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Re: ants may not be needed

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Posted by Chuck Elliott on June 02, 2002 at 22:51:17:

In Reply to: Re: ants may not be needed posted by Lester G. Milroy III on June 01, 2002 at 15:34:17:

: : I've kept many sub-species of HL in the past and i also inquired with labs and chemistry people about a formic acid dust or spray for crickets. Its out there, but you'll have to find it.
: : It may not be nessasary though, I used to know a researcher named Brian McGurty who is probably the foremost expert on coastal HLs. I posed the question of formic acid because during a speech of his he mentioned meal worms and crickets as the main food supply for his long term captive study group. He claimed the acid was NOT esential and what was likely to be the cause of death to most captives was lack of natural/highly potent UV from the sun. His study group lived for many years in an out door enclosure on meal worms and crickets. He made an obvious comment about the shape of the Hls being flat and wide for a good reason, the need for massive UV.
: : So what does this mean? If you can, put your lizards in the sun as much as possible during the summer months and they'll likey live a long captive life.
: : PS, I've heard spiders, bee's (anything with a stinger) has the formic acid if your still concerned. ALSO, there is somthing to be said for a happy lizard and if ants make the happy, they'll probably live longer too.

: :Chuck, I have known Brian McGurty for a long time and have seen the enclosures and all that he has kept the Coast HLs in. There are several issues concerning the HLs and we have discussed this in the past on several occassions. One issue concerns the crickets and mealworms that he fed the HLs in the outdoor enclosures and the life span of the HLs. Brian fed the HLs mealworms and crickets as a matter of time constraint. His mortality rates were extremely high, even though he did have breeding success. The mortality of hatchlings was also extremely high. These issues have been neglected and unpublished. The physiology of horned lizrds, from the shape of their teeth to a specialized blood factor that detoxifies ant venom, are items that have been reported by numerous other biologists and ecologists. This design of nature is a design with a purpose. If it were not, it would be a great waste of genetics and energy. It is taxing on a biological system to be specialized for no reason. If the design were flawed, the HLs would have long ago become extinct.
: In my early days of study, I worked with the "easy way out" and fed 6 different species of HLs crickets and mealworms. The mortality rate was extremely high. I focused more on the diet that horned lizards were eating in the wild. I gathered HL scat from many different sites where there were healthy populations. I have gathered well over 10,000 scat from over 30 sites and have continued to analyze the contents. The scat content has been pretty conclusive. Ants are the major dietary requirement for HLs.
: I have applied these finding to feeding my captive study group of horned lizards for over 10 years and have healthy HLs. I have had high reproductive success and very low mortality of hatchlings. I have maintained captive bred HLs from hatching to 8 years with no difficulty.
: I mix their diets, which is at least 85% ants, with various other insect prey that have been identified in the scat. 27 different ant genus/species have so far been identified and I project probability of possibly 10 - 15 more that may be beneficial as food itmes also. The health of wild horned lizard populations declines significantly in human disturbed habitats. In undisturbed habitats, with a high insect prey richness, the horned lizards are much healthier.
: The issue of formic acid is another issue altogether. Formic acid, when subjected to the digestive process, breaks down into water, carbon dioxide and several other materials that horned lizards get only from the ants. No other insect produces these products. The caloric content of ants is still a mystery. This is another major undertaking I am working on right now. Formic acid, if it is available on the market, is not the same thing that ants produce. The purity and the amount required to "simulate" an ant would be critical in dispensing. Just what would the dosage of this formic acid be? Will the crickets and mealworms be able to handle this toxin, even if only dusted? What would the chemical reaction be with the chemical makeup of the mealworms and crickets? I have a strong suspession that this is just another money maker for some one who has no clue. What is a lethal dose of this formic acid dust? Do you have enough HLs to experiment with and have the high mortality of a species that need protection because of declining populations because of habitat loss and commercial and private collecting for the pet trade? How about the different species of HLs? Do each have exactly the same reaction? There are a lot of questions.
: What does work, is the design by nature. HLs are adapted to eating ants. They have evolved to eat ants. Ants are a high volume, high availability item in the wild. What better item to have as a food source? Very little competition.
: The formic acid issue will be always cited, but there is so much more that needs to be addressed. I have had great success with my captive group for over 10 years. They have a high reproductive success, they have a low mortality rate (probably lower than wild populations), and are comparable to wild populations living in undisturbed habitats. Lester G. Milroy III

Lester thanks for the info and insight, you comments were much more informative and helpfull than Lorens. Are your animals in or outside?

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