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Crystal's Aphaenogaster occidentalis Journal


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#1 Offline Crystals - Posted April 8 2015 - 7:10 PM

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While on vacation in Fairmont Hotsprings, BC some Aphaenogaster queens started flying early.  I managed to catch one on June 27, 2014.

Here is a picture from Nov. 6 with her first workers:

Aphaenogaster_zpsvuivkjos.jpg

Aphaenogaster%202_zps02mdqhoh.jpg

 

 

They never seemed to reach a point where all pupae had eclosed where they didn't have eggs, so I never put them into hibernation.

 

Late March 2015 they pulled an odd stunt.  They stacked sand against the waterer to drain it of water, then they moved inside.  This waterer held at least 8 tablespoons, so it wasn't exactly cozy and snug inside.  I took the opportunity to replace the test tube with an actual small formicarium.  I didn't realize how high the worker count was until they moved back in, I am guessing 80+ workers and a fair pile of brood.

The nest isn't at a good angle for easy observation or pictures.

 

They didn't want to leave the waterer either, I ended up opening it up and letting them leave.

 

Here is the new nest.

DSC07503_zpsu0sk7ki9.jpg


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#2 Offline Ants4fun - Posted April 8 2015 - 7:20 PM

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That is a lot of worker's for one season! They must grow fast! I wonder why I don't see many Aphaenogaster journal's... They seem like really cool ants!



#3 Offline antmaniac - Posted April 9 2015 - 5:34 AM

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Very nice formicarium. It looks like a cartoon drawing in a photo frame.

#4 Offline Jonathan21700 - Posted April 9 2015 - 11:55 AM

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Nice!



#5 Offline dean_k - Posted April 9 2015 - 11:59 AM

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How is the queen fed since they don't have a social stomach ?



#6 Offline Crystals - Posted April 9 2015 - 12:13 PM

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How is the queen fed since they don't have a social stomach ?

Very good question. I will try to observe them move closely now that they are in an actual formicarium.  As you can see, the queen always seems to be camera shy.

 

Oddly enough, I have never observed my ants carrying anything around that may be soaked in food.  Despite a fair bit of loose sand in the foraging area, I almost never see anything but a dozen sand grains in the nest.


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#7 Offline dean_k - Posted April 9 2015 - 12:47 PM

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Yeah, I had to ask because I wasn't able to see how the queen was fed from my own failing Aphaenogaster colony which now has only the queen left. I literally had to bring food right at her to get her eat or drink. The workers did nothing (other than feeding themselves) as far as I could see.

I also never saw them performing regurgitation, so it is certain that they don't have the social stomach.

 

I wish I had one more colony of this species.



#8 Offline Crystals - Posted April 24 2015 - 9:48 AM

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Many of the larvae are now pupae.  Some smaller larvae are now seen.  Some of the pupae have eclosed, maybe about 8 or so.

A dozen workers are usually in the outworld at any given time, foraging, attempting to drain my waterers, or plotting escape plans.

 

Dean, sorry, but despite watching I have yet to see the queen fed.  But they are not bringing anything obvious into the nest like sand and she is not leaving the nest. 

I think they are chewing very small bits off of the mealworms and crickets and offering the morsels to the larvae.  But I have been unable to tell for certain since I don't have time right now to sit in front of them and observe for more than 10min or so. 

 

They do not like regular room lighting, but if it is a bit dimmer they are fine. I have a piece of paper standing vertically between the nest and the light bulb in the room.

 

They have taken their old game to new heights.  They now play a daily round of "Let's see if we can pile up a 5cm band of sand and empty the waterers before she gets home from work again!"

 

It got to the point where they could drain my normal waterers in 6 hours.  Despite trying the usual tricks like putting them on a rock or on top of an empty waterer, they quickly caught on and adapted their draining strategy.

 

For quite some time the ByFormica Mercury feeder had them confused, but then they caught on and can pile up enough sand to empty it in 12 hours or less.  Adding 1cm of cotton beneath the feeder gave me another week of breathing room while they tried to figure out how to pile sand on the cotton properly.

Today I set the feeder inside of a lid that belonged to a larger feeder so even if they do drain it, it won't soak into the grout/sand outworld floor.  I have some other good ideas, but they need more than the 4" of head room that their current outworld allows.

 

Eventually, they will run out of sand that they can pull off of the outworld floor.  Then I assume they will pile any garbage possible such as meal leftovers.  :lol:

 

Within a year or so, I am going to need a larger (and completely escape proof) outworld to keep up my tricks to keep the waterers undrainable.  As it is, I am very glad that the lid has a secure seal and that the air holes are covered in steel mesh.  How these ladies are walking over fluon without care I have no idea.  The flightless fruit flies fall right back down.


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#9 Offline Myrmicinae - Posted April 24 2015 - 10:28 AM

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As I recall, Aphaenogaster workers are known to lay trophic eggs to feed their queen.  I don't know if this applies to a young colony though.


Edited by Myrmicinae, April 24 2015 - 10:28 AM.

