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Cheeto's Atta mexicana (Updated 6/20)


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#1 Online CheetoLord02 - Posted October 24 2020 - 4:06 AM

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I heard you guys wanted more leafcutter journals? Well, I suppose I don't really have a choice, do I...

I'll start this off by saying I've actually technically been the owner of this Atta colony for quite a while, but due to certain complications involving the absurd AZ summer temps, the pandemic, etc., they were stuck in the possession of a friend of mine for the last 2ish months (along with a few other colonies). 10 days ago I was finally able to have them shipped to me, as the temperatures dropped enough where they wouldn't cook in the box. Unfortunately, even with overnight shipping, the fungus was severely damaged. Around 70% of the fungus was dead on arrival and quickly discarded by the colony. From there, due to the stress of shipping, they wouldn't accept any food I offered for the first day or so, and were quickly eating what little fungus they still had.

While it was looking very bad for the colony, I know of one little trick that can be used with most attines. In the wild, leafcutter ants will drink the sap from the leaves that they cut and get the sugars from it, giving them energy and allowing them to consume less of the colony's fungus. Since my colony wasn't cutting anything, they were stuck with just eating their fungus rather than getting any sugars. Typically if just pure liquid sugars are offered they will be ignored, but with some strategic placement and small droplets I was able to get the colony to realize that the mysterious liquid was in fact delicious, and they quickly started eating what I had offered. This almost completely stopped all consumption of the fungus, and gave the ants a great boost of energy. From there, the path to recovery was mere steps away.
 

IMG 20201020 225652448

 

 

Even though things were looking good, or at least better than before, I still was not in the clear. Since being shipped the colony had lost around 95% of their original fungus mass, as of 10/20. At it's smallest, the brood pile alone took up more space than the fungus garden did. Not good.
 

IMG 20201020 044020500
IMG 20201022 021445054 HDR

 

 

To my dismay, the Atta weren't interested in any of the food that my Acromyrmex were taking regularly, so I knew I had to find some alternative sources. The previous caretaker of this colony had told me that he had some luck with clovers, and thankfully just up the road there's a large park that serves as a floodwater reserve; and it's full of miscellaneous grasses, including clovers! After harvesting a bunch, I offered it to the Atta and hoped for the best.

One feeding later, and the fungus had nearly doubled in height! The Atta LOVED the clovers! 
 

IMG 20201022 183941286 HDR
IMG 20201022 183951775 HDR
 
 
The fungus finally had some real structure again, and while it was still really small, the fact that it was now growing instead of shrinking was a huge development. Until now it had done nothing but gone down in size, so now seeing it re-grow was such a relief.

Each day these guys would take in more and more food. It's really interesting watching them process it, and how they mince it into smaller pieces to be distributed around the fungus garden. Seeing fresh plant material on the fungus is really satisfying, too!

IMG 20201023 030401717
IMG 20201023 030338396

 

 

The fungus grows insanely quick, too. The fungus was at it's smallest on 10/20. Just four days later, it is easily 3 or 4 times the size, and the colony is acting far more normal now. 
 

IMG 20201023 093558309 HDR
 

 

We're also at the point now where the brood is once again seated within the fungus garden itself, rather than sloppily in a pile on the ground. Soon enough the brood pockets will be largely closed off and hidden away from where I can see, along with eventually the queen herself. While I still have the opportunity to see her, I'm going to take advantage of it, because it's only a matter of time before she disappears into the fungus. I do think it'll be a while still, given that she clocks in at a staggering 25mm, making her the largest ant found in the US.
 

IMG 20201024 040834873 HDR
original dcb09770 3743 4e75 9cd8 f6c139aa3cfd IMG 20201024 040850018

 

 

Either way, making this journal is a huge relief for me, as I was worried I would have never gotten the chance to do so. When seeing their fungus shrink rapidly over the course of the first 6 days I was sure the colony was toast. Well, to my relief, they are in fact ants and not toast, and I can finally make this journal for you all. To wrap things up, here's a quick video! I'm sure it'll be awesome to look back here in a few months' time to see how far the colony has progressed.


Edited by CheetoLord02, Yesterday, 8:18 PM.

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#2 Offline NickAnter - Posted October 24 2020 - 6:39 AM

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Awesome!


Lasius americanus--110+ Workers

Nylanderia vividula--500+ workers

Temnothorax rudis--9-12 workers and brood                           

Pheidole navigans--500+? workers

Cardiocondyla mauritanica--3 queens+boosted workers

Camponotus maritimus--1-3 workers and brood.

Dorymyrmex insanus--6 workers

Solenopsis "plebius"--Eggs

Solenopsis cf. truncorum--No brood. 


#3 Offline ANTdrew - Posted October 24 2020 - 7:11 AM

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Best get your lottery ticket; you're one lucky dude.

Clover is a high protein legume. It must be a super food for the fungus! Through seeding, I'm slowly converting my lawn from grass to mostly clover to help wildlife. Muahahahaha!


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"The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer." Prov. 30:25  

Keep ordinary ants in extraordinary ways.


#4 Offline TechAnt - Posted October 24 2020 - 9:24 AM

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Amazing!


