Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Profile of Leptogenys in Singapore. (Updated 17/10/19)

Profile of the ant genus, Leptogenys in Singapore:

Brief description of Leptogenys ants

Leptogenys are a huge genus of ants under the subfamily, Ponerinae and are found in abundance throughout tropical and sub-tropical climates, making Singapore a nice spot for them. These ants are slim in body shape, ranging from a few millimeters to 1.5cm and possess sickle-like jaws, along with a sting. Leptogenys are sometimes called 'army ants' but do not confuse them with the ants under the subfamily Dorylinae for they are not related. They are called 'army ants' as some species are normally seen in huge numbers forming trails across the forest floor, however there are also species that prefer to work beneath the leaf litter and soil. Like the army ants under the subfamily Dorylinae, they swarm their prey in great numbers, biting and stinging (being a member of the subfamily Ponerinae, Leptogenys ants possesses a sting) them. Unlike the army ants in the subfamily Dorylinae however, they are quite picky and mostly specialize in a few types of prey in the wild such as isopods, which their sickle-like jaws make quick work of.  Most species have ergatoid (a wingless reproductive caste that workers could even take up, sort of like gamergates) queens, meaning a female Leptogenys alate would be very rare or impossible to find. They do have a drone caste, where males fly to other colonies to mate with the ergatoid gyne  after being brought inside the nest by the workers. Due to the replacement of winged queens in this genus, founding a colony is not possible and the only way to get a colony is through legal trading between hobbyists, along with catching a colony not from state land or in a park (protected areas). 
(Picture: Leptogenys processionalis trying out a piece of mealworm)

Author's comment: I apologise if the pictures are low quality! These are old media and are mostly cut from videos, I'll try to update this post some time with the better images.

Care of Leptogenys ants



If you have overcame the difficulty of obtaining a colony, you will be faced with another issue, which is their care. The main issue with Leptogenys is that they are picky eaters, being specialized in certain prey items in the wild such as isopods. In the hobby, we can't offer such foods in such high numbers and most of the time have only commercial feeders such as crickets and mealworms. I've found that House Crickets (Acheta domesticus) are rejected most of the time, despite being offered either whole or cut up. However, nymphs are usually accepted, with chances of them accepting being higher if the nymph is live as shown in the pictures on the right. The feeder I had the most success with are Red runner roaches (Blatta lateralis) which they accept immediately as shown below with my colony dragging half of a red runner back to their nest. My friends had success with cut-up mealworms and I have not tried superworms. It's really interesting to see to see one worker make contact with the food item, followed by another and soon the whole colony starts flooding out. I could see why they're sometimes called 'army ants'.

In terms of setup, fortunately, Leptogenys are not hard to house. They are normally shallow diggers and nest under wood, rocks or in crevices. One important factor to note while housing these ants is humidity which they require a high level of. Moisture retaining substrate and constant misting comes to mind. I always recommend peatmoss as a substrate as it holds moisture well and mimics the pH of the soil in a rainforest, making it comfortable for forest species such as Leptogenys. White aquarium sand or perlite can be mixed in to provide visibility for ourselves and make the substrate more varied for the ants to work with. Ytong and plaster formicariums are recommended if you're going for a non-naturalistic setup for they hold moisture well. Place a little bit of substrate in the formicarium and hydrate every 1-2 days for ideal humidity levels. I cannot stress how important substrate is important for genus of ants under the subfamily Ponerinae, considering how they aid the larvae in spinning their cocoons and most species have 'slippy-feet', meaning they have trouble walking over smooth surfaces, Leptogenys is no exception. If you're going for a naturalistic set-up, it could be as simple as a piece of wood for them to nest under which is what I did for one of my colonies. With their moisture-loving nature in mind, decorations such as moss could be added and serve as water-holder, along with plants as they could be kept hydrated often. Going for the complicated side, Leptogenys is a good candidate for a paludarium with a wide land space.  (Pictures: A colony of Leptogenys processionalis being temporarily housed in a test-tube)


Species of Leptogenys in Singapore (Under construction!)

 In my knowledge, there is about 3-4 species of Leptogenys but I have only encountered 2 while there are still findings yet to be properly identified in Singapore.

Leptogenys processionalis: 

This is the most common and possibly the smallest species of Leptogenys you would come across in Singapore. These ants measure at about 7-8mm and are a shiny brownish-black. They are normally found under rocks and wood in the wild. I've encountered some colonies nesting near water-bodies such as small rain-ponds. I've been using this species as examples for all the information above and this is the only species I've ever kept so far. They are not that demanding compared to other uncommon ant species in the hobby, just keep the care information above in mind. 
(Picture: Leptogenys processionalis trying out a piece of mealworm)

Leptogenys kraepelini(?):

I've only encountered this species once and never again for the 2 years I've been in this hobby. I was on the search for Odontomachus rixosus to photograph, as I squatted down to observe one, an individual Leptogenys diminuta sprinted by and luckily, I managed to scoop it up. This is a large species of Leptogenys, measuring to be about 1.2cm with an orange tip where the stinger is, possibly the largest species of Leptogenys in Singapore. They look really much like a skinny Diacamma. According to a friend who have encountered a colony of this species in the wild, they are really aggressive when it comes to food and defense. I'm pretty sure for their size, they are a force to be reckoned with. I hope to be able to encounter this species again and observe them for myself.  (Pictures: the individual I caught.)

