Dinomyrmex gigas (giant forest ant)

Dinomyrmex gigas, formerly known as Camponotus gigas, is a forest dwelling species of ant native to Singapore and South East Asia.

Description from Wikipedia:

Camponotus gigas or giant forest ant is a large species of ant, native to Southeast Asianforests. It is one of the largest ants in existence, measuring in at 20.9 mm for normal workers, and 28.1 mm for the soldiers. Honeydew makes up 90% of their diet, but they will also consume insects and bird droppings. The ant is an effective forager, utilizing both efficient communication and recruitment. A handful of these ants may meet at night to engage in what has been observed to be ritual battle. These fights can continue for several months.

In Singapore, massive nuptial flights appear to occur semi-annually, ie, circa every 6 months.

Flights were observed to occur after consecutive days of intense topical rainfall following a period of drought. Interestingly, the actual days on which the flights were recorded had little or no rain.

Look at the size comparison on an alate’s wing!

Below, you can see a number of drones and alate queens.

Below, an unfortunate alate who got squashed (not by me). This is a common sight after their massive nuptial flights.

A delate who shed her wings shortly after being caught.

I housed the delates in an enclosed plastic tub with tiny air holes. Moist coco-peat together with sphagnum moss, some leaf litter and a sizeable piece of decomposing wood.

This setup however is not ideal- ideally they would be given more space in a 1.5 to 2 feet terrarium with high humidity and which is raid-proof.

Delates at this stage are hyper-sensitive to sound, light and general disturbance.

I keep them in a dark unused room with Low light intensity and which is very quiet.

Under suitable conditions, newly delates queens will build a claustral chamber within 2-3 days of mating, and thereafter lay 6 to 8 eggs within 4-5 days of mating.

Founding in captivity appears to be semi-claustral. I’m not sure if the same is true in the wild. I offered the delates diluted honey and Cricket nymphs approximately every fortnight, which they readily accepted.

One should avoid checking on them too often during founding. I heavily misted the founding chambers approximately once a week.

Above, poor husbandry- just temporary housing for the delates whilst their terrariums were being setup.

Egg-laying.

Lavae develop after approximately 3-4 weeks of egg laying.

Lavae take another 4-5 weeks to develop into pupae.

After approximately 3 months, the first workers will enclose and start to forage almost immediately (at night).

Be very careful to maximise the food intake of your young colony, as the ants will readily cannibalizes their brood and even young workers if there is a good shortage. This is a challenge because the ants are noctournal and one will have to “Guess-timate” their food intake based on the amount of foods consumed overnight.

I feed my colonies diluted honey on a daily basis, as well as live (but injured) cricket nymphs, and the occasional spider. They have also accepted dead house geckos, froglets, and earthworms. Unfortunately, they do not seem interested in roaches of any form (dubia, American, etc) or mealworms/superworms.

At around 5-6 months, when the population size hits 25-30 individuals, the first majors will begin to appear.

Author’s notes: in their natural environment, these ants forage high up in the canopies of trees. It’s difficult to simulate that in captivity, which is why colonies obtained from the wild seldom survive. My colony has been raided from a single queen and hence they have been conditioned to forage and procure food on the ground.

Above, preparing for the nightly forage.

They also accept cheesecake, see below.

Peek inside the nest at 7 months. Around 45 individuals!

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