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Crystal's Formica Ulkei Journal

crystals formica ulkei

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#1 Offline Crystals - Posted October 3 2013 - 1:57 PM

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On Aug 8 2013 I observed a parasitic queen trying to invade a Formica nest.  The queen later turned out to be Formica Ulkei.  The next day I observed a second also trying to infiltrate a nest.

 

DSC05068_zpsb0cfc894.jpg

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I captured both, and will keep both colonies in this journal as I am not sure either is fertile.

 

I boosted both queens with 12-25 Formica podzolica pupae, as that was the species they were trying to take over.  Apparently one of the podzolica nests had an infiltrator, as I also have 3-5 Formica aserva workers.  They all get along fine.

 

Both queens retained their wings, although the first queen is alot more skittish than the second.

They are in hibernation now, but I will await eggs in the spring and we will see what ecloses from them.  All of the parasitic queens I have encountered wait until the next year to lay due to my colder northern location.

 

 


Edited by Crystals, October 3 2013 - 1:59 PM.

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#2 Offline Crystals - Posted November 22 2013 - 2:13 PM

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I put both colonies into hibernation in early October, as we had our first frost.

Hibernation started out at 8C, and after a week or two was bumped down to 6C.


"Always do right. This will gratify some people, and astound the rest." -- Samuel Clemens

 

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#3 Offline wook - Posted November 26 2013 - 9:48 AM

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<3<3<3 :D beautiful.


...:::]|wook|[:::...


#4 Offline Crystals - Posted November 26 2013 - 10:08 AM

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<3<3<3 :D beautiful.

Thanks!

They are one of my favorite species, but they are so hard to find...  They only fly for about a week and they hate cement so they don't land or walk on it which makes the queens VERY hard to find.  I know of only 2-3 nests and that is after looking all summer - and 2 of them are on the lawns of non-ant loving people.

 

I am hoping that one is them is fertile.

 

I read a research paper and they will supposedly welcome any newly flown queen that turns up, so I may have to carefully try if I find more queens later on once the colony is solid ulkei workers.   I am pretty sure that the one queen was looking for the small ulkei nest that I know is somewhere in that corner of the lawn (I see a worker every now and then - but despite tons of searching I have never found the location of the nest).

I would love a colony that would tolerate more than one queen.


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#5 Offline wook - Posted November 27 2013 - 9:31 AM

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Well, I did not had any luck with Raptiformica so far, I hope next season I will have more time to commit to seeking for them.
However, I would like you to try to breed that species because it is very difficult for them to raise on their own.


...:::]|wook|[:::...


#6 Offline Crystals - Posted November 27 2013 - 1:48 PM

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This is my favorite species.  I hope to one day have a huge colony of these with alates and several queens.

 

But that is putting the cart before the horse as I am not even sure if they are fertile yet.  :D


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#7 Offline wook - Posted November 28 2013 - 2:47 AM

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Usually parasitic Formica species would get their first eggs in spring "next" year. So, we will see. :)


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#8 Offline Crystals - Posted November 28 2013 - 6:57 AM

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Usually parasitic Formica species would get their first eggs in spring "next" year. So, we will see. :)

In northern Canada, any species that flies from late July and onward usually don't lay until spring, with a few exceptions like Lasius who overwinter larvae.  So I wasn't too surprised when they didn't lay eggs.

 

I can't wait for spring.  :D


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#9 Offline wook - Posted December 5 2013 - 1:35 PM

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Hahahaha, well, here's not even similar situation, for species that flies in September I would expect to wait for spring, but I wouldn't be surprised to see eggs...


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#10 Offline Crystals - Posted December 12 2013 - 9:02 AM

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I had taken the colonies out of hibernation around mid-November.  Striking differences are appearing between the two colonies, so I will comment on both colonies separately.

 

Colony 1: This queen was found trying to invade a Formica podzolica nest.

This colony has a real mix of workers from my boosting in the fall.  About 12-16 Formica podzolica, 5-8 Formica aserva, and 3-4 Formica ulkei. 

I have not noticed any problems amongst the workers, although one very high strung aserva worker who is missing half of one antennae rarely accepts a cleaning from her nest mates.

This colony is extremely easy to feed with the aggressive Formica aserva.  One is almost always in the foraging area, and the aserva actively hunt fruit flies (or anything that they even think might have moved).  Once food is found, it usually enlists 2 other aserva, and they are usually followed by a runty Formica podzolica with an attitude to match the aserva.

