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m99's: T. immigrans — P. imparis — A. picea

tetramorium journal immigrans prenolepis imparis picea aphaenogaster

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#1 Offline m99 - Posted August 3 2021 - 8:33 PM

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Alright here goes! First time antkeeper, after a totally fruitless June of searching, had a bumper crop of finds in July and now I'm sitting on three tetra queens and two Camponotus (plus a first-year Prenolepis colony purchased with its first few nanitics, which may or may not feature in this journal eventually, but you can read about me accidentally terrorizing here).

 

Here the tetra queens are shortly after capture in early/mid June, each of them found in a northeast US backyard near pool deck pavers or a brick walkway. Two of the three were very active and promising from the start, the third was more sluggish (and has remained that way, she doesn't show up here outside the group shot, and is in remedial care in a dark box alone after being offered food a couple weeks ago, still with no brood and a lot of test tube streaking, so I don't have much hope for her).

 

IMG 20210712 031647370 HDR
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The two who've laid so far got right to work (one of them was obsessively cleaning her business end literally minutes after being caught, and indeed she started laying her second night in the claustral tube) and had healthy little egg piles within the first week.

 

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I started heating them with a mat a few days ago, and it's definitely sped up the timeline a bit, because they've both got the cutest little pupae just starting to develop about 4-5 days ahead of the expected schedule. I especially love this shot of all their little legs just starting to differentiate from the wormy bits 

 

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Meanwhile, after bad luck with my first two Camponotus captures (although my very first ever ant capture may have been a Formica, looking back now), I've got two absolute honker units who were both caught a little over a week ago. A few days ago I moved them into a couple of Por Amor Apartment founding chambers (which I love and highly recommend if "cute and stylish" means anything to you and you've got spare cash).
 
Take particular note of Ms. Peggles here, who managed to sprint straight at me begging for housing even missing most of one leg:
 
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I'd been telling the friend I was with at the time that she wasn't necessarily doomed by it, but would be reliant on workers to live a long and happy life. She obviously knows it too, because she'd already laid two eggs 48 hours later when I moved them from their initial tubes into the Apartments. (Only one of the eggs survived the transfer, RIP little yolkie).
 
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And her buddy still has big ol wings attached, with fertility TBD.
 
I'm expecting to be able to hook the tetras up to test tube portals in a few weeks, where I'll keep feeding them until one or both is hopefully ready to move into a mini hearth and get themselves settled in time for hibernation.

Edited by m99, August 28 2021 - 2:15 PM.

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#2 Offline m99 - Posted August 6 2021 - 1:49 PM

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Realized today I hadn't yet tested the temperature in the tetra queens' box (which is cardboard vs. the sterilite container the carpenters are in) so opened them up today to put the probe with them for a while. I'm glad I did, because they run 4-7 degrees hotter than the other box so I'd unknowingly had them in the mid 90s here and there. I'll keep the probe in their box from now on since it's more sensitive to the mat, and they're the ones I really want to speed up anyway, since I'm guessing both the carpenter queens, being so late in the season, won't be doing anything this year but getting some larvae ready to hibernate.

 

This queen seemed to be staring straight at me when I picked them up. They're both fairly used to being handled every 3-5 days by this point.

 

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Because it was warm in there, they both had all the brood up against the water and I couldn't pick out the pupae this time. But definitely lots of last-stage larvae getting ready to cross the line right behind the group from a few days ago.
 
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*edit* Oh yay! There's a pupae, right in that third picture at the bottom. Can see the three segments and the slight sharpness on the head segment vs. the bum, yay. Go little girl go.
 
----
 
Since I peeked again a little earlier than I'd planned, I'll do my best to keep them alone for a solid week now and hopefully I'll have a few pupae just about to eclose the next time I check.

Edited by m99, August 6 2021 - 1:54 PM.

