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Asian Weaver Ants: The Masters of Nest Building and Colony Structure


Oecophylla smaragdina Green Asian Weaver Ant care

Introduction

Welcome to the fascinating world of weaver ants! These remarkable creatures belong to the Oecophylla genus and are known for their exceptional nest-building abilities and complex colony structures. We can admit that the Oecophylla smaragdina ants are our favourite, among all the species.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the ecology and care of Asian Weaver ants (Oecophylla smaragdina), shedding light on their distribution, castes, morphology, life cycle, reproductive strategies, nesting behaviour, and much more. Whether you are a curious antkeeper or a beginner in the world of ant keeping, this article will provide you with a wealth of information to deepen your understanding of these incredible insects.

Colony Form: Monogyne, means only one queen per colony.


We love Oecophylla Smaragdina ants so much that I and my team built a whole special room in our lab equipped with lots of advanced technology including digital temperature and humidity controllers, special kanthal heaters, fog machines, cutting-edge Samsung LED UVA+UVB lights and mixed light bulbs and other gadgets to succeed in breeding more queens and colonies here in the UK for more than a year. After considering the inability of our clients to keep the queens and colonies alive for more than a few months we ended up with an empty high-tech room because we concluded that it's not right to breed ant species which are not supposed to live here. We also ended once and forever selling ant species with higher requirements toward climate. We started in the Autumn of 2019 with around 50 queens and 2 years later released more than 700 queens we bred ourselves on our annual trip to Malaysia, into the wild, near the border with Thailand, despite the coronavirus lockdowns and restrictions back then.

We found out that the Asian Weever Ants love making their nest in Pachira Aquatica (Money tree) and even better according to our lab results in Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamin). One-quarter of the colonies preferred the Lemon Plant (Citrus tree) though. They love organic honey and small insects such as houseflies but will not refuse even a mealworm or locust chopped into tiny pieces.


Distribution and Habitat of the Asian Weaver Ants

Asian Weaver ants, scientifically known as Oecophylla smaragdina, are found in the tropical regions of Asia, from southern Asia through southeastern Asia to northern Australia including countries such as China, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. The worker ants meticulously select and cut leaves, using their powerful jaws, to create a nest that protects from predators and adverse weather conditions. How? They stitch the leaves together using silk produced by their larvae. These nests can be found suspended from branches, resembling a leafy fortress in the treetops. These ants do not hibernate. This unique nesting behaviour gives rise to their common names, such as Asian Weaver ants, green ants, or green tree ants.


Castes and Morphology

Physically, the Green Weaver Queen Ants are huge, typically 15–18 millimetres. Workers are 6–10 millimetres long, and the majors are 10-15 millimetres with long strong legs and large mandibles and they forage, assemble and expand the nest. The most striking aspect of these ants is their bright yellowish-green colour, which serves as a natural camouflage in their lush tropical habitats. The Green Weaver Ants are eusocial insects, meaning they live in highly organized colonies with a well-defined social structure. Drones, the male ants, are around 10 millimetres and have a distinct black colouration.


Life Cycle and Reproductive Strategies

The life cycle of Asian Weaver ants follows the typical pattern of ants, consisting of four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Egg to an adult ant - around 5-6 weeks, the warmer the nest the faster. Virgin queen ants embark on a mating flight to find suitable mates. They can mate with one or multiple males, either in the air, on low vegetation, or the ground. Once successfully mated, the queen searches for a suitable nest site, which can be on trees or open fields. After settling in, the queen lays a small batch of eggs (10-12) and begins the process of colony establishment. Within 5 to 10 days after the queen's arrival, the first larvae hatch. Pupae appear after approximately 23 days, and the first workers emerge around 39 days after the initial batch of eggs. In total, egg to an adult ant - around 5-6 weeks, the warmer the nest the faster. Notably, the silk production and weaving of nests by the larvae typically commence around the second week. The average lifespan of a mature colony can reach up to eight years in the wild and five years in captivity.



