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Nare's Reticulitermes Flavipes Journal

reticulitermes flavipes journal termites

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#1 Offline Nare - Posted July 3 2018 - 2:07 PM

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Update 1 (3/7/18)

So after about a month of searching, I found a Reticulitermes flavipes (eastern subterranean termite) intrusion under a log. Now termites aren't native to my city, but R. flavipes was introduced around 80 years ago from the states, and has been chewing through houses since.

Here's a picture of where I found them:

EdoAJzF.jpg

The log that I busted open was full of termites - reproductive nymphs to be exact. Which might be kind of a problem. I brought 3 test tube setups, each with a little strip of cardboard, as well as a larger Tupperware container with some substrate and some cardboard, as well as a little bit of wood. I filled each tube with some workers and reproductive nymphs, with the hopes that the reproductive nymphs will molt into secondary reproductives, and then lay eggs.

I mostly filled the larger Tupperware container with nymphs, however, so I'm not sure how things will go. There might unfortunately be a few deaths, because there just weren't a ton of workers when I busted open the log.

Here's an image or two of one very confused reproductive nymph who stood still for a photoshoot:

xlB1T4u.jpg

2Dlu572.jpg

Here are some pictures of the termites in the test tubes - there are three different "buds" right now, I suspect that because there seem to be more workers in the tubes, they'll do better:

p9Z8GeC.jpg

Od8szRL.jpg

siQCzfm.jpg

C5TAxFA.jpg

J5XBUn5.jpg

Finally, here's an overview of the Tupperware with the moist cardboard - the nymphs and few workers are all hidden underneath the cardboard:

kL1lI88.jpg

And finally, here's a nymph trying to crawl out of the Tupperware - thankfully, termites are completely incapable of climbing smooth plastic (So there's no worry of an escape).

EpNU7jJ.jpg

Sorry for the abysmal photo quality, I've had an extremely difficult time with lighting (and my Samsung doesn't have a fantastic camera). I think I'll do another update in maybe two weeks, and every two weeks after that, but I don't expect a whole ton to happen super fast - from what I've read, it takes a little while for nymphs to become secondary reproductives and lay eggs. Maybe then I'll start to see some soldiers.


Edited by Nare, August 25 2018 - 11:46 AM.

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#2 Offline Nare - Posted July 17 2018 - 1:14 PM

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Update 2 (17/7/18)

It's termite Tuesday - that means an update for my fledgeling intrusions.

I'll start with the good news - in the test tube colonies, I've seen zero deaths, so I think everything's okay. Now for the bad news - in the termi-tub, the opposite has happened - all of my termites, as well as all the other hitchhikers that I'd seen have died, and things have started to mold. I was away last week, so I didn't witness this collapse, thus I'm not entirely sure what caused it. Any ideas are appreciated.

In other news, I've consolidated two of my tubes into one - one of the tubes contained mostly workers, the other contained mostly reproductive nymphs, so I though the colony would have a better chance of success if the two were joined. They've been living happily together for about a week now.

Another thing I've done is poked some minuscule holes in the plastic caps of the tube, and shoved cotton in them, to allow the termites to breath, without being able to escape. This seems to have eliminated the condensation on the sides of the tube - it allows me to take better pictures, but I don't know if the termites ae happy with this.

Anyways, I'll stop rambling - here are some pictures of the two setups:

Here's the two tube setups - I've added a little bit of cardboard as well.

v9XrF8v.jpg

Here's what the termites (or the water) have (has) done to the cardboard - it's been separated into individual layers that the termites now inhabit.

aOr1lrN.jpg

JGfVWzP.jpg

Here's a proto-tunnel that the termites have been digging into the wet cotton bud - thankfully, in 9 days, they've made no progress, so I think it's tightly enough packed that they can't make their way through.

wT9I2uc.jpg

Here's some termites. Reproductive nymphs I think.

q2iAoe1.jpg

Here's a little worker thing - I think it's actually a larva, workers have different colours, and are a bit bigger.

Yi6ypHz.jpg

ptp9Ta4.jpg

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Here's a worker - you can see the brownish colours on their abdomen.

