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Dreamer's Messor Barbarus (Spanish colony)

messor barbarus ants ant colony ant queen

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#1 Offline Dreamer - Posted May 12 2018 - 3:17 PM

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A new colony c015.gif

April 28th
I ordered a formicarium from AntHouse.es later last year and got some Messor Barbarus and seeds. c014.gif It was exciting to see about 20-30 workers with varying sizes - minor, media and 2-3 majors. They came in a testtube and after putting all my colonies in nests that were too big last year (beginners mistakes eh!) I decided to keep them in the testtube over winter for hibernation, I just connected them to an outworld made from a handle jewellery box I'd be given randomly for something else.

I brought them out of hybernation with my other ants and being a larger colony they seemed to be quicker to come out of hybernation.
DSC_0938.jpg

I got to put 2 of my byformica feeders in there as well, one with sugar water and one with honey water, so we'll see which goes fastest. I've also put a small petri dish with honey and marmite and fruitflies. As you can see they pretty quickly covered the dish with rubbish:
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Including sadly, the body of one of the majors that potentially didn't survive winter or couldn't face the prospect of working for a whole new year:
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May 4th
Interestingly the colony have decided to excavate under the petri dish and start a second nest. I'm not sure if this is because their testtube has run out of water now it's been reheated post-hibernation?
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Even stranger over the last few days I've seen the whole colony move out of the testtube under the petri dish... then back again the next day. Strange. They have left all the seeds in the testtube though.

As they had moved back into the testtube, I decided to add a big dead house spider to the outworld to feed the growing colony. Here is one of the first workers encountering it (the spider is on the right next to the condensation):

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May 8th
I'd not been quite sure what to do with humidity for this colony. As the test tube has run out of water and is now completely dry I've been dripping water into the outworld with a pipette, but now the colony has a second nest in there I don't want them to be flooded in the 2mm of white sand.

In other news, the spider went down a treat, this is all that remains:
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Once the spider had been removed the colony brought some lavae and pupae out to get warm in the... sun? No, I'm not sure why they brought them out as the sun's no where near as warm as the heat mat, but here they are, check out the media worker carrying the pupae:

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Because the colony had moved out of the testtube again and started to dig under the feeders as well I decided to extend their set up with a new outworld and a linked test tube full of fresh water. So I've got this set up now:
(new testtube) - (new outworld) - (original outworld)

I put all the old seeds from the test tube in the new outworld and they've all been collected and placed next to the feeder at the back. A note about the feeders, I have not seen any indication that the colony have worked out how to feed from them over the last couple of weeks. They've put sand in the tray at the bottom and climbed all around them, but I don't think I've seen any ants actually feeding. Has any one else had success with Messor Barbarus and byformica feeders?

Rather than move in the new test tube with water in, the colony have taken the seeds and fruit flies from the new outworld and decided to call the old outworld their current home. Even more bizzarely the queen has decided to live half in and half out of the new mini-nest the colony have dug under this feeder (below). She's actually underneath in this shot, but most of the time for several days she has just had her head in the sand and that seems to be enough, no concern that her backside is sticking out above ground!
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#2 Offline Dreamer - Posted June 8 2018 - 3:03 PM

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May 24th
The exodus has happened. During the night earlier this week the colony has moved from living under the feeder in their old outworld ato being back in a test tube, but this time a fresh one with lots of water. The old outworld is looking pretty empty now:
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They have also moved their see pile next to their new front door. I think the rubbish pile is still in the old outworld though by the far feeder.
 
 
May 30th
Oddly they have been running around in the night almost relocating back to the old outworld. Even the queen wandered back into the old outworld. Here is a shot of her heading back through into the new outworld. She's an adventurous one!

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I'd previously mentioned that this colony had had trouble working out how to use the feeders, but they seem to have figured it how now c015.gif

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June 6th
I had a clear out of the old outworld as there were bits of jam and spider and all kinds of stuff in there. I've tried to show where they have dug under the feeder and food plate:
 
Before they have been removed:
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Showing underneath while they are removed:
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It's hard to see all of it, but you can definitely tell that they have been digging small chambers under there. I really like that they do that. They are my move active digging colony, so their next nest-outworld will probably give them more options to dig. I have been pretty careful with all my colonies though to ensure they don't have enough sand in the outworld to dig in and hide away.

June 8th


One strange behaviour that I've observed with Messor Barbarus that I've not seen with my other ants is that they regularly kiss their own [censored]. Strange. However, I'm wondering if it has something to do with making the ant bread from the seeds. Here is quite a good shot of two workers manipulating a good-sized chunk of ant bread just outside the nest entrance:
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They are roaming quite a lot still, especially at night, but also with several out and about in the day. The colony size is about 25-30 with one large media worker. The 3 majors from last year have all died since coming out of hibernation. I wonder if the big guys live shorter lives. There has been quite a bit of attrition in the colony as they've come out of hibernation, but as you saw the other week, they have a LOT of brood, so I'm hoping the colony will go through a growth spurt soon c015.gif



#3 Offline Dreamer - Posted June 18 2018 - 1:58 PM

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June 12th
The colony have been rather quiet recently, happy to say inside the test tube. That's probably a good sign that the test tube is more appropriate than them hidding behind things in their original outworld, but it's sad not to see the out as much. There are probably 2-3 workers out, mainly chewing over the seeds, which they keep straight outside their front door.
 
I took a closer look inside the test tube and there seem to be about 25 workers, 6 pupae and a similar number number of lavae piled up underneath the workers. There should be some steady growth over the next month   cheesy.png   Have a look in these photos below:
 

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#4 Offline Dreamer - Posted July 6 2018 - 3:47 PM

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July 1st
The colony's seed stock pile was running low and they weren't coming out too much, so I gave them a whole load more with a fruitfly and a marshmellow:

Snap_002.jpg


 
The marshmellow hasn't seen much love, but the seeds were straight away moved to their main pile outside the front door of the nest. The fruitfly also disappeared over night ninja.png I had a quick look in the test tube, but frightened the queen a bit, so only managed to get this photo:
Snap_004.jpg
 

Still quite a few lavae and pupae, so expecting more colony growth. Unfortunately I didn't get time to count them all before covering them back up. I think they might be starting to get close to the capacity of the test tube, so I'm looking at moving them to a much larger sand nest. The downside with that nest is that it doesn't really fit into my set up (an insulated and heated tank). Hmm, we'll see over the next few weeks.







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