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#10 Offline Crystals - Posted April 24 2015 - 11:07 AM

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This reminds me a lot of my old Myrmica colonies.  I never saw the queen being fed, but they were obviously getting food somehow.

 

Oddly enough, once or twice I saw what looked like a 2-3 second trophallaxis, followed by a lot of head cleaning.  I have read that some Aphaenogaster species lack a social stomach, but other things I read seem to indicate that other Aphaenogaster species might be able to share food. 

Are there are any solid articles on whether or not Aphaenogaster occidentalis has a social stomach or not?

 

Edit: it looks like Aphaenogaster have small social stomachs (as opposed to no social stomach) Link


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#11 Offline Crystals - Posted June 13 2015 - 8:14 AM

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These ants still show no signs of wanting hibernation.  There are always all sizes of brood, including pupae, in the nest.  The colony has been growing.

I can't believe how dirty they get the glass on the nest.  Despite the fact that I never see them hanging upside down on the glass it is cloudy.

 

They are more sensitive to light than any of my other colonies, and thus I don't get very good pictures.

 

I have found that if I put their water in a much larger bottle with sides at least 8mm high that they do not carry stuff over to drain it.  Which is very nice as their favorite game previously was to drain any liquid feeder.

Oddly enough, there are always about 20-40% of the total worker population in the foraging area.

 

They do seem to like the higher humidity sections of the nest, so I think I will have to build them a formicarium with high humidity in mind.

 

DSC07662_zpszcwyiinj.jpg


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#12 Offline Crystals - Posted July 23 2015 - 6:50 PM

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Every week or so, this colony would do their best to drain the waterer and move either inside of it, or in front of it.  They have no problem nesting in acrylic, but seemed to prefer high humidity levels while being able to avoid the condensation.

After some consideration and thought, I designed a nest with them in mind.

It is a bead container with 2cm deep chambers.  Lined with grout with sand pushed into it.  The humidity chamber has a large hole drilled in it with steel mesh separating the soaked cotton from the nest chamber.

 

Within minutes of hooking it up, they moved right in.  Even more amazing, they are far more tolerant of light now.

Lots of condensation, which they love, makes for less than stellar pictures.  Any condensation drips down the wall right into the sand and grout.  They are in the dampest part of the nest.

 

Previously hanging out in front of the waterer.  The large lid they are in keeps them from draining their waterer for about a week.

DSC07697_zps1gdh14xv.jpg
DSC07786_zpsxya1iicj.jpg
DSC07788_zpsdcfcywdz.jpg


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#13 Offline dermy - Posted July 23 2015 - 11:26 PM

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I like their nest looks cool!



#14 Offline Crystals - Posted July 30 2015 - 11:50 AM

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They are definately more at home in this setup.  I rarely have more than 2-3 workers in the foraging area at a given time, unless I drop in insect pieces, then more come to help.  Not a single attempt to drain the liquid feeder (but then again, there is no sand in the foraging area as I wanted to avoid that headache).

 

They barely stir when I shine a flashlight on them.  They are far more relaxed now, even more relaxed than my Formica.

 

They have spread out a bit in the 2 chambers closer to the watering chamber.  Still lots of condensation (which is a given considering my heat cable is below). There are more eggs and the brood is coming along nicely.

 

This colony went from being one of the colonies that needed the most upkeep, to one that needs the least amount of attention.


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#15 Offline Crystals - Posted August 27 2015 - 6:37 AM

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The brood is slowly growing, and they still seem to prefer this nest.  There is a lot more brood in there now than there was before.

 

Oddly enough, I dropped in a piece of cooked trout and it has been completely covered in workers for the last 14 hours.  I don't think I have ever seen such a strong feeding response with these gals before.  They better not like it too much, we very rarely go after trout, maybe once every 5 years.


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#16 Offline Mercutia - Posted August 27 2015 - 4:48 PM

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I notice a lot of keepers report their ants really really love fish. Maybe it's the strong smell?


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#17 Offline Crystals - Posted September 27 2015 - 6:51 AM

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The colony is doing much better in this setup.  There is at least 150 workers, and a lot of brood.  They barely require any upkeep in this setup, which is nice.  They still have not attempted to escape the outworld, which is a surprise, considering they were always seeking a way out of the previous outworld with the previous nest.

 

I apologize for the condensation, a bit of the water overflowed onto the sand in the nest.  The Aphaenogaster didn't mind the water as it was quickly absorbed by the sand and grout, and they are enjoying the higher humidity.

 

DSC07953_zpskguzipwd.jpg


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#18 Offline Myrmicinae - Posted September 27 2015 - 12:29 PM

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Nice setup!


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#19 Offline dermy - Posted September 28 2015 - 2:33 AM

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Really cool setup, nice to see the colony is doing so well :D



#20 Offline Crystals - Posted October 14 2015 - 7:17 PM

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Since I caught the queen in June of 2014 this colony has not slowed brood development and has always had pupae in the pile, until just recently.

After 17 months this colony has decided that they want to hibernate.  :whistle:   Most colonies only go 5-7 months between hibernation periods.

 

They were just put in the fridge with a lot of larvae.


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