Leptogenys myops and pompiloides:

These are two species found in recordings of Singapore biodiversity and the specimens are drones, not workers. I believe these two species are small and forage beneath the leaf litter, making them really hard to find. From what I know, pompiloides has a brown tint compared to processionalis while myops is reddish-brown, looking more like some sort of dracula ant. I've yet to encounter these species and since they are recorded in online databases, I believe these two are present in Singapore. 

Conclusion

Overall, Leptogenys prove to be a very interesting oddball in the Ponerinae subfamily with their ergatoid gynes and 'army ant' behaviour. Due to their nature, they are a really fun species to keep and observe as they swarm their prey, unlike your off-the-mill individual foraging workers of other Ponerines such as Trap-jaws, but each species have their own charm definitely. A big thank you to my friend Yuxuan and his classmates, who owns the Euponera sharpi blog (http://euponera-sharpi.blogspot.com/2018/05/guide-to-keeping-euponera-sharpi.html) for the macro shots of their Leptogenys processionalis colony! Of course, a big thank you to you, dear reader and I hope that you've learnt something new from this blog or that it helps you with your colonies! If there is any queries regarding this post, feel free to email me or leave a comment! - Isaac Ong. 




Saturday, 18 May 2019

Profile of Odontoponera ants in Singapore (Updated 17/6/2019)

Profile of Odontoponera ants of Singapore:

Brief description on Odontoponera ants

Odontoponera is a small genus of ants consisting of 2 species and 3 subspecies under the subfamily Ponerinae and occur in South-east Asia. Odontoponera does not really have a common name but some call them the "Toothed ponera". Odontoponera are large, predatory and scavengeing ants, reaching sizes of 1.3cm for both species, possessing formidable defenses such as having a tough exoskeleton and offensive weapons like a stinger along with strong serrated mandibles which gives them the nick-name "toothed ponera". They are known to carry liquid droplets in their jaws to carry back to the nest similar to Diacamma ants. In Singapore, they are one of the most common ponerines people would see running around as they can be found at urban areas like void decks to forested areas like nature reserves. In Singapore, we have the two main species of Odontoponera. O. denticulata and transversa, which this blog shall cover. 
Odontoponera transversa workers fighting.

Care of founding Odontoponera queens

Odontoponera, like all Ponerines, are semi-claustral, which means the queen forages for food to feed herself and her young during the founding stage before getting workers. Odontoponera are not picky ants in my experience and are more likely to charge at a food item than to cautiously approach it like an Odontomachus (Trapjaw) ant. I've fed my queens feeders such as crickets, mealworms, red runner roaches and dubia roaches which I feed every 1-3 days. They also appreciate a swab of honey occasionally and sometimes I give them small chunks of protein jelly. In the photo here, is my first ever O. transversa queen feeding on a chunk of cricket meat. In terms of setup, theirs are very similar to Odontomachus trapjaw ants and are more forgiving in terms of setup differences. The best setup for a founding queen is the basic test-tube setup along with substrate. I personally use peatmoss and perlite alone, or I mix them with sand for Odontoponera as normal gardening soil may contain pesticides and unwanted hitchhikers which might harm the queen. Odontoponera have "slippy-feet", which means they can't grip well on slippery surfaces and can't climb such surfaces, examples include plastic, acrylic and glass. Along with that, Odontoponera larvae benefit from the presence of substrate in their setups greatly by using them to assist in spinning a cocoon when they pupate, similar to most Ponerine ants. So substrate is of utmost importance. For Odontoponera, humidity I would recommend around the mid level, which a TT setup should offer quite nicely. No additional moisturizing of the substrate required. I find Ponerines don't last long in a dry setup with low humidity for long as that causes the eggs to develop slowly or not at all. Odontoponera like most ponerines, appreciate high humidity and a moist set-up. However, in a TT- setup, high humidity will increase chances of mold which is unsightly and perhaps even maggots if your feeders carry the eggs of Phorid flies. Plus, Odontoponera are messy eaters, shredding their food to many pieces. An outworld would be pretty nice for any semi-claustral queen in my opinion despite it not being needed. If you do provide an outworld, do lay out substrate such as sand for the queen to have easy travel. A food dish for honey and protein would compliment well, along with decorations such as pebbles and moss. A barrier such as vaseline to keep out feral ants such as Tapinoma melanocephalum (ghost ants), is important.

