I finally dumped out the buckets, but while I was at the spot again a few days ago, I took home the first bucket I buried back at the beginning of the season as a backup. It's not designed super nice like the blue ones, but I think it might have had a founding chamber in it.
The original queen's fungus has doubled in size yet again, and is now about the size of a Fruit Loop. I put some larger pieces of leaf litter and full-sized fish pellets in this queens container now in case she wants to start adding some larger pieces to her garden. So far she's got a couple of the full-sized fish pellets already piled in her tube. I also see what are obvious larvae now here and there stuck in the fungus. There seemed to be a lot of fluid around them though, so I hope they're okay.
Some of the other queens' donated fungus gardens have grown quite a bit too now. Using pieces of a few different fungus gardens, I managed to get five more containers set up.
There now is a total of 10 containers, but three of them don't look like they're doing too good. For some reason two of those queens have piled lots of leaf litter all over the wet cotton, and their fungus is nowhere to be seen. I'll give it a little more time and see what happens.
Here's one of the first queens' donated fungus garden with some freshly laid eggs.
While out at the spot again over the weekend, Acromyrmex had another mating flight. This time I collected a few of them much later in the day--around 2:00 pm. These were almost all already in the process of digging their founding chambers when I grabbed them.
Here's a picture of an Ironwood tree. These trees seem to be the most common tree (almost the only real tree) out there that they nest under.
So far, unlike what we previously suspected after catching queens last year, it seems most of these queens still had their fungus pellets. Apparently they don't drop them off until they are finished digging for the time being, and probably feeling comfortable and safe in their new nest. This would be consistent with them not spitting the pellets out in the test tube for about two days.
Here's a queen holding her fungus pellet in her mandibles.
Today I actually found one of the new fungus pellets growing fungus, but it's all tangled in a few strands of cotton.
This particular test tube happens to have two queens together in it. Hopefully they are able to garden and further grow this one without destroying it with those strands of cotton mixed in with it. I put some very small pieces of substrate in the test tube for them. I guess we'll see what happens.