DFKGChh.jpg

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Here's some termite butt, it's disappearing into a little hidey-hole they've dug in the cardboard.

ktkzg5N.jpg

There have been no molts as far as I've seen - I think it'll take a little bit longer for some nymphs to realize they need to become reproductives, and then actually molt into them. I'm interested in seeing some soldiers appear - I hope some workers will molt into them sometime soon.

 

Anyways, I'll probably update this again in two weeks. Stay tuned.


Edited by Nare, August 25 2018 - 11:51 AM.

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#3 Offline Nare - Posted July 31 2018 - 12:38 PM

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Update 3 (31/7/18)

 

Oh hey - it's that time of the month again. Yes, it's termite Tuesday. Just a disclaimer, this one's probably gonna be the last big update for a month or two.

 

So yesterday, the 30th of July, I returned to the place where I first found the termites. Using a huge screwdriver and a hammer, I tried to break apart the log where I found the first termites. But I couldn't, the wood was really tough. So I looked around some more, and here's what I found concerning subterranean termite's microhabitat.

 

Firstly, from my findings, subterranean termites prefer hardwood. Secondly, they prefer wood that's not super old - the bark shouldn't be falling off. Thirdly, the wood should be in a damp area, or at least on some damp soil. In fact, both logs were pretty much sitting on mud. When searching for termites, you can start by simply flipping the right kinds of logs. If you see a couple termites underneath, you're welcome to grab them. But that's not all. I've found that often, termite logs may be "u" shaped, as opposed to "o" shaped like a normal log is. In the indent, you'll be able to see spongey, termite eaten wood. You can start scraping that off, and scooping out the termites within. If I visit the place again, I'll take some pictures of these logs.

 

Anyways. I scooped out some termites, and a bit of wood, and put them in some jam jars.

64lMZEr.jpg

The visibility isn't fantastic, but what you can do is take some of the pieces of wood out, and place them on the lids.

2DNWAZE.jpg

This piece of wood is the wood from the first colony. I'd have taken pictures of them, but it appears that they're all hiding inside this wood, and I didn't want to break this piece apart just to take pictures. On occasion, I see an antennae peeking out. But for the most part, they're staying inside. Here's a picture of the wood inside of the jar.

mjgQpHg.jpg

In the other colony, the opposite seems to be happening - there's just as much wood, with chambers in it too, however, the termites have decided to live in the soil. Which I'm not complaining about - I get a good view of their tunnels, which they've dug right up against the bottom of the jar. Anyways, here's my favourite part of this expedition - it looks like I scooped up a PREsoldier (happy now lc3?), which is a termite in the molt or so before the soldier, or else it's a new soldier, recently molted, that has yet to pigment. Have a look:

KIvu1Xd.jpg

v0NuuNl.jpg

And finally, here's just a normal termite worker.

oS5xtjF.jpg

So that wraps it up for today. I'll still do an update in two weeks time, but I don't expect a whole ton to have happened. If you haven't noticed, termites are kinda slow to do anything.

 

EDIT: In last update I said that I had poked some holes in the termite test tubes for ventilation, I checked back recently, and the termites had blocked those holes with soil. Knowing this, I decided to just replace the perforated caps with undamaged caps. The tubes are now sealed again, like the jars, I'll air them out periodically.


Edited by Nare, August 25 2018 - 11:54 AM.

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#4 Offline Nare - Posted August 14 2018 - 12:42 PM

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Update 4 (14/8/18)

 

So this is just a quick one, and I don't have a ton of good news. Basically, a couple days after I caught my termites in jars, I went away for a couple days. I came back, and found them all dead. Unscrewing the cap was like opening the soda, and the inside of the jars smelt like methane. So what I think happened was that the termites were gassed to death by methane. Before you get mad, I had good reason to assume that the termites would survive fine in a closed jar - my termites in the tubes have been sealed in for weeks on end, and when I did put holes in the cap, they sealed them with dirt. You can see why I thought they'd've been fine for such a short period of time. Turns out that it was probably the wood that I'd put in the jars that had gassed the termites. It was the stuff that they were in originally, but I guess it doesn't do well in closed spaces.