Odontoponera species in singapore

Singapore is home to the two main species of Odontoponera, denticulata and transversa. Odontoponera transversa is the rarer species in Singapore, occurring in forests and the edges of nature reserves. While Odontoponera denticulata can be found just about anywhere, HDB flats, parks etc. The workers may be common, but the queens are relatively rare. I find their nuptials a little hard to track or come across and most of my founding queens are actually de-alates (wingless queens) running around, possibly ones that are scouting for food or a place to stay. Workers and queens look almost alike and are even similar in sizes. The only obvious difference is the thorax, which the queens have a humongous one as compared to the workers. But from afar, it's hard to differentiate and thus, people can't seem to catch these ants due to poor ID skills.



Odontoponera denticulata: This is the most common species of Ponerine overall in my experience and also the more common species of Odontoponera in Singapore. The picture on the right is my first ever O.denticulata queen and as you can see, there are eggs and larvae in the back. The pictures above is a queen before and after shedding it's wings from a friend. Odontoponera denticulata is IDed by queens and large workers attaining sizes of up to 1.3cm. The workers are normally larger on average compared to workers of O.transversa. All castes of the species are black in coloration. The teeth(serrations) on the mandibles are shorter compared to transversa.








Odontoponera transversa: This is the rarer species of Odontoponera in Singapore due to it being restricted to forests, nature parks and reserves. But I was lucky enough to come across the queen of this species before my first denticulata queen, without even knowing what it is. The big giveaway between denticulata and transversa is that transversa is red in coloration. While queens may appear black, they often let off a ruby red sheen under adequate lighting. Workers are smaller than denticulata workers, being around 1cm in length while queens are large, around the sizes of denticulata queens of around 1.3-1.4cm. The teeth on O.transversa mandibles are longer and that to me, they look  like scythes. Pictures on the bottom are one of my transversa queens while the picture on the top right is from a friend. 



Some observations in captivity and in the wild

One funny observation I've made between my denticulata and transversa queens is that, transversa are more "civilized" in eating their food while denticulata just shreds whatever they want to eat. When I offer honey, the queens would carry droplets in their jaws, balancing them at the back of their mandibles, back to their nests to enjoy slowly. Very similar to Diacamma. In the wild, Odontoponera ants from what I've seen are very versatile. They could easily overpower most similar-sized ants due to their extraordinary offence and defense capabilities. However since they hunt alone most of the time, they are vulnerable to getting ganged on by other ants. Speaking of Diacamma, Diacamma occur in most of the habitats Odontoponera thrive as well and I would say these two are Ponerine rivals. Both put up quite a good fight against each other and only the largest Diacamma species in Singapore, scalpratum, could overpower one quickly, but still not without difficulties. Odontoponera are more on the bold side of ants, they aren't really cautious when it comes to feeding and would willingly charge at my tweezers when I open the test-tube to feed/clear leftovers. I wish to maintain a nice sized colony to observe when I have the space. 

Gamergates: Odontoponera, being Ponerines, have the ability to possess gamergates. Unfortunately, I believe this species is not developed well in that field as from what I've seen, the eggs are all not fertile or won't even hatch. 

Worker lifespan and egg-worker duration: Workers can live for a good 2 months and above in a matured colony. While the egg-worker duration can take 1.5months and longer.

Drones: Odontoponera drones are very similar to Odontomachus drones. Just that their drones are more robust. larger and have a thicker pair of antennae. (Picture on the right: O.denticulata drone)

Conclusion

Odontoponera ants are actually great beginner semi-claustral Ponerinae ants. Not picky eaters and can handle a little set-up neglect. This genus has a lot of personality and it would be awesome to maintain a small colony. Thanks for reading this post of mine! I would appreciate any discussion or feedback. :) - Isaac 

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Profile of Diacamma (Queenless ants) in Singapore (Updated: 29/9/2019)

Introduction

Diacamma, also known by the common name queenless ants, are a genus of ants under the subfamily Ponerinae and that possess formidable weaponry such as a stinger. They also go by another common name of dinosaur ants, but that can be misleading as the common name "dinosaur ant" can be applied to several other genus of ants across the world such as Dinoponera from South America. Like the common name "queenless ants" suggests, they do not have a queen caste in the colony. How do they reproduce you may ask. Diacamma reproduce through a reproductive worker using the scientific term "gamergate". Diacamma have a system where most species would mutilate all but a few workers of their reproductive organs as long as there is a gamergate present. The gamergate is referred to as an "alpha queen" while the few chosen ones are the "beta queens" which replace the alpha queen if she dies. When the alpha queen dies, the re-election occurs and the betas will fight among one another, and thus the winner will get chosen by the rest as the gamergate. The losers will either die, be mutilated or remain as a beta queen for the future alpha death. This newly chosen gamergate that is infertile will then go to the entrance of their nest and put out a strong pheromone to attract males and that's how they work. (all newly eclosed workers have that reproductive organs, called the gemmae.) Well this means they have no queen alates flying during their nuptial flights, only males. (Picture: Diacamma pallidum from my former colony)

