Is it possible to limit a leaf cutter ant growth?

Ideas, techniques, problems and issues associated with keeping Leaf Cutting Ants in Captivity
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Kalidas
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Is it possible to limit a leaf cutter ant growth?

Post by Kalidas » Mon Oct 28, 2019 8:24 pm

I know with more common ants it's easy, just limit how much food they get and the colony won't grow past a certain size.

But I don't know if this is possible with leaf cutters because of the fungus. Will the fungus stop growing unless it is constantly being fed leaves? Or is there a way to limit how much you offer the colony thus restricting how much fungus gardens they can grow while keeping the fungus they do have still alive and producing the necessary food for the ants?

Like say I only want my leaf cutter ants to have three fungus gardens max, is that possible or no it's just not?

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Acromyrmexbob
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Re: Is it possible to limit a leaf cutter ant growth?

Post by Acromyrmexbob » Mon Oct 28, 2019 8:44 pm

Acromyrmex will generally peak at 50000 workers and 3 fungus gardens is as many as I normally come across, even in big nests (there are spectacular exceptions to this but the commonly available species, ie octospinosus, certainly conform to this) Atta are exactly the opposite. They will grow and grow. I encounter this situation many many times when setting up zoo exhinits. A queen Atta will lay several thousand eggs per day! So how do you limit them. Certainly you can restrict feeding. This has an interesting effect though. Because these ants are evolved to find leaves which are, in the rainforest, an inexhaustable resource, when they dont find them things get interesting. All of the workers that would have been cutting leaves start looking for leaves. They climb, swim, tunnel and build their way, pretty much out of anything! So you end up with tens of thousands of workers doing nothing else, all day and night, other than trying to escape. I havent come across any design where this is impossible. Leaf cutters will escape from anything.Also the danger is, if they for any reason cant get out, the colony could collapse.
My starting poing to this is as follows. Dont get Atta if you want a smaller colony, get Acromyrmex. If you want a big colony, get Atta and dont try to limit them.
The final point is this. Best way to keep Atta from overcrowding is to cull. Feed them and when the feeding table is full of ants, put the leaves and ants into a black bin bag and freeze it. Do this once per month and things should be controllable.

Kalidas
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Re: Is it possible to limit a leaf cutter ant growth?

Post by Kalidas » Mon Oct 28, 2019 8:52 pm

Good thing I don't have access to Atta and probably never will lol.

Glad to hear Acromyrmex have an upper limit, and one that seems very reasonable. I read online their gardens are around 50 cm in diameter is that what you mostly see also?

Will they settle for let's say 6 gardens of half that size instead of three of full size?

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Acromyrmexbob
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Re: Is it possible to limit a leaf cutter ant growth?

Post by Acromyrmexbob » Mon Oct 28, 2019 9:45 pm

Yes. Its about volume of fungus. They'll build it anywhere.

Kalidas
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Re: Is it possible to limit a leaf cutter ant growth?

Post by Kalidas » Mon Oct 28, 2019 9:59 pm

Oh that's great to know thanks

deltaromeo
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Re: Is it possible to limit a leaf cutter ant growth?

Post by deltaromeo » Tue Oct 29, 2019 7:42 pm

@Acromyrmexbob, rather than counting the amount of nests which could vary in size etc is there an estimate on the amount of fungus ( in liters maybe? ) that you could expect to have when an Acromyrmex octospinosus colony is at it max size ?
Thanks for your help / b rdgs / Dick

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Acromyrmexbob
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Re: Is it possible to limit a leaf cutter ant growth?

Post by Acromyrmexbob » Tue Oct 29, 2019 10:40 pm

So I believe the standard measurement of numbers in a colony is that in a fungus garden the size of a small rugby ball there will be 10000 workers. So 4 fungus gardens this size will be 40000. Not sure in terms of litres but that size of fungus is around the size octospinosus grows in the wild.

Kalidas
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Re: Is it possible to limit a leaf cutter ant growth?

Post by Kalidas » Sun Nov 03, 2019 12:09 am

Acromyrmexbob wrote:
Tue Oct 29, 2019 10:40 pm
So I believe the standard measurement of numbers in a colony is that in a fungus garden the size of a small rugby ball there will be 10000 workers. So 4 fungus gardens this size will be 40000. Not sure in terms of litres but that size of fungus is around the size octospinosus grows in the wild.
Do you know if these sizes are similar for A. Versicolor?

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Acromyrmexbob
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Re: Is it possible to limit a leaf cutter ant growth?

Post by Acromyrmexbob » Sun Nov 03, 2019 2:31 pm

Yes I would think, very generally, that this is the case. The fungus generally is the same species between types of leaf cutters, it cvan produce a fixed amount of energy and nutrients regardless of what species it is being farmed by so the potential to sustain numbers per unit of fungal volume should be the same.

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Re: Is it possible to limit a leaf cutter ant growth?

Post by Kalidas » Sun Nov 03, 2019 6:30 pm

Good info thanks again

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