 

So I've devised a way to test this method. I grabbed some more termites from the site, and put them in two jars, this time both ventilated. One jar had the original wood in it, the other had some cardboard in it. I'll check on it in a couple weeks to see which colony is still around - if both are, then using the wood is okay. If the one with the wood does die, then I'll know that the wood is indeed deadly, even when ventilated. I don't see why it would be, but who knows.

 

Anyways - the colonies in the tubes are still doing fine - I thought I had seen eggs, but they were way too small. I just hope that they aren't mites or fungi or something that'd wipe out my termites. In order to get more, I'd need to start sawing into their logs - they've all retreated into the hard wood that I can't scrape away with a screwdriver. Unless my tube colonies do die, I'll probably leave them be until the springtime. I've harassed them enough as is.

 

Anyways, I think that's it for now. Expect another update in a month, or maybe a small update in two weeks, and a photo update in a month.


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#5 Offline Ikerrilove - Posted August 14 2018 - 12:56 PM

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The drive to find answers can sometimes be a cruel one. I hope they surprise you and both do just fine. Can they rejoin the others you have or would they have to return to the log?


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#6 Offline Nare - Posted August 14 2018 - 1:26 PM

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The drive to find answers can sometimes be a cruel one. I hope they surprise you and both do just fine. Can they rejoin the others you have or would they have to return to the log?

If they do fine, there'll be no problem for them to go anywhere. Termite workers are all sterile, but they are male and female. Pheromones from the reproductive members of the colony keep them sterile - when they're removed from the colony, and they aren't receiving that pheromone anymore, they can sexually mature and breed, establishing a new pair of reproductives, and continuing the colony. I'm banking on this for my whole venture - termite nuptial flights are super local, and they themselves are pretty localized within the city, so the chances that I'd find some reproductives during their flight is tiny. Digging some up wouldn't be any easier - they're either underground, or near the very centre of the log. Allowing workers to develop into reproductives is the easiest way to start a colony imo. 


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#7 Offline Nare - Posted August 25 2018 - 12:19 PM

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Update 5 (25/8/18)

 

Ok, so I know it isn't Tuesday, but some exciting stuff happened, and I might be busy next Tuesday, so I'm sharing now.

 

Firstly, the results of the test I mentioned last time. It turns out that all of the termites in the cardboard setup have passed, whilst those in the wood setup are doing fine. They've tunneled around in the dirt at the bottom. There's quite a few of them, if I leave them alone long enough, maybe I'll get another colony.

 

Secondly, I've devised and moved my two test tube colonies into new setups. As mentioned in my second post, I believe, the termites kept digging into the cotton buds. Knowing this, I moved them into new, all cotton setups, that remove the risk of drowning. They seem to be doing fine in them, and visibility is much better. Here they are:

91gDvAL.jpg

LuyG8l0.jpg

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Also, yesterday, I went back to the site with my brother and his machete, and, although the wood proved too difficult to hack off, we did find a smaller piece that contained a couple treasures, which have been put into two more tubes. One of these treasures is a soldier! Not a prosoldier, an actual, developed member of the soldier cast. It looks pretty cool, and just wanders around snapping its mandibles once in a while. Have a look:

jeRgOYU.jpg

sYEHgKG.jpg

vcH2Zdz.jpg

 

As well, there was one larger reproductive nymph, which I believe might actually be a fully grown reproductive. Where most reproductive nymphs have abdomens that taper a bit, sort of like a long isosceles triangle, this one has an abdomen that's pretty thicc all the way down, and rounded at the end. I even think I saw an egg, or saw something, that a worker was tending to, protruding from the end of its abdomen. I tried to catch it on film, but I'm a horrible cameraman, and you can't really see what's going on. I'll post the videos when they've uploaded (They take a while).

mQMmk3f.jpg

(Awful photo, I know. You're supposed to be looking at the large termite in the middle)

Saef9ZO.jpg

There's its abdomen, you can see it's a lot rounder than the other nymphs, and seems to have raised segments. Not really sure what to think of it.

