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Mettcollsuss's Trachymyrmex septentrionalis Journal (Updated 18 Sep 2021)


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#1 Offline Mettcollsuss - Posted May 18 2021 - 11:53 AM

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I normally keep all my ants in one journal, but I figured these guys are special enough for their own journal.

 

A couple days ago (the 16th), I bought a colony of Trachymyrmex septentrionalis. They were collected from Sand Ridge State Forest in central Illinois. They're a decent size, with about 290 workers and four queens. Apparently the T. septentrionalis in the Sand Ridge population are polygynous, rather than monogynous/pleometroic. From what I've seen so far, this seems to be accurate. I can't see any queen favoritism. They seem to be at a size where they would be monogynous one way or another, either via pleometrosis or via "worker queens", so hopefully the polygyny is here to stay.

 

They are currently housed in a tupperware with a plaster layer and a tubing hole. The outworld is a larger tupperware with a layer of dry sand at the bottom.

 

They don't have much fungus since they came out of hibernation recently. Over the past couple days they've disassembled the various smaller fungus gardens and integrated them into main ones. As of today there are two main clumps of fungus, and they've taken on a more spherical shape.

 

They don't appear to be very hungry, probably due to the small size of the fungus. They've been accepting food, but very slowly, only one piece every now and then. So far their reactions to food have been:

  • Trifolium repens leaf — Only accepted it once I cut it up for them and after it began to dry out
  • Blaptica dubia frass — Accepted. I don't have access caterpillar frass but I figured this was close enough
  • Oxalis sp. — Ignored
  • Sedum ternatum flower — Ignored
  • Rose petals — I am yet to provide them with any rose petals myself, but they do collect the dried up rose petal pieces scattered throughout the outworld.
  • They spent a lot of time trying (and not getting very far) to cut up some small dried-up purple berry

 

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Edited by Mettcollsuss, September 18 2021 - 1:29 PM.

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#2 Offline CheetoLord02 - Posted May 18 2021 - 12:05 PM

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Awesome! My colony (2 queens) is from the same place. They're a great species to keep! If you haven't tried steel-cut oats, you should try them for sure. They're my colony's favorite food.


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#3 Offline ANTdrew - Posted May 18 2021 - 12:46 PM

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You’re so lucky, dude!

"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 Mettcollsuss - Posted May 19 2021 - 5:34 AM

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19 May 2021

 

There are three main clusters of fungus. The two spheres mentioned previously and a stripe of fungus along the wall behind them. The two spheres have started to take on the beginnings of the typical chambered shape.

 

I offered them a piece of apple today, which has been a big success. Most of the workers that swarmed it are drinking the juice, but a few are cutting off small pieces. Overnight they cleaned the outworld of any small scattered pieces of leaf, rose petal, or frass (except for the Sedum ternatum flower, which they still ignored). This morning I even saw them drag in a piece of rolled oat, which they've also been ignoring thus far.

 

With the fungus starting to take shape, and this sudden uptick in food intake, it looks like they're getting ready to kick off their growth for this year.

 

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#5 Offline yibsi - Posted May 20 2021 - 5:28 AM

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Definitely a cool species, recently a few colonies of these gals went up on my local GAN project, was debating whether or not to buy them them or not, regardless, still a pretty cool and awesome fungus grower, looking forward to the future updates on this journal!

Edit: Grammar


Edited by yibsi, May 20 2021 - 5:29 AM.

    Nylanderia parvula - 4 queen polygynous colony with larvae + devoloping workers

    Camponotus pennsylvanicus  - 1 queen with 2 cocoons, and a few larvae and eggs

    Tetramorium immigrans - 3 colonies, first nanetics!

    Formica pallidifulva - 1 queen, 8-10 eggs

    Tetramorium atratulum - 1 queen with roughly 17 host workers

    :D Pheidole pilifera - 1 queen! recently caught! :D

    Solenopsis Molesta - 2 queens so far, polygenous set-up

---------------------------------------------------

My Ant Journal - yibsi’s Wonderful Ant Keeping Journal 5-22-21 - Ant Keeping Journals - Ants & Myrmecology Forum (formiculture.com)

My T. Atratulum Journal - https://www.formicul...ontinued/page-2


#6 Offline Mettcollsuss - Posted May 25 2021 - 6:15 AM

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25 May 2021

 

They're a lot more accepting of whole fresh leaves now, and I no longer have to cut them up for them or wait for them to dry out.

Since the first update the new foods they have accepted are:

  • Steel cut oats (they prefer they when they're cut in half or crushed, it seems to make it a lot easier for them to carry)
  • Taraxacum sp., probably either T. officinale or T. erythrospermum
  • Plantago sp., probably either P. major or P. rugelii
  • Inside of a tangerine peel

So far the only things that have been completely ignored are a Sedum ternatum flower and the leaf of an unidentified weed. And just a note, whenever I give them wild plants, they're collected only from my yard so that I can be certain they weren't sprayed with any pesticides or other chemicals. 