 

2 weeks ago the first eggs appeared.  There are currently about 18-25 eggs being carried around by a ulkei worker.

 

 

Colony 2: This queen was found in the grass, presumably trying to find a Formica ulkei nest that I suspect is around there somewhere.  This queen is also more restless than the other queen, about 2-3 times a week she goes to the entrance of outworld before retreating back into the nest.

This colony had a mix of workers: 18-20 Formica podzolica workers, 1 Formica aserva, 3 Formica ulkei.

I am not sure if it was the large ratio of podzolica workers to the other species, or just 1-2 individuals with sharp instincts, but these workers were not that peaceful towards the ulkei workers in the long duration.

Before hibernation, all of them were peaceful with no issues that I saw.  After I took them out of hibernation I started seeing some aggression from the podzolica workers towards the ulkei workers.  If a podzolica worker approached the ulkei from the front and they touched antennae, all was fine. But if the podzolica worker approached from behind and touched the ulkei's very hairy gaster, then it reacted a bit aggressively.  Some of the podzolica workers were shy and just skittered away, but 1-2 of the larger and more aggressive ones would try to bite the ulkei's gaster.  In the end, one particularly large Formica podzolica worker grabbed the ulkei worker by her petiole and simply wouldn't let go.  After 4-5 days the ulkei worker died, and the podzolica worker would find another ulkei worker to grab.  After a month, all of the 3 ulkei workers were dead.  Interestingly, the podzolica never had a problem with the aserva.  Perhaps because they lacked the hairy gaster that the ulkei have?  I am not sure.

I have not seen any aggression towards the queen - although I am beginning to suspect that the queen's wings remain intact as a survival mechanism, as the smooth wings shield her very hairy gaster.  The workers in this colony have trimmed the queens wings a bit, they extend to the tip of her gaster, but not beyond.

 

The lone aserva in this nest is fairly small compared to their usual size.  It is also a wimp.  I have never seen it in the foraging area, although it will readily attack a fruit fly if one dares to crawl into the nest.  The aserva's refusal to leave the nest, and the fairly shy podzolica make feeding this colony hard.  Luckily the nest entrance is a bit higher than then outworld entrance, so if I place a fruit fly in the tunnel, it will usually crawl up and into the nest.

 

This colony does not have any eggs yet.


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#11 Offline dspdrew - Posted December 12 2013 - 10:09 AM

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Sounds like a lot of drama. :P



#12 Offline Crystals - Posted December 12 2013 - 1:40 PM

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I have a lot of hope for colony 1.  The queen is calmer, and the workers seem much more attached to her.  If they think something is wrong, or if a fruit fly wasn't as dead as they originally thought, then they will actively lead the queen away.  One of the Formica aserva never leaves her side.

Interestingly, the workers haven't trimmed her wings at all.

 

 

Colony 2 just makes me shake my head as I shove individual fruit flies into the tubing that leads to the nest... 

The queen is so jumpy that she seems schizophrenic. I find Formica in general to normally be a bit jumpier, but she takes it to a whole different level.

I wonder what they will dream up next.  :unknown:


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#13 Offline Crystals - Posted December 21 2013 - 9:29 AM

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Colony 1: The brood is quickly breaking up into different stages.  It is fairly easy to tell when an egg hatches as the adults all try to stuff the young larvae full of food.  With so much food, the larvae grow quickly.

There are 5-6 larger larvae, a couple of smaller ones, and about 12-15 eggs.  The ulkei workers spend the most time with the larvae and lavish the most care on them, although the podzolica and aserva all help out.  The larvae have orange stomachs.  Not sure if it is because the adults favor hummingbird nectar over honey, or another reason.

Trying to get good lighting for photos disturbed the colony, about half of the workers are hiding in the tubing right in the nest entrance where it is really dark.

 

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Colony 2:  Still no eggs.  Didn't like the extra lighting either, so they kind of scattered.

Queen22_zps564cce71.jpg

 

 


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#14 Offline Crystals - Posted December 23 2013 - 8:05 PM

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Colony 1:

Today the first larvae started spinning it's cocoon. 

From what I read, it takes an average of 23 days for Formica to eclose, so it will not be too much longer until I find out if I have workers or alates.  3 weeks feels so far away...

