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Introduction & Overview

As a growingly popular species, Acromyrmex versicolor care has been developed to a point where most people can keep them! Colonies can reach up to 60 plus workers in just four months. This ant species can be very easy to care for and care can be very relaxed and more enjoyed.

 

Nuptial flights have been recorded to start from late July to late September. Mating aggregates happen around sunrise and queens will drop out of them and start digging their founding chambers. If you miss getting to the aggregates, queens can be collected while staill digging their chambers - although chances of gynes carrying fungal pellets will be lowered. Queens can also be collected at night while foraging up to a week later. If going the route where you collect days after a flight I would recommend going two days after a flight or later. Note that if you do collect queens while foraging you will need fungus to inoculate into the colonies.

 

This species is known to range from monogynous to fully polygynous depending on the region collected. It is common to see people founding colonies with multiple queens, but if the fungus is barely growing or dwindling, it is reccomended to seperate the co-foundress groups.

 

Fungus will be seen as growing within days of capture. eggs will come along shortly after as well. From flight to worker can be two months if kepts in a good setup with good conditions. It is common to see people keeping this species in the mid-70s (degrees Fehrenhiet). Though keeping them at 80 degrees does them well. An incubator that allows a constant temperature will have benifits over keeping at a fluctuating room temperature, but it's very minimal. Though if the temperature fluctuates too much it can have a negative effect on the fungus.

 

Acromyrmex versicolor has been documented to take a myriad of substrates (stuff used to feed the fungus). I use rose petals, clovers, and miscellaneous desert plants such as creosote, ocotillo, ironwood, and palo verde just to name a few. It was also noted that they will collect/utilize sugary nectar from Opuntia cacti extrafloral nectaries. This also was observed by colonies given liquid sugar feeders.

Some field observed substrates accepted are:

  • Palo verde (leaves, flowers)
  • Ironwood (leaves, flowers, fruit/seeds)
  • Mesquite (dry leaves, fruit/seeds)
  • Coachwhip (mainly dry leaves)
  • Burro weed/white bursage (leaves)
  • Creosote/ greasewood (Dry leaves)
  • Red-gland spurge (whole plant, flowers favored; taken fresh)
  • Four o’clock (whole plant, flowers favored; taken fresh/dead and dry)

(These are not all, not nearly all, documented plants that A. versicolor havebeen documented and recorded to collect in the wild. Small amounts of frass have been collected and even a fragment of snake shed.)

Some captive observed substrates accepted are:

  • rose petals
  • clovers
  • oats
  • cornmeal

(These also are not close to all the observed substrates taken.)

Common Name

Desert Leaf-Cutting Ant

Queen Size

8 mm

Worker Size

5 mm

Characteristics

Semi Claustral
Polymorphic
Fungus Growing

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Queen Identification

1. Queens will be 8 - 9 millimeters in lenght, with little variation.

2. The head is broader than long with more acute occipital corners than that of workers.

3. Pronotum has miniscule spines that point forwards and outwards.

4. Propodeum has two noticeable spines that face backwards and angle outwards are very consistent in thickness until coming to a point. They also are bent down.

5. Median postpetiole spines face upwards and are longer than the lateral spines.

6. Queens are ferruginous with blackened mesosoma edges, "forehead," and a balck stripe down the gaster.

Not easily confused with other species.

Founding setup

Founding setups should include a chamber for the fungus garden and a foraging area. The foraging area does best if the container is kept open-top. There needs to be no major concern about fertality as you should be collecting many dozens of queens. If the queen does not tend the fungus after anything you try it will not be worth it to try to get the colony to function. In co-foundress associations, some queens may not do anything besides feed on the fungu and be a general leech. Queens should forage on their own, but if not, you can add substrates to the fungus chamber in small quantities and the queen should use it to feed the fungus. Depending on where queens are collected they can be monogynous, secondary monogynous, pleometrotic, or fully polygynous. Messing up this stage could include using an improper setup or not coltrolling any substrate that possibly has molded. There is no need to put sand or dirt in the setups.

Temperature

70F (21) - 80F (27C)

Humidity

Mid-80s to 90s; will be if left at low 80s for a period of time.

Temperature can range from 70s to 80 degrees; will even tolerate just above 80 degrees. Dspdrew had mentioned that he noticed fungus growth at mid-80s and below. If the temperature is too hot you will see the fungus turning dark, drying out, and rapidly decreasing in size. If it is too cold the fungus will barely grow and brood will slowly develop. Humidity, if too high, can actually be harmful to the fungus due to condensation. With that being said anything above 80% will be good. As long as the setup stays watered the humidity should be high enough. Though, you do not want water to be pooling on the fungus chamber floor.

Time to first workers

5-12 weeks.

Sensitivity concerns

Temperature.

Queens seem to settle quite readily. From Rebecca Clarks paper on her study of A. versicolor, workers can arrive as soon as five weeks and take as long as 12 weeks from flight to worker. Temperature can affect this development. Gynes should accept any setup.

Tubs and tubes

Tub and tube colony care goes for all setups such as the superior deli cup setup or even petri dish setups. When workers eclose, they will soon help forage and tend to the fungus. Since the workers and queen get most of their sustenance from the fungus and water from the fungus chamber floor, there is no need to try to provide any food. Just top off the foraging container with substrate as needed. If there is condensation then nanitics could drown, but even more seriously the fungus can be damaged. Fluon and other common barriers work for containing this species - obviously a lid works as well. If the ants pile trash and substrate in the fungus chamber remove it due to the likelihood that it will mold and can cause issues with the ants' fungus.

Formicarium

A deli cup setup or petri dish setup will last a colony for a few months or so. After the point where the cup is full of fungus, you can move the fungus and workers into a larger fungus chamber, though if the chamber is too big the workers may not forage and you will have to sprinkle substrates on the fungus. For all fungus chambers a wetted floor is needed to provide humidty and drinking hydration. A heating gradient can be used if the foraging container is kept warmer than the fungus chamber. The fungus chamber can be kept at a variation, but it seems unneeded. As the fungus grows larger the substrate intake will increase to maintain the fungus, but to also gorw it. I would not put invertebrates in the foraging area. The foraging area can be kept bare or can have a plaster floor or even a sand floor.

Notes

This species has been increasingly growing in popularity and more people have been catching them and having higher success. There is tons of papers done on this species, currently almost 30. I do reccomend reading them all as there is tons of useful information that can guide experimentation and help your common sense with this species. A common misunderstanding and misconception would be that the fungus chamber needs extremely high humidity when in fact it does not and this misconception can lead to harmful condensation.

Final Thoughts

Experiment heavily with this species, with stuff such as substrates that promote best fungus growth, setups, etc.

 

Acromyrmex versicolor

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