 

It's impressive how quickly they can grow their gardens. In just ten days, their fungus has grown from being so small that it's barely visible beneath the ants tending to it (first photos) to a fungus large enough that almost the entire colony can disappear within it. The queens have completely disappeared into the fungus, and I assume it will stay that way until they disassemble the fungus for diapause.

 

Fungus garden as of May 21, 2 days after last update

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Fungus garden as of May 22

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Fungus garden as of May 25 (today)

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#7 Offline TennesseeAnts - Posted May 25 2021 - 6:27 AM

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Impressive! My largest colony has nearly filled their first nest box by now.
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#8 Offline Mettcollsuss - Posted May 25 2021 - 7:01 AM

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Impressive! My largest colony has nearly filled their first nest box by now.

Thanks! What sort of setup do you have yours in? I'm considering moving mine to something like the setups described in this paper (pages 308-312) since they're modular and offer better visibility than what they're in right now. I would attach a larger outworld than the one in the paper, though.



#9 Offline Mettcollsuss - Posted June 4 2021 - 7:37 AM

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4 June 2021

 

The colony has been doing well. Lots of fungus growth. When I'm able to catch a glimpse of the queens, they have noticeably plumper gasters than when I got them. Their staple food has been oats, with some various leaves and flowers thrown in to keep them from getting bored.

New foods that I have tried and had success with since the last update are:

  • Lamprocapnos spectabilis flower
  • Paeonia sp. flower petal
  • Hydrangea quercifolia flower & flower buds
  • Taraxacum sp. seeds
  • Prunus cerasus leaf
  • Grass seeds (they were offered two types, one was accepted)
  • Trifolium repens flower

Workers have started dying off, but it's at a slow, steady rate so it appears to just be old age. And we've got a large batch of new eggs developing to replace the dying. Back on 28 May 2021 I noticed workers carrying small clusters of something that looked too white to be fungus, and after looking closer they appeared to be clumps of eggs. Later that day they started piling all the egg clumps into a pile against the wall. I managed to get some macro photos but they were lost, so I'm left with just a photo from my phone camera. In the macro photos it looked like each of the smaller egg clumps was being held together by small fibers/fuzz of what I assume was fungus. They took apart the egg pile later, but there's still workers carrying around the clumps here and there. 

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Fungus garden as of 3 June 2021 (Yesterday)

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Workers harvesting a peony petal

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#10 Offline yibsi - Posted June 4 2021 - 8:22 AM

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Sad about the die off, but that fungus garden is certainty growing, congrats!
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    Nylanderia parvula - 4 queen polygynous colony with larvae + devoloping workers

    Camponotus pennsylvanicus  - 1 queen with 2 cocoons, and a few larvae and eggs

    Tetramorium immigrans - 3 colonies, first nanetics!

    Formica pallidifulva - 1 queen, 8-10 eggs

    Tetramorium atratulum - 1 queen with roughly 17 host workers

    :D Pheidole pilifera - 1 queen! recently caught! :D

    Solenopsis Molesta - 2 queens so far, polygenous set-up

---------------------------------------------------

My Ant Journal - yibsi’s Wonderful Ant Keeping Journal 5-22-21 - Ant Keeping Journals - Ants & Myrmecology Forum (formiculture.com)

My T. Atratulum Journal - https://www.formicul...ontinued/page-2


#11 Offline Mettcollsuss - Posted June 11 2021 - 11:44 AM

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11 June 2021

 

New foods accepted since the last update:

  • Ailanthus altissima leaf

 

The past couple days they've reduced their food intake, but I'm not too concerned since the fungus still seems healthy. The fungus appears to have reached or be approaching max size. It likely just doesn't need as much plant matter intake as it did before, since before it was actively growing and now it's just at sustenance level. The eggs seen in the last update have grown faster than I expected. The colony already has medium/large larvae. At this rate pupae should be appearing soon.

 

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#12 Offline TennesseeAnts - Posted June 11 2021 - 12:02 PM

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Nice job! My two largest colonies are producing alates now, and their newest larvae are workers again.


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#13 Offline Mettcollsuss - Posted June 21 2021 - 6:10 AM

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21 June 2021

Pupae appeared a few days ago. Most of the brood is hiding in the deeper chambers of the fungus, but sometimes it's visible on the outside. The fungus seems to have reached its full size and has stopped growing. Even though it's no longer gaining mass, it still seems healthy. It's even started to grow very fluffy around the edges. So far I've found one new food that they won't accept, which are hosta flowers. As I said in my last update their intake is slowing down, but they're still accepting new foods, such as dried mulberry leaves and a couple plain rice-based cereals.

 

Some photos from a few days ago

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#14 Offline Mettcollsuss - Posted June 22 2021 - 11:29 AM

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22 June 2021

They had a lot of their larger brood piled against the glass today. It was about a 50/50 mix between pupae and large larvae. I noticed a pupae of what I'm fairly sure is an alate, probably male. I also saw some workers carrying around some other slightly larger pupae deeper in the fungus. The alate pupae that I could see looked like it was pretty new and hadn't been developing for long, as it's eyes were still very pale. I guess now I need to get an outworld that actually has a lid before I get flights in my room.

