byFormica Blue Pre-Release FAQ
0. When will the product be available? - After nearly a decade of development, we are now working to validate our manufacturing processes and packaging and hope to make byFormica Blue available through byFormica dealers worldwide in the coming months (2023).
1. What exactly is byFormica Blue? - byFormica Blue cubes start with whole, live insects that are liquefied and then blended with other ingredients to enhance the nutrition and texture. All the moisture is then removed from the product through a special cold crystallization process. This way, all the nutrients are retained. For ants that prefer wet foods, adding a few drops of water to the cube will allow it to melt back into a liquid, allowing the ants to drink all the nutrients that are found in a freshly killed insect. Because of our unique homogenization process, the nutrients in the insect are even easier for ants to consume compared to fresh insects. Think of it like bug juice or a bug smoothie!
2. Why did you choose cubes? Why not use a powder or granules? - Forming the product into cubes makes the product easier to handle. In addition, each cube is made to be a uniform weight, thereby allowing the user to dispense a controlled amount. We will continually evaluate our product offerings to ensure we can offer a product that is both easy to use and priced competitively.
3. Does byFormica Blue replace Sunburst? - byFormica Blue is made of whole insects, so it is used to supply protein, which ants typically need for the development of their larvae. In contrast, Sunburst only supplies carbohydrates or sugars, which are primarily used by the worker ants for energy. Use both byFormica Blue and Sunburst to supply your ants with the protein they need for developing larvae and the energy the workers need to perform all the hard work of running the colony.
4. Does byFormica Blue completely replace fresh insects, or are they still needed? - Because byFormica Blue is made almost entirely of insects, it can completely replace live insects for the entire life of the colony. And because we add vitamins and minerals to byFormica Blue, your ants may benefit nutritionally from our product even if you feed live or freshly killed insects to your ants.
5. Is sugar added to the product? - No. byFormica Blue does not contain any added sugars. It is intended exclusively for use as a source of protein, not carbohydrates.
6. Why is the product blue? Are other colors available? - We add the blue color as an ingredient during manufacturing. The bright blue color is highly visible and allows the user to easily see if ants have fed the product to larvae, stored it inside the nest for later use, or discarded pieces of it in the trash. We intend to use different colors for different versions of the product so the user can easily distinguish between them.
7. If the product can be made into a liquid, can it be used with liquid feeders? - After water is added to byFormica Blue, it will return to its liquid state. However, because the product begins to rapidly decay after water is added, and because the cubes may contain insect pieces large enough to clog a liquid feeder, we do not recommend the product for use in liquid feeders. Ideally, the product should be offered in a small feeding dish or on a small piece of aluminum foil so any uneaten residue can be removed or rinsed off.
8. I have tried dried insects in the past and found that ants do not eat them. How do you know that ants will eat this? - Some insects sold as food for reptiles are preserved through different methods of drying. It is possible that these foods have been processed in a way that makes them unrecognizable or unpleasant to the ants. In contrast, we have developed our product for use by ants and employ a proprietary process to produce a product unlike any other available on the market today. All design decisions are based on our understanding of ants’ unique physiology and sense of smell, so you can rest assured that byFormica Blue will generally be accepted by ants that are receptive to live or freshly killed insects.
9. If I have a small colony that cannot eat it all at once, will it mold or go bad in the outworld? - During our testing, ants were observed to be receptive to food residue even after several days on the food dish. However, we generally recommend for byFormica Blue to be consumed within a few hours after being rehydrated with water. Similar to dead insects, uneaten amounts may begin to decay or become susceptible to mold under certain conditions. You can minimize waste by cutting the cubes into smaller pieces before rehydrating with water, thereby offering your ants only the amount they can safely consume or store in their nest.
10. How should byFormica Blue be stored? - Keep the product in a cool, dry place and away from sunlight. Ensure the cap remains tightly closed to avoid air leaking into the packaging. Avoid keeping the lid open for prolonged periods of time. To avoid damage by water condensing on the product, do not store the product in a refrigerator or freezer, or where drastic temperature changes occur. Always ensure the packaging and product are warmer than the surrounding air before opening.
11. What is the shelf life of byFormica Blue? - The shelf life of foods stored in unopened packaging and preserved through this method is typically over 25 years. Repeatedly opening the product, thereby exposing it to moisture and oxygen, will greatly reduce its shelf life. We package the product with a desiccant and oxygen absorber pouch that should allow the product to retain its nutrients until all of it has been used. We will update our guidelines with more specific information on the shelf life as those details become available. Do not remove the included desiccant or oxygen absorber pouches, as these are necessary to maintain product quality.