Obtaining and caring of Diacamma colonies

Now since they do not have any queen alates during a nuptial flight which you can't raise to give you a colony, obtaining a colony is going to require a sense of responsibility. One way to obtain a colony is looking under rocks and logs/wood by lifting them up and scooping them up in a container, make sure you get brood and at least a double digit worker count, do not take more than you need/want. Please be aware of your surroundings that you are not hunting in a heavily protected area such as NParks areas which probably have rangers patrolling around and that you are accountable for yourself if you are caught. Leave all rocks and logs back in their original position. 

Now caring for Diacamma has a lot of ups and downs, in that they are easy to feed but yet needy in terms of mating. Remember I talked about how they are gamergates and that a male would fly to their nest in the wild due to the new gamergate's pheromones? In captivity, there is no way a male would fly into your house unless you live right beside another colony. You're going to need males from another colony as they do not mate with their own colony's males. This can be done by hunting for males or obtaining them from a fellow antkeeper, provided they have the same species as yours.
Feeding wise, Diacamma are relatively easy to feed as they accept almost every form of insect protein and sugar. I feed my Diacamma crickets, mealworms, roaches such as red runners and dubia, and honey which they all enjoy. Diacamma seem to have no trouble taking down live prey, especially in a group due to their weaponry and speed, yes Diacamma have bursts of speed when encountering a prey item as if they are leaping. It's still best to cut up or pre-kill potentially dangerous prey such as adult crickets, whose powerful jaws could easily chew up an ant if they are not wary. Sugary items such as honey are good for Diacamma, who use their mandibles to carry droplets of it back to the nest to share with their fellow siblings. Make sure the item you are offering is natural and safe for the ants.
Accomodation: Diacamma seem to do better in a naturalistic set up compared to formicariums, as for my case, my Diacamma pallidum refused to lay eggs in a Ytong formicarium, until someone adviced to move to a natural set up with substrate they can dig in and so I did, within a few days, there were piles of eggs! But now my Diacamma rugosum is doing well in a diy Ytong formicarium. I'm not sure what the explanation is but I believe they do need substrate in their nesting space and outworld, such as peat and perlite which is my preferred choice for almost all my ants. They do like medium to high humidity, so I water their nest every 2-3 days. I also provide sphagnum moss, which holds moisture well in and outside their nesting space.

The species of Diacamma in Singapore (under construction)

From my observations, research and experiences. Singapore has about four species of Diacamma and I have only encountered three of them. Diacamma are also hard to differentiate due to little differences in the workers' overview, but you have to look at the smaller details and soon you will be used to IDing them like a pro. 

Diacamma rugosum: 

Diacamma rugosum is the most common and smallest species of Diacamma in Singapore. With workers ranging in at  between 1 to 1.2cm from tip of the mandible to the end of the gaster. From what I can see also, they are the wimpiest Diacamma, running away from live prey even just their size, but I guess it depends on the individual as my colony does attack live prey as big as an semi-adult red runner which is bigger than them.

Diacamma pallidum: 


This is a larger species compared to Diacamma rugosum, ranging in at about 1.3-4cm. They look awfully similar to rugosum but that they are stockier in their build, especially the thorax area. This species are not as common compared to rugosum as they are normally found in the more forested areas while rugosum can be found in a normal park. This species is aggressive in hunting and will charge at almost anything it deems prey with a burst of speed, almost as if it is leaping. 

Diacamma scalpratum:

This is the largest known Diacamma species in Singapore and possibly the world! With workers ranging in at an average of 1.5cm to 1.7cm, they are as large as an Camponotus irritans queen! They are recognizable not only through their size, but a brownish-golden tint on their abdomen as well. Highly aggressive species and similar in behavior to D.pallidum.


Diacamma geometricum:

I have not encountered this species before, but I heard from a friend that kept them. They are a member of the Diacamma rugosum group, meaning they have similar builds and they measure in at about 1.2cm. They have brownish tint on their abdomen and thorax. They are an aggressive species when it comes to prey and territory. 

Conclusion

Diacamma are tough to come across but once you obtain a colony, it's going to be a really fun and interesting experience considering that they're different from your everyday ants in their reproduction! I hope you, dear reader, can learn something from this post! - Isaac Ong

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Usually encountered ant genus in SG that are claustral or semi-claustral and what to feed them?

This is a small list of what genus-es in Singapore are claustral and what are semi-claustral and what to feed. Not all are included in the list, the ones included are mostly the more well-known/encountered ones.