S5dLdyW.jpg

 

Anyways, that's pretty much it for this week. I've been having trouble uploading videos to Imgur, so I might just post them on YouTube. There probably won't be a huge update next termite Tuesday (Not next Tuesday, the one after the one after that one.), but who knows? Anything could happen.


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#8 Offline Nare - Posted August 29 2018 - 2:48 PM

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Update 6

Okay, I know, it's still not a Tuesday, and I said I'd wait - but I want to write some stuff down before I forget. No pics this time, I'm too lazy. I'll have some next update, which will be at the normal scheduled time.

 

PSA: No matter what, just forget about completely sealing your termites in a setup. I had two intrusions that did fine for 4 to 6 weeks in sealed tubes. I've had (as stated above) others that died in a matter of days in sealed setups. Today, I had a scare, as I noticed 3 test tube colonies were seemingly dead.

Basically, yesterday I went to a new location and found more termites, which I collected. I have 3 new intrusions, and I put them, along with my other 2 test tube intrusions, into new setups (based on some videos I'd seen about Coptotermes formosanus, subterranean termites from a different part of the world. In the video, they were being kept in test tubes filled with damp toilet paper, and it looked pretty successful. I detailed those more in the "Termite Setups" thread, but I moved all of my test tube intrusions into these setups, and sealed them with the plastic stoppers that came with the tubes. I checked today, and found three of the setups, the new termites, seemingly dead. I opened the tubes, put them in the light, and thankfully, they started moving again after a little while.

I have a couple questions: why did the air foul so fast in these setups compared to the last ones, why did only the new termites go into this dormant state, and was it the termites or the setup itself that fouled the air?

I've now shoved cotton into the ends of the tubes - by stopping it from touching the damp parts of the tube, I hope that the termites will avoid it, yet still be able to breath.

 

Yep, so this post is quite a mess, but I had to write this down/inform people, but in summary, I'm done with sealing tubes. it's just too risky.

 

I should recap on how many termite setups I'm currently keeping:

In tubes

2x termites from colony A

3x termites from colony B

In jars

1x termites from colony A

1x termites from colony B

In a tub

1x wood from colony B (May contain termites, no idea. If they're in there, they're hiding.)


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#9 Offline Nare - Posted September 25 2018 - 5:10 PM

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Update 7 (25/9/18)

 

It's been almost a month since my last update. I think I'll keep the schedule this way - I may even extend it to 2 months if nothing interesting happens. But yes - Termite Tuesday is now the last Tuesday of every month (Mark those calendars!). So, last we left off, I'd left my termites in their new toilet paper setups. They've worked, and they've worked pretty well it seems. Lots of tunneling in the toilet paper, and some nice looking tunnels in one of the jars.
 

So, I'll start with the jars. I've only seen activity in one of them. The termites have made tons of tunnels along the bottom, and when I pick up the jars to take a peek, I always see termites scurrying about. It looks like they're smoothing or reinforcing the walls of their tunnels with feces, they're a lighter brown colour, and smoother looking, than the rest of the soil. I'm also seeing one or two looong termites. Reproductive nymphs to be sure, possibly full fledged reproductives. No evidence of brood - they might be keeping that in the wood. In the other jar, I've seen no activity. Very few, poorly defined tunnels, no feces, nothing. I'm guessing they're all hiding in the wood, as this has been the case before. Only time will tell.

The piece of wood in the tub was empty. I kept it for a couple of weeks, saw no activity, then decided to screwdriver it open. No termites. I froze it just in case there were some hiding in some hidden corner, and then dumped the sterilized wood outside.

Now, for the tubes. As stated, my termites have been doing pretty well. They've been digging lots of tunnels, and have started to fill in the niches I made for them initially. Most of the tubes look like this now:
kuiuQmO.jpg

Unfortunately, in 3 of the 5 tubes, visibility isn't what it once was. No way around that. I can still see the termites jamming themselves into their tunnels, so it's not like I can't see any of them. Speaking of tunnels, here are some closeups of them:
f5JWJJJ.jpg

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Here's a soldier, the defensive member of the colony... hiding...