Nesting and Colony Structure

Weaver ants are well-known for their remarkable abilities in constructing nests. These ants create their nests by skillfully weaving leaves together using silk produced by the larvae. The worker ants bring the leaves together, often forming long chains, and securely bond them to form a strong and durable nest structure. The Asian Weaver ants can live in multiple nests. A single colony can occupy several nests within one tree or even spread its nests across multiple adjacent trees. This intricate nesting behaviour allows their colonies to grow to impressive sizes, with some colonies containing as many as 100,000 individuals. The interconnected nests provide the colony with ample space for expansion and efficient allocation of resources.

In captivity, we recommend these conditions for a thriving colony:

Temperature: Nest: overnight - 24 and daily - 28 Degree Celsius; Outworld: overnight - 21 and daily - 35 Degree Celsius.

Air Humidity: Nest part: 60 - 70%; Outworld: 40 - 50%


Ecology and Interactions

Asian Weaver ants play a vital role in their ecosystems by being territorial and aggressive, defending their nests against intruders. They are predators, primarily prey on insects like beetles, flies, and other hymenopterans. To supplement their diet, they also consume honeydew produced by small insects such as aphids. Weaver ants have a symbiotic relationship with certain butterfly larvae, protecting them from predators while benefiting from the sweet honeydew they produce. Furthermore, these ants are widely used as natural biocontrol agents in agriculture to help manage pests on crops like cowpea, cashew, citrus, mango, coconut, cocoa, and coffee.


Interaction with Humans

Asian Weaver ants have captivated people for hundreds of years. In certain areas, their larvae are cultivated and sold as snacks, renowned for their smooth consistency. Adult weaver ants are also consumed, often enjoyed alongside rice dishes, and are described as having a tangy and citrusy flavour. Additionally, these ants have been utilized in traditional medicine. Their mandibles are used to close wounds, showcasing their medicinal properties. Weaver ants have also been employed for pest management purposes since ancient times. In China, they are placed in fruit trees to control pests, effectively reducing the need for chemical pesticides.


Care and Husbandry

Proper care and maintenance are vital for ant enthusiasts who want to keep Asian Weaver ants as pets. It is crucial to create a habitat that closely resembles their natural environment. To encourage their natural behaviours, provide a spacious enclosure with plenty of climbing opportunities like branches and artificial plants. Ensuring their nutritional needs are met involves feeding them a diverse diet of small insects and offering a sugar source, such as organic honey. Remember that weaver ants are territorial creatures and need enough space in their enclosure to prevent conflicts. Regular upkeep, including cleaning and monitoring the colony's health, is necessary for their overall well-being.



Interesting Facts and Myths Surrounding the Green Weaver Ant

The Green Weaver Ants have captured the imagination of people throughout history, leading to the emergence of fascinating myths and legends surrounding their behaviour and abilities. One such myth is that these ants possess medicinal properties and can cure ailments when consumed. While there is no scientific evidence to support these claims, the myth persists in certain traditional medicinal practices in China.

Oecophylla smaragdina and the leafcutter ants show one of the most complex communication systems in all social insects. These ants utilize a combination of chemical signals, such as pheromones, and tactile interactions to convey information within their colonies. They communicate important messages, such as the presence of food sources or potential threats, by touching each other with their antennae and releasing specific chemicals.

The Green Weaver Ants and Leafcutters are not suitable for beginner antkeepers but guess what, you can start our antkeeping journey with other weavers, beginner-friendly species, Polyrhachis Dives, very beautiful and interesting ants, also Asian weaver ants.


Conclusion

Weaver ants, specifically the Asian Weaver ants (Oecophylla smaragdina), are incredibly fascinating creatures. Their impressive skills in constructing intricate nests, their complex social structures, and their unique ecological interactions have captivated both enthusiasts and researchers alike. As we delve deeper into comprehending their behaviour, physical characteristics, and life cycle, we gain a deeper admiration for the complexities of the natural world. By providing appropriate care and nurturing, we can establish a mutually beneficial relationship with these ants, enabling us to observe their extraordinary behaviours from up close. Watching them skillfully weave leaves together is an incredibly soothing process that can serve as a therapeutic alternative to seeking professional psychological help during times of stress.

So, let's embark on this journey of discovery and exploration, celebrating the incredible world of weaver ants.


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