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#3 Offline AntBoi3030 - Posted August 6 2021 - 4:06 PM

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You got the bread and butter of North American species there!
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My favorite queens/colony’s:
Pheidole Tysoni, Selonopis Molesta, Brachymyrmex Depilis, Tetramorium Immagrians, Prenolepis Imparis, Pheidole Bicirinata 


#4 Offline m99 - Posted August 6 2021 - 4:47 PM

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Yeah I'm really excited to see where they go by the year's end! And veeeery glad that they're so foolproof lol


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#5 Offline m99 - Posted August 6 2021 - 4:53 PM

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Uh, speaking of which, I may have killed one of the carpenter queens, Ms. Peggles most sadly. Somehow their apartments got tipped at some point and the water had slowly trickled out, she's totally unmoving in the toppled-over position even after being blown on a bit (no antenna movement either), so I'm guessing I'll be checking again tomorrow and have to give her the goldfish farewell, so sad. That leaves the winged queen, who was frantically trying to get out of the plug with no sign of laying, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything if they were drying out right away and spent several days baking in the heat. She's fully watered and flat now, and I made sure a healthy drop soaked into the grout on her side too, so we'll see.

 

On the plus side, tetra queen number three finally had the cutest little pile of (quite orange, to my eyes) eggs, maybe 7 or 8 in total. I certainly don't have high hopes for her, but since she's apparently decided to have a real go at it, I moved her up into the rack with the other two so she'll be in the full heat zone from now on.


Edited by m99, August 6 2021 - 4:59 PM.

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#6 Offline AntBoi3030 - Posted August 6 2021 - 5:26 PM

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Oh no! We still have Formica flying if you want large ants
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My favorite queens/colony’s:
Pheidole Tysoni, Selonopis Molesta, Brachymyrmex Depilis, Tetramorium Immagrians, Prenolepis Imparis, Pheidole Bicirinata 


#7 Offline m99 - Posted August 6 2021 - 8:11 PM

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I was just thinking that earlier today—especially because the first ever queen I got I'm pretty sure was a Formica but its size made me assume it was a carpenter queen. I'd definitely like at least one bigger species in my first year, and it would be a bummer to have to wait another year from next spring to have a carpenter colony fully established.

 

My queens so far have all been caught in the same backyard (after a lot of finding nothing during early mornings all June in various locations) so I worry about spending the little spare time I have for anting and coming up short. It was easy in the backyard, I was there for pool days with a friend and they just kept running at me haha.

 

If I were going along the sort of rural hiking trails we have all over the place here in the northeast, what time of day do you think would be best for a Formica? Probably more golden hour afternoon/evening, right?


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#8 Offline m99 - Posted August 10 2021 - 4:37 PM

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omg PUPAE PARTAAAEEEEE *airhorn airhorn airhorn*

 

I did the math and realized, since I've been heating them, I might actually have a couple workers running around—and not far off! The most dark one looks, to my totally noob eyes, like she'll be up and moving within 36 hours, with a whole load of sisters right behind.

 

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Meanwhile in the middle tube it's an antenna-braiding circle, proper slumber party:

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And number three, the potential infertile queen has a much bigger pile, but they seem to be growing slower than I remember with the other two. They're definitely a completely different color. We shall see. I regret moving her to the rack with the other two, who'll definitely be getting plenty of action over the next few days as I coo over their workers and do my first ever feeding. Hopefully they continue developing as normal. She's certainly taking very diligent care of them, so it'd be a real bummer if they do end up infertile. I think she's just a slow-n-steady kinda lady:
 
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*edit* Oh, also I ended up moving the winged carpenter queen back into a tube after catching an aphaenogaster earlier today and feeding them both some Sunburst. Her Apartment had started drying out again, so clearly it just needs watering too much in my current well-insulated bone-dry air conditioned (human) apartment. I'll have to save the Por Amor Apartments for a setup where I can have them in the open and just walk up to stick a syringe in quickly (vs. now where I've got them stored in boxes on a high shelf to protect from cat attack so it's a whole disruptive thing to get in there). Hopefully next season.

Edited by m99, August 10 2021 - 4:53 PM.

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#9 Offline m99 - Posted August 13 2021 - 7:48 PM

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It's a girl! And a girl and a girl and a girl and a girl!