 

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#15 Offline TennesseeAnts - Posted June 22 2021 - 1:17 PM

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My first new workers of the year have started eclosing in all four of my colonies. I just moved the second most advanced colony into a new, MUCH larger setup with better hydration and they've already started fixing their fungus and adding to it with rose petals. Good luck with those alates! I wonder if they'll mate in captivity? I'm hoping my dual queen colony does.



#16 Offline Mettcollsuss - Posted July 1 2021 - 5:44 PM

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1 July 2021

 

Alate pupae look about mid-development. I built them an entirely new setup, with better visibility and an overall neater look. The nest portion is still drying because the plaster layer is fairly thick and it's been very humid around here lately. The outworlds (now with lids!) have thinner plaster so they're already dry. The new setup is made to be modular so it can grow with them. I replaced their old outworld with the new outworlds, attaching it to their current nest. It went smoother than expected. They were angry at the disturbance and made a point to take it out on the temporary cotton plugs, but I got through it all with no escapees. When the new nest is dry I'll attach it as well, and begin to dry the current nest out to get them to move. Some of their new favorite foods are Plantago major/rugelii (broadleaf/american plantain) flower stalks. They've also been all over a Prunus cerasus (sour cherry) fruit I gave them. The new growth on the fungus has turned green tinted from the plantain stalks, and dotted with red from the bits of cherry.

 

About an hour and a half between these two photos

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Their new outworlds. I moved the cherry to the new setup since they were so fond of it. (ignore the mess on the desk)

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Edited by Mettcollsuss, July 1 2021 - 5:47 PM.

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#17 Offline Mettcollsuss - Posted July 3 2021 - 12:43 PM

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3 July 2021

 

I've managed to find their least favorite food so far: tangerine. They actively recoil and wipe their mandibles on the ground whenever they touch it. Their other disliked foods will just be ignored this is the first food they've had an outright negative reaction to. It's also interesting because they'll accept tangerine peels, just not the inner fruit.

 

They seem to have decided that the second outworld (the one on the back of the photo) is going to be their garbage dump. They have a garbage pile established in a corner of the first outworld, but it's small and contained. They've decided that the entire second outworld is for garbage, and they just dump trash anywhere. It looks like one of the things they've been putting in outworld #2 is bits of dead fungus. It's a little strange, but I'm not worried since the fungus overall seems healthy and they've added a lot of new substrate to it recently. My guess is that it's just the older bits of the fungus that have reached the end of their lifespan.

 

Also, the first of the new workers have started to eclose. The new workers are mostly performing various brood and fungus duties. Which is to be expected since callows and younger workers start on easier jobs, but it's still cool to see it directly. I've also noticed that the new workers are slightly smaller than the existing ones. I'm not sure is this has something to do with being raised in captivity vs the wild, or if it's because it's the first brood of the year and the fungus they were raised from was smaller, or if it's some other influence. Not concerned about it, just an interesting observation.


Edited by Mettcollsuss, August 2 2021 - 5:25 AM.

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#18 Offline Mettcollsuss - Posted August 2 2021 - 6:20 AM

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2 Aug 2021

 

Not much has changed over the past month. The alates eclosed not long after the last update. I recently returned from a two week trip, and saw several male alates in the garbage pile. I don't see any more males in the nest, and I haven't seen queen alates anywhere yet. It's very possible that the colony is just producing males. It does seem strange to me that the males are already dying, I expected the alates to last longer. The more hopeful interpretation of this is that they were producing queen alates as well, and they were mating in the nest. I'll have to wait until the fungus shrinks for hibernation and the queens become more visible to see if they got any new ones. I'm also seeing more alate brood (pupae and large larvae) in the nest.

 

Their favorite foods at the moment are oats and assorted types of fresh fruit. I'm working on collecting and drying flowers to use during the winter. I've found that they'll accept dried flowers, as long as it's cut up for them.


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#19 Offline Mettcollsuss - Posted September 18 2021 - 1:30 PM

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18 Sep 2021

 

They're starting to prepare for hibernation. Over the past few weeks the fungus has been shrinking. It started with parts of the fungus shrinking away from the walls of the nest. Around a week ago they stopped accepting food. Over the past couple days it's been shrinking much more rapidly. The second outworld is filled with discarded dead and dying bits of fungus. Interestingly, more and more ants are hanging out on the floor of the nest outside of the fungus even though the fungus is still large enough for most or all the ants to hide in. I've also seen one of the queens spending time near the top of the fungus where she's easily visible.

 

Some photos I've taken since the last update, in no particular order

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#20 Offline ANTdrew - Posted September 18 2021 - 2:19 PM

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So cool!

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

Keep ordinary ants in extraordinary ways.





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