KeZYoUu.jpg

 

It should be noted that the termites have packed themselves together under their own volition. The tunnels aren't yet wide enough for them to even turn around fully, so when disturbed, they all sorta back their way out one at a time. They also aren't dead - they just seem to do that. Speaking of deaths, there have been none since those from moving the termites, which are almost always inevitable.

 

Another strange thing is that, in the three colonies that seem to be most vigorously excavating, the tunnels are built in the same orientations. Three colonies, three different tubes, one master plan. I assume this is due to the way I aligned the tubes. I put them all with the chamber I created facing up, and the termites have all dug down to the bottom, straight through the paper, at the end of the chamber I created. They've also all dug tunnels (with varying degrees of success) along the left side of the tube, at a similar height to the chamber I've dug. Left being the left one has when looking down the tube from the open end.

 

A final oddity is which colonies have decided to dig. All three colonies from my newest expedition, what I assume to be a separate colony from that which I initially excavated, have dug profusely. However, my older colonies, the two from the initial dig site, have done little digging. To be fair, one of said colonies is composed almost entirely of reproductive nymphs, which are thought to preform little labour themselves. Here's some pics:

GZQiYYp.jpg

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(That one's with flash, needless to say, they weren't a fan of that.)

NAC650i.jpg

 

One of those tubes has a fair amount of mold, but it doesn't seem to be harmful. I'll be monitoring it, but I suspect that as the termites process the paper, they'll remove it. The mold might also be helping them to break down the paper. Here's something interesting from the colony that seems to be composed mainly of reproductive nymphs - it's a nymph that seems to be progressing towards full on reproductive! This is pretty exciting - it's essentially the first step towards termite babies... Take a look:

In this one, it's the really thicc termite closest to the glass:

R5G9uAt.jpg

GZQiYYp.jpg

 

In general, I'm starting to see more and more long individuals - this seems to be indicative that the colonies have noticed that there are no reproductives, and are taking steps to remedy such. Here's another neat individual I saw. It has more developed wings than any reproductive nymph I've seen, yet it's body is shaped just like a worker. Maybe something interesting will come of this? Who knows. Anyways, here's the pic - it's a screenshot of some footage I took, sorry for the Mikey Bustos red circle, but I wanted to be clear of which individual I was referencing:

NXD7pxa.jpg

 

That about wraps it up for this month. Check in next month - there may be an update. I might try and include some footage, but I'm too lazy to bother cropping it on Imgur, and still need to rename my yt so that my personal info isn't made available to the world at large. But yes, next month there could be an update... It might even be Halloween themed... ;)


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#10 Offline LC3 - Posted September 25 2018 - 10:48 PM

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A few of your nymphs look like they have brownish markings on them (at least from what I can tell) :D
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Colonies

Spoiler

 

 


#11 Offline Nare - Posted September 29 2018 - 1:32 PM

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A few of your nymphs look like they have brownish markings on them (at least from what I can tell) :D

Does that signify sexual maturity?


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#12 Offline Nare - Posted October 30 2018 - 5:51 PM

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Update 8 (30/10/18)

 

It's termite Tuesday again! Too lazy to do anything super spooky, but some neat stuff has happened. I'll save that until later though, gotta keep the reader hooked. In the mean time, here are some neat soldier photos that I snapped - I can only get good photos of them when they're stuck in traffic - otherwise they'd be running for cover. So much for "soldiers".

rrJV1Sk.jpg

mC1x3nG.jpg

qcCokDX.jpg

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So remember how I had 2 colonies in jars? Well I hadn't seen any activity in one of them, so I decided to empty the jar and take a look. There were no termites in the soil, but there were tons of web building insects, some wood grubs, and a couple other unwanted hitchhikers.

Anyways, I broke open the wood, and what would you know, there were termites. I found about 10, and I saw some neat individuals - I believe that they're ergatoid workers, which is super exciting - I hope that maybe I'll have eggs in this colony soon. Here's some pictures of the ergatoid pair.

