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Guide to keeping Euponera sharpi

Comprehensive guide to keeping Euponera sharpi

For ant keepers by ant keepers


Euponera are generally small ants that fall under the tribe of Ponerini. Euponera are known to be found in rainforest habitats in small colonies with few workers from 4 to 50 or more workers. However, little is known about their ecology and behavior. Hopefully this blog is able to shed some light on the biology to these fascinating ants.
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Worker of Euponera sharpi(
Euponera sharpi worker from author's personal colony

Workers of this species measures in at around 0.6 cm or 0.24 inches.  The workers and queen of this species can be identified by their black body accompanied by scarlet red mandibles and legs. Their gaster may appear to have a golden hue under bright light due to the short hairs cover the gaster of this species.

An alate gyne of this species

A dealate gyne of this species

The queen of this species measures in at around 1 cm or 0.39 inches. The gyne can be differentiated from the workers by its larger size and thicker thorax. The gyne also has ocelli (the 3 spots on the gyne's head) that allows the queen to have better vision. The ocelli is only present on the gyne of Euponera sharpi.
Being ponerine ants, Euponera sharpi are predatory in nature, these ladies possess triangular mandibles with numerous teeth and a stinger. Unlike Odontoponera denticulata (another type of ponerine ant in the region) Euponera sharpi are not thrifty with their stings. They will not hesistate to sting prey multiple times to take it down or defend their nest.

Euponera colony founding

Here in Singapore, ants engage in nuptial flights throughout the year. Euponera queens are night flyers that gather around light sources in the night. However, they can also be found in the day. I have personally caught a fertile Euponera sharpi queen in the afternoon around 4pm.

Euponera sharpi queens are semi-claustral so they require feeding in the founding stage. They require large amounts of protein before they are able to lay eggs. From experience, these queens must also get used to and feel safe in the environment before they decide to lay eggs. With the right conditions, the queen will shed her wings and lay eggs only after around 2 weeks.

Euponera sharpi eggs
Euponera sharpi, like most other ponerine ants, has rod shaped eggs. However, most ponerine ants' eggs take around 11 days to hatch, but Euponera sharpi's eggs take a whooping 25 days to hatch. The eggs are usually in small amounts as the gyne will only lay an egg every 3 days or so.

Larvae of Euponera sharpi

Larvae will arrive 25 days after the egg, as previously mentioned. Larvae are prickly and somewhat resemble a small sea cucumber. Usually at this stage, the queen starts to get picky with food. After my Euponera sharpi queen starting having larvae, she started rejecting the mealworms I fed her. I had to explore using other feeder insects, I personally found success with using termites and crickets. When fed, these larvae will rapidly increase in size and will be ready for pupation in around 2 weeks.

Buried larvae
The larvae of Euponera sharpi require to be buried or fully covered with substrate in order to successfully pupate. The larvae uses the pieces of substrate as scaffolding when spinning silk to build their cocoon. Without substrate, the larvae cannot form their cocoon and will die. I have also noticed that founding queens are sometimes unsure of when to bury their larvae and may bury them too early. When these young larvae are buried too early, they will not receive food and will starve.

Pupae of Euponera sharpi
The pupae of Euponera sharpi are initially bright orange and will darken nearing eclosion. The founding queen tends to be the most sensitive when she has pupae. Excessive checking or shaking will stress the queen out and cause her to consume her own pupae. Sometimes pupae also seemingly die for no reason, the queen will then drag the pupae away from her brood pile. An Euponera sharpi pupae will take around 3 weeks to eclose.

Euponera sharpi callow(newly eclosed ant)

When eclosed, Euponera sharpi workers are pale yellow. Their exoskeleton will harden in 2 days and give them their iconic red and black colourations. Nanitics (first generation of workers) of the species are around 0.6cm. In a small colony, the nanitics take the role of caretakers for the brood while the queen continues to forage and hunt for the colony.

Author's notes
Euponera sharpi are rarely found in the region(Singapore). I personally feel that these ants require specific conditions to grow and thrive. I would not encourage beginner ant keepers to attempt to raise or keep this species as Euponera sharpi queens require feeding, are picky eaters and prone to stress. This species also take a long time to grow so the antkeeper requires a great deal of patience which a beginner may not have. In the hands of an experienced antkeeper, these ants make great pets as they are interesting to watch, being predatory in nature, these ants will hunt the insects that they are fed. Thank you for taking your time to read through this blog, I hope this helped you gained a better understanding in Euponera sharpi.