 

I officially saw nanitics for the first time late last night, but I think, as I predicted, my oldest girl had probably been eclosed about 18 hours by that point. She's easily identifiable in person because she's the darkest of the group, which is cute.

 

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Queen 2 is right behind, I'm guessing she'll eclose her first worker sometime tomorrow and the rest will be running around by Monday.
 
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So today I finally got around to clearing out a linen closet shelf to serve as my ant table and provide better access. The first queen is hooked up to a test tube portal with a dish with sunburst (in cotton) and a heap of fruit flies.

 

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I doubt they'll make it out into the portal area though, because I also hand delivered their first ever fruit fly right into the tube, and they went crazy over it immediately, even being so upset with the move and all my banging around.
 
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Mama and the oldest got right to it, and before long sisters were joining in for the feast.
 
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Eventually, while mom was off feeding the babies, one of the younger girls came over and yelled at the oldest to drag it closer and start sharing.

 

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One big happy family!
 
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Unfortunately Queen 3 seemed to be a confirmed dud. Her previous batch of bright orange eggs was all gone, and it honestly looked like she'd had a water balloon fight with them inside the tube :/ (seen in the background here)
 
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She had an all new pile of teensy eggs, which were pretty gorgeous actually. Completely crystal-clear translucent with just a speck of little yolk-y orange at the bottom. Very pretty. But obviously not right. So unfortunately she got a freeze-n-squish hospice visit.
 
RIP little garden girl, all hail the new generation!

Edited by m99, August 13 2021 - 7:52 PM.

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#10 Offline zA-Z0-9 - Posted August 13 2021 - 8:10 PM

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my tetramorium colony has 4 workers now maybe we can grow at the same rate lol


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I LOVE ANTS!!!!


#11 Offline m99 - Posted August 13 2021 - 8:24 PM

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Nice! Are you heating yours? Mine were heating to 85F in their previous location, but won't be heated in the closet so I'm hoping they don't slow down growth too much. I want them big enough to move into a mini hearth for hibernation!


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#12 Offline zA-Z0-9 - Posted August 13 2021 - 8:31 PM

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yeah my ants are in test tubes in a shoebox with a heating pad at the lowest setting and they're growing rapidly


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I LOVE ANTS!!!!


#13 Offline AntBoi3030 - Posted August 14 2021 - 4:39 AM

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Nice! If you feed them a ton they can have over 30 workers in three weeks lol (that’s what my colony is at)
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My favorite queens/colony’s:
Pheidole Tysoni, Selonopis Molesta, Brachymyrmex Depilis, Tetramorium Immagrians, Prenolepis Imparis, Pheidole Bicirinata 


#14 Offline m99 - Posted August 14 2021 - 8:57 AM

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ooh! nice that's exactly the kinda numbers I want by october haha. The fruit fly from last night is completely vanished inside the tube except for what looks like its eyeless exoskeleton skull  :D so they're clearly hungry. 

 

I'll definitely keep giving them food right in the tube if that's what necessary to eat, but hopefully once they get a few more eclosures they'll be brave enough for the portal outworld and I can start the buffet line for real.


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#15 Offline m99 - Posted August 15 2021 - 6:25 PM

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Queen number two was officially spied with her first three nanitics last night. I'm pretty sure there are four running around in there now, and they've joined the ant shelf officially and had their first meals, yay.

 

The nanitics in both colonies are adorable butterfoots, constantly falling all over the place in there, even when they're walking on the cotton. Here's one taking a slip trying to climb over mama:
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Queen 2 wasn't happy with the move, but took it fairly calmly in the end, with plenty of antenna self-soothing lol:
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Now on to my last remaining carpenter, the Winged Queen, who is ... ugh ... I don't know. Increasingly looking to be unfertilized? Or, alternately, just bored out of her mind but unwilling to lay because she's been disturbed at least once a week and moved house twice, and she was a very late season catch anyway? (Very end of July?) Maybe she just doesn't think she can get eggs to larvae before hibernation? The colonies around here should still have a solid 6-8 weeks of activity ahead, and would've had even more when she was caught.
 