Sa7c7l1.jpg

csocTCB.jpg

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This one's a bit more of an action shot - decided to include it anyways, as most of the photos are from the top.

 

hJnnsec.jpg

This one's a good comparison of an ergatoid (?) worker compared to a normal worker - you can see the size difference in the abdomen, and also the different colours.

 

Z1PoQib.jpg

IQPvlLn.jpg

Lx4O9kv.jpg

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Here's some more pictures of one of the ergatoids - this was right after I'd moved the lot into a tube, and I experimented with different coloured backgrounds.

 

Nzheouo.jpg

qKWcyvH.jpg

Borkp4x.jpg

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aIwWLqY.jpg

Here's some shots taken after three or four weeks - you can see that they've already begun caking the inside surface of the tube with paper.

 

GxEfr54.jpg

Here's a shot of one of the ergatoids - they like to hide, so this was the best I could get.

 

lu3OEZX.jpg

aJSPY6N.jpg

Finally, here's a shot from a little while after I'd first moved in. I'm afraid there was a casualty or two. Anyhow, this worker's having a snack - I'll let you guess on what.

 

We'll see what happens next month, if anything - termites don't hibernate, but they do slow down or cease egg production (not that they've produced any anyways). I'm hoping we'll have some eggs sometime, but it's not up to me. I'll keep you posted if anything neat does happen.


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#13 Offline CoolColJ - Posted October 31 2018 - 5:02 PM

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How long did your termites take to tunnel in the toilet paper setup?

 

It seems like my queen and king pair has taken ages to create their chamber... maybe I packed it too tight?


Edited by CoolColJ, October 31 2018 - 5:02 PM.

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Current ant colonies -
1) Opisthopsis Rufithorax (strobe ant), Melophorus Sp1. (furnace ant) red and black, Melophorus sp2. black and orange
Lots of Pheidole colonies....
Polyrhachis rufifemur, Rhytidoponera aspera gamergate colony
Journal = http://www.formicult...ra-iridomyrmex/

Nasutitermes fumigatus/dixoni subterranean pet/feeder termite colony journal = http://www.formicult...ournal/?p=96808
Heterotermes cf brevicatena termite pet/feeder journal = http://www.formicult...feeder-journal/


#14 Offline Nare - Posted November 21 2018 - 4:41 PM

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How long did your termites take to tunnel in the toilet paper setup?

 

It seems like my queen and king pair has taken ages to create their chamber... maybe I packed it too tight?

Whoops - didn't see this one. I might have answered it somewhere else already. My workers started digging within a couple of days, but keep in mind that all workers do is eat/dig. Reproductives will only make a chamber as large as they need - I wouldn't expect any serious excavation until workers arrive. As for packing it too tight, I don't think that's an issue - I've packed mine pretty well, and my termites chew right through that stuff anyways.


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#15 Offline Nare - Posted November 29 2018 - 6:44 PM

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Update 9 (29/11/18)

 

So termite Tuesday just blew past me... and for that I apologize. Teachers are cramming in final assessments before exam prep, so things were busy.

 

Aaanyways, I'll start of this months update with some neat photos of a tunnel some of the termites were building at the front of their tube - they usually build these things out of dirt, and they're used to maintain humidity, so it's neat that they've built them out of paper, which is obviously their food source.

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Here's some shots from one of the older colonies - you can see pale reproductive nymphs - it looks like this colony will be skipping ergatoid reproductives and going straight for secondaries. I can't complain - they'll be pretty neat once they've matured more.

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Finally, here's some pics from the tube that started off with nymphs - obviously they're oranged up a fair bit, so I wouldn't be surprised if I saw eggs sometime soon. Haven't noticed any deaths in this colony, so I suspect they'll pull through, even with their unfortunately high reproductive - worker ratio.

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Three way trophallaxis it seems...

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Hairy abdomen - this is a decent shot I think, which is very rare for myself.

 

That's it for now, as always, stay tuned for next Termite Tuesday, I'll be on break at that time, so it'll definitely be on time. Fingers crossed for eggs!


  • LC3 and CoolColJ like this

I keep termites - check them out! I've also made a guide...






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