Claustral queens

- Most Camponotus sp
-Pheidole
-Carebara
-Iridomyrmex
-Meranoplus
-Nylanderia
-Anoplolepis
-Paratrechina
-Tapinoma
-Monomorium
-Dinomyrmex
-Crematogaster
-Dolichoderus
-Oecophylla 
-Solenopsis
-Technomyrmex
-Pseudolasius
-Trichomyrmex

Semi-Claustral Queens
-Odontomachus, feed mostly protein such as cut up crickets, superworms, 
mealworms and roaches. Honey is alright for giving although they don't really need it during the founding stage.

-Odontoponera, same as Odontomachus.

-Anochetus, feed tiny bits of protein such as cut up feeder insects and that the portions suit their size.

-Colobopsis and arboreal Camponotus, they are scavenger ants so they are alright with less feedings compared to hunting ants of the Ponerine family. Feed them honey and feeder insect parts.

-Tetramorium, same as Anochetus.

-Pretty much every single Ponerine, feed them mostly protein and make sure to match the portions to their size.

-Tetraponera, they are a bit picky when it comes to food so give them a wide variety of different feeder insects, cut up of course. They also appreciate honey.

-Dracula ants such as Myopopone and Stigmatomma, feeder insects such as crickets will be good, cut up. 

-Polyrhachis, they are also picky, so feed a variety of feeder insects and offer them honey, which they love.

Still under construction!!





Monday, 4 June 2018

Profile of Tetraponera(Twig ants) in Singapore

Image result for tetraponera allaborans


Profile of Tetraponera species in Singapore:

Brief description on Tetraponera (Twig ants)
Tetraponera is a genus of ants under the subfamily of Pseudomyrmecinae which consists of slender, arboreal, twig-living ants. They can be found in sizes ranging from 0.6cm to around 1.5cm for the largest ones in Singapore, but most likely smaller. This genus is well known for their body shape which is really slender and they are sometimes called slender ants too. These ants possess a sting and are really aggressive, not letting go of whatever they catch, stinging them into submission. Their sting pain level has not been recorded down on the Schmidt pain index but I have experienced it and the pain to me is at least a 2 and above. In Singapore, there is quite a few species of Tetraponera and here is how to care for them. (picture: Tetraponera allaborans)

Care of queens during founding stage
Tetraponera are quite hard to keep in captivity due to their sensitivity to humidity levels just like weaver ants (Oecophylla smaragdina) for all kind of ant keepers, be it beginner or experienced. If a Tetraponera queen were to be caught, it should be placed in a typical test tube setup placed in or connected to an outworld, preferably with some substrate in the test tube and a little in the outworld, of course with a barrier for they can climb. The outworld should contain sticks like satay sticks or even wooden chopsticks for the queens to climb around since they are arboreal. The reason for the outworld too is that they are semi-claustral, which reduces the chance of getting stung by your queen, and providing an outworld allows for easier feeding and cleaning. Feeding wise, Tetraponera are not that picky and are known to be great hunters in the wild. In captivity, they appreciate sweets like honey and for protein, they are alright with roaches, crickets, meal and superworms. Make sure to cut the food up smaller than the queen size! Tetraponera need to be fed around 1-3 days and make sure to clean up any garbage. Why substrate is preferred you may ask and what kind? Well in the wild these ants will go down to the base of their tree to collect substrate to fill their nest and construct entrances. To me, normal soil is not a good choice of substrate for any kind of ant, due to them having a high chance of many other creatures like mites making it unsafe, even when boiled/baked, which is only short term as those creatures can easily come back and breed fast in the normal soil. Substrate choices include peatmoss and perlite, sand or even flat broken pieces of twigs/branches. (warning: Please do not boil or bake peatmoss! They will catch on fire! Also please rinse the sand and dry it). A thing I suggest is that providing them a twig or so with a nice hollow inside and that can be a substitute for testtube setups, but this will limit visibility and of course, you need to clean the twig. 
Tetraponera species of Singapore
 Singapore has about 5 species of Tetraponera to my knowledge now. But there is sure to be more to be found and discovered! The 5 species I know now is: Tetraponera rufonigra, Tetraponera nitida, Tetraponera allaborans, Tetraponera extenuata and Tetraponera pilosa.

Tetraponera rufonigra: The largest Tetraponera known in Singapore currently and also the most common Tetraponera species most people will find be it through finding them on tree trunks, plants, on the ground or through getting stung for they have one of the most painful sting out of every ant in Singapore! 


The picture on the left shows my previous Tetraponera rufonigra queen using her front legs to clean herself, that's why she is rising up, almost like a praying mantis. Tetraponera rufonigra, like all Tetraponera-s, are hard to be distinguished between the queen and worker caste for they have very similar body shape, but in the picture, you can clearly see the wing scars on the thorax and the fact the thorax is larger than a worker, which is shown below. Care wise, Tetraponera rufonigra will be the main example of the care given to all Tetraponera here, following the founding care info above.