In any case, we've now gone a full 180 and taken her out of her test tube birthing dungeon and put her in a luxury all-inclusive incubation villa where she can literally bathe in wine and honey and dance on the corpses of fallen enemies:
 
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She took it ... uh. I mean, she drank plenty of the Sunburst I put out, just like she has the previous two times she got some. And then I was like, "Oh great, now she'll make herself comfortable and settle down for sure, problem solved."
 
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Ooookay. I mean, that's fine, that's the outworld portion anyway, she hadn't even poked her head into the nuptial chamber yet—ah there she goes!
 
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This isn't panicking, she's just making sure housekeeping cleaned properly, I'm sure.
 
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So I decided to leave her be in there for a couple minutes, and came back expecting to see her all cozied up on the "lay cocoons HERE mama" pile of sanitized sand I'd put in the claustral chamber to soothe her mind and let her know she really could get started here, but instead:
 
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%)
 
Since then she has actually spent a little time in the claustral chamber again, but only right in the doorway (so cute, I spent about 20 minutes just seeing her little antenna waving through into the outworld) and now she just hangs out in the outworld against the wall. Calmly, but still.
 
So I don't know what to expect with this girl. Except for her wings, her behavior at capture was completely in-line with my other queens, who died but were fertilized by all appearances, but she's been a cotton-pulling run-around-in-circles kinda lady from the start.

Edited by m99, August 15 2021 - 6:30 PM.

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#16 Offline zA-Z0-9 - Posted August 15 2021 - 7:36 PM

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she's so cute


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I LOVE ANTS!!!!


#17 Offline m99 - Posted August 15 2021 - 7:55 PM

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I know right she's been adorable to watch haha. If only she had the egg laying preferences of the one who died


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#18 Offline zA-Z0-9 - Posted August 15 2021 - 8:32 PM

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I know right she's been adorable to watch haha. If only she had the egg laying preferences of the one who died

the good one always dies


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I LOVE ANTS!!!!


#19 Offline m99 - Posted August 17 2021 - 8:26 PM

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Yesterday I took the last wisps of cotton out of both tubes, so they're fully exposed to the air (with an AC tube reducer) in order to start drawing them out into the tube portal outworld for feeding. Since then they've been gradually exploring out more and more, and I even saw them forming a few 3-ant test trains a few times before scampering back to mama. 

 

I was trying to lure them out with two thawed fruit fly corpses laid at the end of the tube extension, plus some crushed seeds on the floor out of the outworld. Running parallel to this was the mini-drama of the girls fighting over where to put their trash pile. They had settled on piling fruit fly pieces into a little burrow in the water cotton opposite their brood, so I was really hoping they'd get behind the girl who kept insisting on dragging pieces out toward the end of the tube.

 

And yay! It all came together sometime in the last couple hours with the completion of the first ever super special Inaugural Ant Mission *airhorn airhorn*, the Great Garbage Dump of 2021!

 

As you can see here, they hauled a fruit fly wing all the way to the far reaches of their lands, and have started a pile of fly skulls at the bottom of their nectar bowl in the rear.

 

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I hope they grabbed some seeds and fresh fly on the way back home, but no sign that they drug any food back with them so far.
 
Happy savage housekeepers back with mama:
 
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I counted at least 9 separate ladies running around in there now, and I'm guessing they're probably up to a dozen in actuality. A much bigger batch of nanitics than I realized! However that looks to be the last of it for now, though there may be a stray larva or pupa in there somewhere. Otherwise it looks like their brood pile is back to being all eggs.
 
Over in tube 2 they're having a slower start of it, looks like about 5 or 6 girls, and they're much less exploratory so far, but have a whole heap of pupae waiting to eclose, so hopefully they'll start contributing to the interesting antics before long.

Edited by m99, August 17 2021 - 8:30 PM.

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#20 Offline ANTdrew - Posted August 18 2021 - 2:02 AM

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If the Camponotus hasn’t laid eggs yet, she likely never will.
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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.






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