 

 

Colony 2 is still being un-cooperative and has no eggs.


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#15 Offline Crystals - Posted January 11 2014 - 8:13 AM

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Colony 1 had 6 pupae after two days of larvae attempting to spin.  The workers removed any cocoon that they had and the pupae are naked. 

Something was wrong with the one pupae, after it developed for a few days, developing legs,etc.  The gaster was a pit pointy, but the gaster never stopped moving - like a maggot or something.  I have never seen a pupae move until they start to eclose.  The moving pupae really seemed to confuse the workers with its never ceasing gaster movement.  It had about 12 workers constantly examining it with their antennae.  The workers ate it after a few hours of its constant movement.

Unfortunately this seems to have given two particular Formica podzolica workers a taste for pupae.  Unless they have some food constantly in their mouths to chew on, they pick up the nearest pupae and start munching.  Considering how distended and bloated their gasters are, I have no clue where they are putting all of this food.

I have 3 pupae left, and one is starting to darken a bit.  Good news is that all of the pupae look like normal worker pupae to me.  You can see one in the picture below.

DSC06557_zps6d1ea5a9.jpg

 

Here is a shot of all 3 species in one chamber that the larvae usually reside in.  Pure black are the Formica podzolica, red with the black gaster is Formica aserva, and the black with a red thorax is Formica ulkei.

DSC06558_zps0e7552fb.jpg

 

 

 

Colony 2 still has no eggs.  :whistle:


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#16 Offline Crystals - Posted February 1 2014 - 5:18 PM

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Over the past few weeks I watched at least 2 podzolica eating all of the pupae in colony one.

 

I moved both colonies to new nests made from firebrick.

When I moved colony one, I removed every podzolica worker from the colony.  Leaving the queen with 2 ulkei workers (these were boosted from last fall) and 8 aserva (also boosted from last fall).  Since the move the last pupae is still developing and the brood is coming along nicely.  The queen has steadily been laying a few eggs here and there.

 

Colony 1 on left, colony 2 on right:

DSC06620_zps374566a3.jpg

 

Colony 1: no more brood disappearances and you can see the lone pupae is still present.  The pupae is definitely a worker.  :D    More eggs are slowly coming.

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Colony 2...  Now has eggs!  :D

I don't know if she is just slow or if the move made her rethink her colony size. 

DSC06623_zps195c4431.jpg


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#17 Offline dspdrew - Posted February 1 2014 - 6:40 PM

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I wish one of my Camponotus queens would rethink her colony size; it's one... her. She had six or so workers until she murdered them all. Now she just sits there alone, and has been for months.



#18 Offline Crystals - Posted February 21 2014 - 4:47 PM

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First worker!  :yahoo:  Finally!

Without the podzolica cannibals the brood is no longer disappearing.

I will admit that it surprises me that it takes over 3 days for eclosing, from the first leg twitch to actually standing.  This little girl still isn't standing straight yet.  There are 2 more that are very close to eclosing as well.  The aserva is standing close guard over the young worker.

firstworkerFeb2014_zps5be3ff0e.jpg

 

Colony 2 finally has pupae - but with cocoons. :thinking:

All I can think of is that the queen is possibly unfertile and it is an alate developing.  From what I have observed in the local Formica nests, workers have no cocoon, while alates do.  Or possibly that the workers were better able to assist the spinning larvae.  From what I saw the workers in this colony completely covered the larvae, whereas colony 1 only added a few grains of sand.

I guess we will find out in a few weeks.

colony2-cocoon_zpsd9239bd9.jpg


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#19 Offline dspdrew - Posted February 21 2014 - 7:56 PM

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Doesn't it have something to do with the conditions? My Formica and Myrmecocystus colonies both have naked and cocooned pupae that all turn out to be workers.



#20 Offline Crystals - Posted February 23 2014 - 7:45 AM

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That is the odd thing.  They are side by side in the same type of firebrick nest (the nests were even part of the same block).  Same 1/4 of nest on a heating cable, same hydration....

I noticed that the workers in colony 2 completely buried the spinning larvae, whereas colony 1 only added 1-2 grains of sand.  That would make a big difference.

I guess i will have to wait and see.

 

The cocoon is really dark for only being 48 hours spun.  I guess I am used to the Camponotus who have very white cocoons which darken just before they eclose.


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