 Tetraponera nitida: Tetraponera nitida is the second most common species that ant keepers in Singapore will encounter. It is a small fully black species of Tetraponera unlike the brightly coloured rufonigra. Care: take special note to prevent the escape of this species! They seem to be able to climb past baby powder with some effort. Also to give a smaller setup to match their size, still following the founding care info above. Pictures: Tetraponera nitida worker. 

Tetraponera allaborans, extenuata and pilosa: These 3 sections is under construction for I have little information on them and have yet to encounter them. All 3 of them from what I know however, are similar in size and colour to Tetraponera nitida.


Long term setups
Once your Tetraponera has raised tens of workers, you're definitely going to need to have bigger setup ready for them. Tetraponera seems to hate typical formicariums like AAC and acrylic as they die often in them. Setups like wood setups should be used for Tetraponera coupled with substrate like peat and perlite for them. The setups should have climbing areas as well for they are an arboreal species. Another setup that could work is those test-tube formicariums used for species like Weaver ants (Oecophylla smaragdina) and Polyrhachis species. Escape preventions: Tetraponera are medium sized ants for most species so baby powder works most of the time but make sure it's thin and dry for smaller species like nitida! A water moat may not be successful in keeping them in for they are able to paddle their way throught the water, but a oil moat should work. Raid preventions: Tetraponera may be aggressive with weaponry like a powerful sting, they are susceptible to raids from small ants like the infamous Tapinoma melanocephalum ghost ants and Monomorium species. A thick layer of petroleum gel (vaseline) should keep them out, but make sure to replace the vaseline often. An oil moat will work too. 


Conclusion
Tetraponera are a very interesting species to keep due to their body shape, behaviour and nesting style. I wish to keep a colony but that will happen later into my antkeeping as for now, I am focusing on ponerines. Good luck to everyone who wants to find a species of this genus,but make sure to not get stung by one, especially rufonigra! 

Citations: Tetraponera allaborans picture retrieved from https://www.google.com.sg/imgres?imgurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.antstore.net%2Fshop%2Fimages%2Fproduct_images%2Fpopup_images%2Ftetraponera_allaborans-queen.jpg&imgrefurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.antstore.net%2Fshop%2Fen%2Fants%2FAnts-from-Asia%2FTetraponera-allaborans.html&docid=n20-gqxdUbJdAM&tbnid=NFilek7rgsdcDM%3A&vet=10ahUKEwie28ixgLrbAhXVSH0KHWbZAygQMwgzKAEwAQ..i&w=1024&h=768&bih=675&biw=1366&q=tetraponera%20allaborans&ved=0ahUKEwie28ixgLrbAhXVSH0KHWbZAygQMwgzKAEwAQ&iact=mrc&uact=8

Tetraponera rufonigra worker picture retrieved from https://www.google.com.sg/imgres?imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.antwiki.org%2Fwiki%2Fimages%2Fthumb%2F5%2F5d%2FTetraponera_rufonigra_worker%252C_Malaysia%252C_Nicholas_Tan_%25281%2529.jpg%2F450px-Tetraponera_rufonigra_worker%252C_Malaysia%252C_Nicholas_Tan_%25281%2529.jpg&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.antwiki.org%2Fwiki%2FTetraponera_rufonigra&docid=aRou5Dxd3sukaM&tbnid=Xs09sBGHtijF0M%3A&vet=10ahUKEwii3dnAgLrbAhXWQ30KHUXACT0QMwgyKAAwAA..i&w=450&h=300&bih=675&biw=1366&q=tetraponera%20rufonigra&ved=0ahUKEwii3dnAgLrbAhXWQ30KHUXACT0QMwgyKAAwAA&iact=mrc&uact=8

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Profile of Odontomachus(Trapjaw ants) species in Singapore. (Updated:12/5/2019)

Profile of Odontomachus species of Singapore:

Brief description of Odontomachus Trapjaw ants
Odontomachus Trapjaw ants are under the subfamily of Ponerinae and are well known for having the fastest moving predatory appendage in the animal kingdom and their speed has been recorded to close at around 200 km/h . Odontomachus ants are also famous and easily identified in the ant-keeping community. They can be recognized for their medium to large size of around 1cm and above for most species and of course their notable trap-jaw which are held at 180 degrees when they are ready to strike that has a few small trigger hairs which when touched, the jaws snap down on whatever is unfortunate to be in strike zone. They also possess a sting which is quite painful and has been recorded to be a level 2 on the Schmidt's sting pain index. 
Image result for odontomachusOdontomachus Haematodus worker.
Care of Queens during founding stage
Trapjaw ants are quite a challenge to keep in captivity, especially for those who started out and are not sure what to do when they caught a Trapjaw queen. Trapjaw queens should be placed in a test tube setup with substrate as Trapjaws have "slippy feet" and can't grip on to your test tube material which is either plastic or glass, this stresses out the queen as she keeps slipping when she is trying to move. Another reason why substrate is important is that the larvae would use the substrate as a coating when spinning its cocoon and it greatly benefits the larvae. Personally, I do not like using normal soil for Trapjaws as normal soil could contain pests like mites and possibly toxic or parasites if coming from the outdoors. Trapjaws also like airy substrate if they were to dig, so normal soil is quite a bad choice, at least in my opinion. My preferred substrate to use would be peat and perlite (carnivorous plant growers would know what they are) as the peat is a good digging medium while the perlite helps makes the medium airy. Another good choice for an airy substrate would be crushed walnut shells although it is quite expensive. I've seen people had success using sand for Trapjaws during founding stage and mixed with crushed walnut shells when they are a bigger colony. 
Odontomachus queens are semi-claustral, which means they need to be fed during their founding stage to feed the queen herself and her larvae. I've heard people having trouble feeding their Trapjaws as they are picky eaters. But to me, they are very easy to feed. For a founding queen, you need to cut up any insects/arachnids you are going to offer to her as she would not only be afraid as the food is smaller than her, but also she will get to the insides easier and that's all the queen will ever eat. I use crickets for my Trapjaws and it works great. Trapjaws need to be fed every 1 to 3 days and you have to make sure you clear any garbage from previous feedings or mold will form. For sweet stuffs, Trapjaws do not really need anything sweet during their founding stage as offering honey in a test tube is quite troublesome (to me at least). But they do appreciate abit of honey if you were to offer them in either the test tube or outworld.


Polygyny and gamergates in Odontomachus
Odontomachus species in Singapore have been known to have gamergates for they are ponerines. But it is highly under studied other than the occasional observation of workers laying eggs. It has been recorded to be both fertile and infertile. Odontomachus are able to have multiple queens, this holds true for O.rixosus, which are a polygynous species. For the common O.simillimus however, it is much safer to introduce queens whom are sisters. I was able to form up to 8 queens before and any more introduction resulted in deaths. It is still best to raise them separately. 

Odontomachus species of Singapore
Singapore has a few species of Odontomachus. I only know of 3 species in Singapore which are, Odontomachus Simillimus (Common Trapjaw ant), Odontomachus Rixosus (Jumping Trapjaw ant) and Odontomachus Malignus. But most likely there is much more species waiting to be discovered.

Odontomachus Simillimus (Common Trapjaw ant): This is probably the most common Odontomachus species that most people have caught over here in Singapore. Odontomachus Simillimus are identified easily by their fully black bodies which have a red sheen under bright light. Workers can reach about 1cm in length and queens can reach a little longer than that at around 1.2cm. I currently have about 6 queens, 4 fertile and 2 infertile. I have no workers yet but I do have pupae for one of the queens. (sorry for blur pictures)



Pic 1 (left): Test tube setup for Trapjaws.

           Pic 2(right): De-alate queen of Odontomachus Simillimus with eggs, larvae and pupae.








Pic 3 (left): Odontomachus Simillimus
eggs and larvae.

Pic 4 (right): 
Odontomachus
Simillimus pupae

Pic 5(below):
Alate queen of  Odontomachus
Simillimus

Odontomachus haematodus: This section has been removed for Odontomachus haematodus does not occur in Southeast-Asia and thus Singapore.

Image result for odontomachus rixosusOdontomachus rixosus (Jumping Trapjaw ant): Odontomachus Rixosus is currently one of the rarest ants in Singapore as no one from what I know has a colony and only a lucky few have spotted or caught an alate queen but had been unsuccessful in raising a colony most probably due to infertility. Odontomachus Rixosus is also one of the few ants being able to jump in Singapore, others include Harpegnathos Venator, similar to the Jumping jack Myrmecia of Australia. Rixosus are also easy to identify with their size being similar to Simillimus where workers are around 1cm and queens are a little larger, they are mostly orange and red in coloration with a little of black. Their jaws are also what makes them recognizable with about 3 frontal tooth on each mandible, with the middle teeth protruding. (Picture:Odontomachus Rixosus Queen and Worker.)
Odontomachus Rixosus are actually a polygynous species, meaning they are able to have multiple queens in the colony. Odontomachus Rixosus has been recorded living with Pheidole Tandjongensis in other parts of the world, not Singapore, for unkown reasons.
Care wise, I have obtained a small group of O. rixosus without a queen as an observation colony and housed them in a 45cm x 21cm x 18cm glass tank, with a diy formicarium, multiple wood, Fittonia plants and a soil mixture of 1:2:1 sand:peatmoss and perlite:shredded sphagnum moss. The colony was provided a varied diet of red runner roaches, house crickets, mealworms, protein jelly and mealworms. The "colony" was around 40 to 50 workers strong. I have noticed that their jumping abilities are rarely used when going about their daily duties, even in chasing prey which they would use surround techniques. I've noticed the workers were able to lay eggs as shown in the picture but due to the lack of males, the supposed gamergates were infertile. Here is the diy formicarium,I've made for them in it's initial state. I used cement bought from homefix to coat and adhere styrofoam to form sort of a cliff-side style and the same substrate mixture mentioned earlier. Make sure the cement dries!! In conclusion, I found that the key to Odontomachus rixosus is the pH of the soil. These ants come from soils as acidic as pH level 4-5, and it will be crucial to mimic their natural environment, coupled with plants and branches for them to explore. Med-High humidity is of utmost importance as well! This species also does not seem to be bothered by bright light, but it's best to provide them some darkness to mimic a forest floor condition This queenless and infertile colony lasted close to a year which is very long.





