Calling “ant experts” — Can you explain this behavior?

Mmathis

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With my outdoor box turtle habitat, I am fighting a constant battle with Carpenter Ants. My current anti-ant campaign involves baiting with peanut butter mixed with a sugar water-boric acid mix. (Thanks @addy1 for telling me what size wire mesh to use.....to let ants in, but keep bees out).

Anyway, this morning I spent at least 30 minutes observing the ants as they discovered this particular “jar.”

Oddly, there were several ants that CARRIED PIECES OF SOIL AND LEAF DEBRIS THAT THEY DEPOSITED ON THE MESH AND/OR TOOK INTO THE JAR WITH THE BAIT!!!

Yes, there were also those ants that “ate the bait,” but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what the others were doing. I made some videos, and here I’ve taken some stills to follow one of the ants. What is going on? Are they trying to convert the “bait jar” into a home??

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Mmathis

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Well, no responses, but I’m not surprised. It is an unusual topic.

Every time I put out my DIY baits, the ants swarm, then after a day or 2, the jars are filled with dirt and debris! I’ve had a few theories, and finally found some info that backs them up — sort of. They are all “guesses,” however.
  1. The ants can’t stand the bait so they cover it up (like a dog) to make it “go away”
  2. The ants are “storing” the bait for later
  3. The ants are trying to incorporate it into their nest
  4. They are “marking” it as a way to keep intruder ants away
  5. They are building a “scaffolding” with the debris to make it easier for their companions to get to the food
But, once the bait is covered, they don’t seem to return to it, soooo......

Whatever the reason, this is turning out to be an interesting pastime for me this season! Still experimenting with different things to use as the bait food. So far, they seem to prefer peanut butter.

Still battling the ants, though I think I’ve homed in on the target nest area! It’s a duel to the death!
 

sissy

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ants are like bees and build homes near food sources even if it is supposed to kill them .We have lots of what people call piss ants and they say on the websight for our county if you want them to stay out of your house do not put the killing bait near your home .It will draw them to the house more .Our county websight also helps with control on flies and other insects to keep them away .Being that I am in the country it really helps with horse flies .
 
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Insects are definitely interesting to watch. I'm always amazed when a big colony of ants pops up overnight - like where did YOU all come from!

I'm guessing they are storing the bait - not realizing it's gonna be not so great once they eat it! But keep watching... I'll be curious to see what happens next!
 
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Not sure what they are doing but it is interesting. I wonder what their long term goal is. Be sure to let us know if you find out.
 

addy1

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I, over night, ended up with eggs and ants in our mailbox. ................pull the mail out covered with ants.

We are in a constant battle with them when working the honey. I have controlled them, sort of, by putting out bait everywhere around the house
 
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You work with honey? If you do then I am going to be so jealous. I love bees. I took a beekeeping course in collage and would love to have some but I know I would get complaints. Oh but to have my own hive. As for ants I have no clue. Maybe when the mail is collected they will end up travelling. Who knows who will end up with one of your ants.
 
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This discussion reminds me of an incident at a barbeque years ago. There were yellow jackets around and they were going into a hole in the garage near the roof. The owner had a bug zapper and hung it right near the hole. The yellow jackets were like an army. They always had two guards posted by the hole and kept sending out drones to attack the bug zapper. The drones would die and more would come out and attack. When it was over, there was a pile of dead yellow jackets on the ground below the zapper.
 
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Try cinnamon. We use it to keep ants out of electrical boxes so they don’t trip the GFI by building a nest in the box.
 
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I, over night, ended up with eggs and ants in our mailbox. ................pull the mail out covered with ants.

We are in a constant battle with them when working the honey. I have controlled them, sort of, by putting out bait everywhere around the house
Addy1, you might check to make sure those aren’t termites in your mailbox especially if the post is wood.
Stephen
 

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