My Ants:
(x1) Campontous semitstaceus ~20 workers, 1 Queen
(x1) Camponotus vicinus ~10 workers, 1 Queen (all black variety)
(x1) Tetramorium immigrans ~100 workers, 1 Queen
(x1) Myrmercocystus mexicanus -1 Queen
(x2) Mymercocystus mimcus -1 Queen
(x1) Mymercocystus testaceus ~45 workers, 1 Queen

#5 Online TennesseeAnts - Posted October 24 2020 - 9:37 AM

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Very nice colony! I'm looking forward to further updates!



#6 Online Kaelwizard - Posted October 24 2020 - 11:55 AM

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Amazing!

#7 Online CheetoLord02 - Posted October 25 2020 - 6:05 PM

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Update 10/25

Since yesterday the fungus has grown significantly taller, and the colony is taking in tons of food at basically all times. They're also taking a wider variety, but clovers are still their favorite.
 

IMG 20201025 174401790
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The brood seated in the fungus looks really satisfying too! It definitely looks right at home in there, opposed to in a big pile on the floor.
 

IMG 20201025 174850121

 

 

For now they seem to be growing the fungus mostly upwards, for whatever reason. The footprint itself still isn't huge, so I assume eventually they'll start to grow it outwards as well. The queen has also moved to the other side of the garden for the first time since getting them. They seem to be growing that region the most, although I really don't know why. Seeing the structure develop is really cool, since originally they basically just had a big lump of fungus without any real shape at all.

 

IMG 20201025 174904010


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#8 Offline KitsAntVa - Posted October 25 2020 - 6:18 PM

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These are so cool looking and the queens are so fat! Best of luck with these. But I don’t think you need it.
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#9 Online CheetoLord02 - Posted October 27 2020 - 11:14 AM

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Update 10/27

I feel like saying "the fungus got even bigger, again" every update is gonna get repetitive, but that's just how it is with these guys. Typically I collect food for them on my way home from work every night, but I forgot yesterday, so they went a few extra hours without anything to eat. I went out early today instead to get some, and they went wild! Needless to say they still aren't bored of clovers at all!
 

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It's crazy to me to look back on the first pictures in this journal and think it's only been a week since then. I'm really glad I was able to save this colony, because I'm having so much fun watching them recover and flourish. I still love my Acromyrmex, but their growth rate doesn't even come close to these guys.
 

IMG 20201027 120254432

 

 

Here's a quick update video of them that shows a bit of their foraging behavior:


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#10 Offline KitsAntVa - Posted October 27 2020 - 11:34 AM

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SHE THICK
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#11 Offline ANTdrew - Posted October 27 2020 - 11:52 AM

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You could grow clover sprouts indoors. I bet they’d love that.
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"The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer." Prov. 30:25  

Keep ordinary ants in extraordinary ways.


#12 Offline Devi - Posted October 27 2020 - 11:54 AM

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Wow!  GREAT journal.  I will be 100% following...  Gotta love leafcutters.  :D


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#13 Offline Spazmops - Posted October 27 2020 - 12:09 PM

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Wow!  GREAT journal.  I will be 100% following...  Gotta love leafcutters.  :D

I feel like CO has some of the most boring ants.... aside from P. occidentalis


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Co-owner and founder of Mountain Myrmeculture and The Menagerie Discord Server

Ants I have:

1 Formica fusca group- 0 workers

1 Tetramorium immigrans colony-20 workers

1 Dorymyrmex insanus- 1 queen, used to have workers

 

1 large P. occidentalis colony- around 50 workers, plenty of brood

 

 


#14 Offline Manitobant - Posted October 27 2020 - 12:34 PM

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Do atta always need to be fed this much? Or are you powerfeeding

#15 Online ponerinecat - Posted October 27 2020 - 12:37 PM

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You could grow clover sprouts indoors. I bet they’d love that.

Definitely! A lot of legumes are easily sprouted with minimal resources, I bet that'd be a really reliable food source for leafcutters.


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#16 Offline ANTdrew - Posted October 27 2020 - 1:32 PM

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Time to bust out the chia pets again.
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"The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer." Prov. 30:25  

Keep ordinary ants in extraordinary ways.


#17 Offline KitsAntVa - Posted October 27 2020 - 1:46 PM

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Time to bust out the chia pets again.

hehe i remember those from walgreens.



#18 Online TennesseeAnts - Posted October 27 2020 - 1:58 PM

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Do atta always need to be fed this much? Or are you powerfeeding

Fungus growing Attines eat and never stop eating (unless they hibernate).



#19 Offline DDD101DDD - Posted October 27 2020 - 2:28 PM

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This is great for people like me who want to keep Atta but will probably never get a chance to.


He travels, he seeks the p a r m e s a n.


#20 Offline Antkeeper01 - Posted October 27 2020 - 3:35 PM

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This is great for people like me who want to keep Atta but will probably never get a chance to.

I feel you


1X Pogonomyrmex occidentalis 40-50 Workers

1X Solenopsis molesta 10 Workers (mono)

Ants I Want: Crematogaster sp, Camponotus Sp., Ponera Pennsylvanica, Mymercocystus sp.

 

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