Image result for odontomachus malignusOdontomachus malignus: I only recently found out about this ant when I was doing a little search of Singapore's Trapjaws. This is quite an interesting ant as it is an inter-tidal species living along coastlines and in mangroves. This ant is able to swim to get to places separated by water, which makes it very interesting. Currently, no one has a queen or colony of this species in Singapore. But from what I know, Workers are around 8mm and have a similar appearance to Rixosus but redder coloration. (Picture: Odontomachus Malignus swimming)

Odontomachus pararixosus: This is the mysterious "rixosus subspecies" that took me a while to research and find out. Here are the differences from my own findings.
O. pararixosus: The 3 frontal tooth of the mandibles are aligned unlike O.rixosus, the middle tooth isn't sticking out and it is smaller than the two teeth surrounding it. It has mostly around 7 smaller denticles along each mandible.







Odontomachus rixosus:
Middle frontal tooth is sticking out and around the same size as the two adjacent teeth or bigger. Has about 5 denticles along each mandible.



*Please do contact/ credit me if you were to use any of this information or have any new findings to discuss!
Setups: Trapjaws can be housed in a variety of setups like formicariums and substrate setups. One thing to note when setting up an enclosure for Trapjaws is that they are prone to raids by smaller ants such as Ghost ants (Tapinoma Melanocephalum) so defences like barriers, a cover or a moat would be effective if a raid were to happen. For substrate setups, make sure you do not use normal soil as stated in the queen ant care section above. Substrate mix like peat and perlite or sand and crushed walnut shells would be great for Trapjaws as they like airy substrate. For formicariums, Ytong is the best for Trapjaws as they are able to grip on but due to having slippy feet, acrylic is a less preferred choice. But do any setup you wish to experiment with your Trapjaws, I plan on doing an island setup with a moat surrounding it for my future colonies.
Well that's it for my Trapjaw profiles, it is my first ever blog so I apologize if it's a bit weird. Any mistakes in the post or questions you would like to ask please email me. Thanks for taking the time to read! Hope you have learnt a thing or more from this post and enjoyed it! - Isaac Ong

Citations: Odontomachus haematodus worker picture: Retrieved January 20, 2018, from https://www.google.com.sg/imgres?imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Fmississippientomologicalmuseum.org.msstate.edu%2Fimages%2Fantphotos%2FOdontomachus_haematodus_macgown%2FOdontomachus_haematodus_work_JAM1.jpg&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fmississippientomologicalmuseum.org.msstate.edu%2FResearchtaxapages%2FFormicidaepages%2Fgenericpages%2FOdontomachus.haematodus.htm&docid=dUBypGlCFpl5PM&tbnid=i6y6u41uhW84FM%3A&vet=10ahUKEwipt_bt1-bYAhUfR48KHQwbAWEQMwhFKAcwBw..i&w=904&h=1000&bih=675&biw=1366&q=odontomachus&ved=0ahUKEwipt_bt1-bYAhUfR48KHQwbAWEQMwhFKAcwBw&iact=mrc&uact=8

Odontomachus Rixosus picture: Retrieved January 20, 2018, from https://www.google.com.sg/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjIje6D6-bYAhXMOI8KHagsDMoQjRwIBw&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.antstore.net%2Fshop%2Fen%2Fants%2FAnts-from-Asia%2FOdontomachus-rixosus-trap-jaw.html&psig=AOvVaw3zjn8rehPtlJTJS0O7dng0&ust=1516547791357574

Odontomachus Malignus swimming picture: Retrieved January 20, 2018, from https://www.google.com.sg/imgres?imgurl=https%3A%2F%2Fi.ytimg.com%2Fvi%2FQxIwoRsRhkM%2Fmaxresdefault.jpg&imgrefurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DQxIwoRsRhkM&docid=89S0AdfNTZfcjM&tbnid=Azv4eQHaCtnxQM%3A&vet=10ahUKEwjN_ePD7-bYAhWDsY8KHXE_CvQQMwhLKA0wDQ..i&w=1280&h=720&itg=1&bih=675&biw=1366&q=odontomachus%20malignus&ved=0ahUKEwjN_ePD7-bYAhWDsY8KHXE_CvQQMwhLKA0wDQ&iact=mrc&uact=8