Khem Sreymom: Making a Living with an Ant Farm.

Weaver ants, which live in forests, are a common species in the Kingdom and are frequently used as a delicious ingredient in many traditional meals, such as some sour soups or prahok. Normally, they are found in forests in the countryside, but an innovative woman has figured out how to raise them for profit.

Khem Sreymom successfully raises ants at her home in Trapeang Krasaing village, Trapeang Krasaing commune, Por Sen Chey district, Phnom Penh, after reorienting her job as a result of a Covid-19-induced redundancy.

Sreymom said that she was born and raised in the Sampov Poun commune of the Koh Thom district of Kandal province. After her husband was offered a job in the city, she relocated to Phnom Penh with her three sons.

She initially found a job in the same area as her home in a garment factory, but when the Covid-19 outbreak spread over the region, the factory was forced to close.

She tried to make a career selling traditional medicine after losing her job, but there was little demand due to the pandemic’s effect on consumer spending. As she saw her family’s financial situation, she began to consider new business ventures. 

She watched a lot of videos that suggested growing fish, frogs, or even snakes could be the solution to her financial problems, and she gave those possibilities some thought. 

After a little research, she came across a video in a foreign language that showed how to raise the ants for sale. She spotted a rare opportunity and shared it with her eldest son, who volunteered to go with her into the forest in search of the first generation of her new project.

They initially struggled and were only able to relocate two nests to their home.  They were able to successfully breed 10 independent colonies from these two nests, each of which was kept in a recycled plastic bottle.

“As they grew, I watched them closely, identifying the distinct problems they encountered between living in the forest and living in my ant farms,” she said.

She said that the populations grew so quickly that she hired a blacksmith to create steel racks to maximize storage on her individual farms.

She also started posting videos of what she was doing on Tik Tok, which brought her a lot of visitors, some of whom wanted to buy ant eggs from her.

This helped her business grow, and now she has more than 400 colonies of weaver ants living in her house.

She explained that this type of organism requires very particular conditions in order to flourish. She has the responsibility of shielding the colonies from noise and sunshine. Strong winds also prevent them from leaving the colony to get food.

She mentioned weaver ants as an exceptionally hygienic species. She might occasionally feed them raw chicken, for example. For a few days, they will bring the meat into the nest, but as soon as it starts to rot, worker ants will remove it and discard it.

According to her, the ants seem to show a remarkable amount of allegiance to their colony. The ants will give their life to protect their home if it is under attack by an invasive species.

She typically provides chicken or dead insects as a constant food for her ants. Worms are a great source of protein, so when she can find them, she likes to give them some.

She is capable of creating the nectar that ants consume from flowers in the wild by preparing sugar syrup for them. Up to 200 colonies can be fed with 1.5 liters of sugar syrup for an entire day and a half.

Each type of ant has extremely distinct riles in the reproductive cycle, according to the former garment worker.

An ant may turn into a male or a female when it reaches adulthood, but they do not breed with each other. The queen is the only one in the colony that can lay eggs; the male ants have black markings and wings.

In addition to the previously mentioned varieties, there are warrior ants, which are in charge of guarding the nest and locating food to feed the colony. The other nurses have a variety of responsibilities, such as moving eggs out of the sun and ensuring they receive enough oxygen.

The roles are quite well defined within each colony. A queen is forced to leave the nest when she is unable to reproduce. The warrior ants will kill her if she refuses to leave.

Every 15 to 20 days, she claimed, she could collect a fresh batch of ants.

Source: The Phnompenh Post

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