In the Netherlands, many ant keepers feed their ants something called “honeydew surrogate”. It’s a homemade golden liquid of which the composition is designed to imitate the honeydew secreted by aphids. In nature, honeydew is the main source of nutrients for many ant species. Homemade honeydew surrogate contains sugars, amino acids and vitamins, in concentrations that are almost identical to that of natural honeydew. However, its amino acid content is ten times higher than that of natural honeydew. This is done on purpose, because in nature, ants have to travel much longer distances to gather honeydew than in captivity, using up a significant part of the sugars and therefore concentrating the amino acids in honeydew before reaching their nests.
Many ant species seem te love honeydew surrogate. I feed it to my ants and when I’m short of insects to feed them, the amino acids in honeydew surrogate are an excellent replacement for insect protein. However, I like to add insects to my ants’ diet, just to make sure they get enough protein. Honeydew surrogate is easy and cheap to make and the batch will last for quite a time, depending on the number of colonies you have and their sizes.
I guess you’re dying to know how to make honeydew surrogate for your ants. I’ve translated the Dutch recipe for honeydew surrogate that can be found here on AntForum.nl (page is in Dutch). All credits go to user Mika, the inventor of honeydew surrogate, and to user Floris, who took the time and effort to share the recipe. My purpose is to make it accessible for other countries as well.
Honeydew surrogate recipe
- 25 ml of liquid amino acids (also known as BCAA) *
- 50 ml of maple syrup, honey is fine too
- 130 grams of glucose (also known as dextrose or grape sugar), table sugar is fine too
- 480 ml of water
You will also need:
- Measuring cup
- Kitchen scale
- Stirrer (e.g. spoon)
- Syringes (no needle required)
* You might wonder where to get liquid amino acids. Liquid amino acids are sold in (online) sport supplement stores. The supplement serves as a quick and easy source of amino acids for bodybuilders. Try to look for liquid amino acids in ampoules, because you will only need one ampoule. They often come in packs of 10, 20 or 30, so although one ampoule isn’t expensive at all, the whole pack will be expensive while you won’t need all ampoules. Try to share the ampoules with other ant keepers and split the costs, or try to get your hands on one ampoule from a bodybuilder or a nearby gym.
Time to make the honeydew surrogate. Dissolve the glucose in the water in a large container. Stir or heat to increase the dissolution rate. Now add the maple syrup and stir. Finally, add the liquid amino acids and stir. Your honeydew surrogate is done! This recipe yields about 650 ml honeydew surrogate.
Honeydew surrogate is prone to spoiling, so it must be freezed prior to storing. I always fill a few syringes with the solution and then I freeze these. I store the remaining batch in a large bottle and freeze that too. When I need to feed my ants, I thaw a syringe by placing it at room temperature for about an hour. When all syringes are empty, I thaw the large bottle with the honeydew surrogate batch and refill my syringes after cleaning them thoroughly. Using this method, the batch lasts for months. Bon appétit.