedicated "queen chamber", but i chose not to do that. I just want to know once per year if the queen(s) are okay.
Here are 3 videos
It worked fine for the Formica cunicularia
and the Lasius niger.
The Myrmica queen did not show herself yet
Once she does, i will post a video link here.
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Lasius niger and flavus
Myrmica cf. scabrinodis