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I apologize for the lack of new posts over this month.  I have been very busy these last few weeks.  Unfortunately, it looks like my updates will continue to be sporadic and brief into the foreseeable future.

The Lasius neoniger queen that I focused on in this post has since seen her first nanitics emerge from their cocoons.  The tube housing the colony was sustaining a huge amount of mold growth, and (possibly because of this issue) the colony itself had little very little appetite.  In light of the situation, I decided to build them a new formicarium out of a piece of 6×3 in. Ytong/AAC block.  After construction was complete, I attached the old test tube to the new nest and waited for the ants to migrate on their own.  Two days passed and the ants still showed no interest in the AAC formicarium.  On Sunday night, I made the decision to move the ants through force.  I encountered many problems during this process, most of which I will not go into.  Halfway through the operation, I discovered a crack in the foraging arena large enough for the tiny L. neoniger nanitics to fit through.  I ended up having to detach the entire foraging arena from the nest itself.  It was a long and stressful set of hours (both for me and the ants), but I eventually did get most of the colony, as well as their brood, into the formicarium interior.  I’m not sure how many workers were in the test tube originally, but about thirteen of them made the move to the new formicarium.  They seem to have settled in well over the last couple of days and have reorganized their brood into separate piles according to stage of growth.  Last night, I offered them two fruit flies, both of which were quickly discovered and dragged back to the brood piles with a vigor that was nearly nonexistent when they lived in the moldy test tube.  I am taking this as a sign of good things to come.  The AAC formicarium is positioned in a manner that makes lighting bothersome, but I’ll look for opportunities to take pictures when I can.

Of the other two L. neoniger queens, the smaller in body size (and also the last to lay eggs) has managed to foster seven cocoons.  There has been close to zero mold growth in her test tube.  I have my fingers crossed that it will remain that way.  Ironically, the queen that was the first to lay eggs still only has two or three larvae and a clump of eggs.  The larvae have been basically the same size for quite a while and have shown no signs of pupation. I’m not sure what exactly went wrong.  I am considering the possibility that she is unfertilized.  If this were the case, due to the method of sexual determination used by ants (haplodiploidy), any larvae she produced would be destined to become males.  Male ants are often larger than workers, which would explain why her larvae are not developing properly, since the queen only has a limited amount of stored resources in her body.

A few weeks ago, I noticed that the Myrmica sp. colony’s water supply in their test tube was running very low, so I decided to build them an AAC formicarium as well.  This was before I constructed the one for the L. neoniger colony.  It was my first attempt at it, and, I must say, it worked out very well.  The Myrmica colony was much less of a hassle to move, in comparison to the Lasius.  I simply dumped the entire colony into a foraging arena connected to the new nest and they had moved into it in less than an hour.  Unfortunately, prior to the move, five workers had escaped while the colony was being fed.  Their numbers were at about fifteen, with the eclosion of a new worker, when the migration was made.  Many of the new workers that have been eclosing over the past month are massive in comparison to their sisters.  A few of them are actually just as large as the queen herself.  I have noticed a few new clusters of eggs in the formicarium as well.

Here are some pictures of the nest without the ants in it.  A strip of sponge was stuffed into the water reservoir, in order for the nest to hold moisture longer.

I’ll try to get some pictures of the colony living in it when I get the chance.

The pair of unidentified Lasius queens are now tending to their first three cocoons.  I’m very interested to see what the workers will look like.

The test tube belonging to the Camponotus vicinus colony is currently filled with over eight cocoons and a large number of larvae.  Oddly, they continue to show very little interest in insects.  Their favorite food source seems to be honey water mixed with whey protein powder.  I’m not sure if that is the healthiest source of nutrition for a growing ant colony, but I can’t find very much else that they will accept.

The small Aphaenogaster occidentalis colony has four pupae, as well as a small number of larvae and a tiny pile of eggs.  They have been living off of a diet of squished fruit flies.

Thanks for reading!

“Look in the mirror, and don’t be tempted to equate transient domination with either intrinsic superiority or prospects for extended survival.”

– Stephen Jay Gould

This is a short video of the Aphaenogaster occidentalis queen and her first worker.  It was shot on March 25, 2012.  Since then, another larva has pupated, meaning that it probably won’t be long until the second worker emerges.  A new collection of at least seven large larvae has formed as well.  This queen produced a surprisingly small number of workers in her first brood.  I am unsure as to whether or not this is typical of her species.

New Photos

One of the pupae in the Myrmica sp. colony has begun to darken.

 

One of the larger larvae of the Camponotus vicinus colony spun a cocoon last night, the second cocoon of the year.  All of the large larvae in this colony have a strange orange coloration.  Does anyone know the reason behind this?  I’m thinking it may be diet related.

I have decided to create a separate post for this information, rather than include it in my last set of updates.

In the evening of September 11, 2011, numerous colonies of ants belonging to multiple species released their winged reproductives into the air outside of my house.  Oddly, it had not rained the day before. Most ant species stage their nuptial flights on the day after a large rainstorm when the ground is moist, making it easy for the new queens to dig their first burrows in the soil.  The reasons for the chosen date of these nuptial flights is unknown to me.  Among the ants flying that day, most belonged to the genera, Lasius and Aphaenogaster.  I found multiple queens of Aphaenogaster occidentalis wandering across the surface of the sidewalk, but, at the time, I was in the middle of a test tube shortage, so I only collected one.

She laid a small cluster of eggs before I put her into hibernation, unlike the Lasius queens I captured that day, all of which waited until they came out of hibernation to begin raising their first set of brood.  She has had to go through a great deal of moves from one test tube to the next, due to mold growth.  Her first nanitic worker eclosed yesterday.

September 11, 2011 – on the day she was collected:

 

October 22, 2011 – first cluster of brood:

 

March 24, 2012 – first worker:

I haven’t been keeping up with my records as much as I would like to in these last few weeks, so I will try to be as detailed as possible here.

The Camponotus vicinus colony is doing far better than I expected.  I connected their test tube to a foraging arena several days ago, hoping to better replicate their natural environment.  Somehow, this simple change caused the little colony to greatly increase both food intake and brood production.  Four or five larvae look as if they are close to pupation and the number of small larvae and eggs remains high.  As you can see in the photo below, it appears that the colony is using the queen as a “food storage unit” of sorts, judging by the massive size of her gaster.  Beneath her head is the first cocoon of the year.

 

The Myrmica sp. colony is now tending to a total of five pupae, over a dozen larvae of various sizes, and a huge pile of eggs.  One of the 20 workers managed to escape the test tube while I was feeding them and is now hiding somewhere on the floor of my room.  In the photo below, the larvae can be seen chewing on the remains of a cricket.  The queen is sitting near a pile of eggs at the far left.

 

The Lasius neoniger queen that I focused on in my earlier post currently has around a dozen tiny cocoons.  I had to move her into a different tube last week, due to the mold problem in her old one.  Nevertheless, she seems to be handling the stress well.  I added some sand in her new home to make it more “inviting”.

 

The other two L. neoniger queens in my care have yet to see their first cocoons.

I should also add that I removed the last two unidentified Lasius queens from the fridge around a week ago.  Both have laid a few eggs.  The pair of cooperating Lasius sp. queens are currently caring for at least eleven developing larvae.