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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.