12. Are amino acids added to the product? - The primary ingredient in byFormica Blue is whole insects, which are considered a complete protein. Nevertheless, the ingredients we use contain only small amounts of the amino acid taurine, so we have supplemented byFormica Blue with this substance at a concentration similar to other products in the pet food industry. The dietary protein requirements for ants and other insects is an area of extremely limited research, and we will regularly reevaluate our formulation in response to new information.
13. What information can you provide about the vitamins and minerals added to the product? - byFormica Blue is fortified with 17 essential vitamins and minerals. We used the Vanderzant vitamin mixture, a preparation developed for use in insect cultures, as a reference and a starting point. To this, we also added several more nutrients commonly found in fortified foods for other animals. Our nutrient premix is a proprietary formulation and the exact amounts of each ingredient are considered a trade secret. While much more research is needed to determine which vitamins and minerals, and in what amounts, are optimal for use in insect feed, we used our best judgment based on the available peer-reviewed literature to determine the final composition of our mixture, and will regularly re-evaluate the composition based on new information and user feedback.
14. Will ants become "bored" from repeatedly eating the same food? Will you add more flavors to add variety to their diet? - Our understanding of ant physiology is that ants do not respond to gustatory sensations of food or experience pleasure from eating different types of foods. Instead, they rely on the chemical content of the foods to fulfill the nutritive needs of the colony at a particular moment in time. This is why, for example, a colony with lots of developing larvae will be ravenous for sources protein like insects, while a colony without larvae may appear to be non-receptive to the same foods. Ants will seek whatever nutrients are needed to grow the colony, so they will not become "bored" from a diet that is balanced in all the nutrients ants need for colony growth. Some ant species may have gut microbiota that have evolved to metabolize specific food sources, so a balanced food for one species may be suboptimal for another species. We will focus our development on indicating to the customer which formula is compatible with which species of ants and may consider developing new formulations for species that are not receptive to or will not benefit from the current version.
15. If my ants are not responding to fresh insects, will they be receptive to byFormica Blue? - Because byFormica Blue is made primarily of insects, you can expect that ants will generally respond to it as they would to fresh insects. If your ants are not receptive to either fresh insects or byFormica Blue as a protein source, there may be a problem with the colony, such as: the demand for protein has been met and the ants are not seeking it at the moment, the nest or foraging area temperature may be too low, there may not be enough larvae demanding food, or the foods offered may not contain the nutrients the ants are seeking.
16. Can users expect any changes in ant behavior or colony health when switching from fresh insects to byFormica Blue? - When using byFormica Blue, users can expect that ants will grow and behave as they would if fed a diet of insects. Because byFormica Blue is made from fresh insects, it is not anticipated that there will be significant changes in ant behavior or colony health when switching from fresh insects to byFormica Blue. However, as with any change in diet, it is essential to monitor your colony during the transition period to ensure that the ants are adapting well to the new food source. If you notice any unusual behavior or health concerns, we recommend consulting with fellow ant keepers or contacting us for advice.
17. Is byFormica Blue suitable for feeding ants at all stages of development, including semi-claustral queens? - Yes, you can use byFormica Blue in the place of fresh insects for ants of any life stage, caste, or founding strategy type.
18. Can byFormica Blue be rehydrated with Sunburst instead of water? - It is important for ants to regulate the amount of protein and carbohydrates they consume separately, so sugars should not be added to the product. In addition, Sunburst may react with the ingredients in byFormica Blue to form a product that is less palatable or less nutritious, so we strongly discourage users from mixing the two.
19. Have any independent studies been conducted on the nutritional value or efficacy of byFormica Blue compared to live insects? - In 2016, we provided samples to both amateur and experienced ant keepers in the United States for short-term testing of receptivity. A summary of the data we compiled was published to Formiculture.com. We are in the process of obtaining long-term data on efficacy and will share more information at a later date.
20. What genera of ants are indicated for use with the current byFormica Blue version at launch? - This is a non-exhaustive list of ant genera that are known or predicted to be receptive to the product in its current form: Aphaenogaster, Camponotus, Carebara, Cataglyphis, Crematogaster, Dorymyrmex, Forelius, Formica, Iridomyrmex, Lasius, Leptomyrmex, Liometopum, Linepithema, Manica, Messor, Monomorium, Myrmecia, Myrmecocystus, Myrmica, Novomessor, Nylanderia, Oecophylla, Polyrhachis, Pheidole, Pogonomyrmex, Prenolepis, Proformica, Prolasius, Pseudolasius, Solenopsis, Tapinoma, Tetramorium, Veromessor. It is important to note that this is a highly experimental product and there may be many more genera of ants for which the product may be suitable, or species in the genera listed above for which the product may be unsuitable. If in doubt, we recommend purchasing the smaller package size for testing.