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My first ants, Pogonomyrmex Occidentalis

journal pogonomyrmex occidentalis

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#1 Offline Full_Frontal_Yeti - Posted January 6 2023 - 7:25 PM

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Just about to get underway with Pogonomyrmex Occidentalis as a first time ant keeper.

For the holidays I picked up a TarHeelAnts Mini Hearth and Fallen Fortress. I recently placed an order for a 20+ colony Pogonomyrmex Occidentalis. It was the recommend smallest size colony they had  to move into a mini hearth. The FF is for when they need more space eventually.

Before I ordered the colony I got the mini setup on a thermostat and day/night light.
 
The place here is small and has the thermal properties of a tent, so the ants just have to live out in the space with us. No closet or room corner to give over to a tighter climate controlled area for them. Whatever it is outside it kind of is inside here mostly. The location is in a room that gets little sun light and the room lighting is often dim(computer room) so I included a day/night light cycle for them too.

I wanted to be sure they had an area that was setup to cope with all the temperature fluctuations automatically for my work and sleep times when I’m not available. To that end I have a dual probe thermostat with one probe getting air temps(not touching anything) inside the mini on the left side where the most heat cable comes into contact with it (away from the water tower). It controls the heat cable at 85f-86f on/off.
The other probe is attached to the back getting surface/outside temps at the outworld/nest line. It controls an overhead 40watt ceramic heater. Temps 80f-84f on/off. The other half of the dual dome is a 40watt basking bulb lighting on at 730am off at 630pm. It provides a fair amount of day time heat, but when it is cold here it is needed.

Once I got everything in place I used a General HT08 air temp/rh data logger.
It does not fully fit in the outworld of a mini(mostly, lid won't close fully), but it gets me a good idea of what’s going on overnight reading from in the outworld and just outside the formicarium by the outside temp probe.
During the recent cold spell here the daytime temps held easy at 85-86 internal and about 82-84 in the outworld. Nighttime temps dip down to the high 70s in the outworld and I estimate the low 80s, maybe 79/78 in the nest. Overnight when it’s cold the overhead heater and wire don’t shut off but do manage to keep the internal nest space warm. And the whole space warms back up to the daytime temps by about 9am.

After several days of temperature data logging I felt comfortable that the cold would not be an issue for them and placed an order with THA for the colony which I now await arrival of.


The first image shows the setup with thermostat on the wall in the background. The rubber feet came wiht the lamp stand. I cut a groove for the heat cable to rest in. It's not glued on or anything just sits on the fit nicely.
I found that to not get condensation i needed  to be sure and heat the glass up at the same time with the body of the formicarium. I was getting condensation filling about half of the glass and if i placed the heat cable in contact wiht it it would eventually clear about 4/5 of the glass. but that last bit was an equilibrium of evaporation cooling that just kept it there. But when i unplugged and let the whole thing cool down, then warmed it back up wiht eh heat cable in contact wiht the glass as seen in the image, no condensation ever. Just a matter of being sure the glass isn't let to be too cold/warm compared to the internal temps. The probe can be seen in the left side of the nest using the back nestmate port.

front1.jpg

 

 

This is the back just showing the temp probes. The one in the nestmate port has a rubber-band around it to make it fit tight into the port. There was just about 1/16 of an inch of empty space around the probe and that gave it a tight fit plugged into the port. the other one is there touching the outside of the mini where the outworld and nest meet.

back.jpg

 

 

 

 

Thanks to all for the great info i picked up while prepping to be an ant keeper.

I’ll update the journal here as things unfold.


Edited by Full_Frontal_Yeti, January 6 2023 - 7:28 PM.

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#2 Offline Full_Frontal_Yeti - Posted January 16 2023 - 8:43 PM

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Holidays and all so i'm not expecting shipment on the ants until maybe tomorrow at the soonest. However the wait time with the setup in place has let me futz with it a lot and be glad i had time to really dial in the setup layout and temps before the ants were here.

I figured out i can still operate the temp/humity logger without the shroud on and it fits in the mini's outworld with the lid on proper so i got accurate temps for it. The nest temps stay real consistent (85/86 day dip to  78/79 night), but the mini's outworld temps were swinging a lot in wider and the day got into the low 90s. So i dialed it down to about 86-88 day, low 70s/high 60s at night.

 

I had decided on a couple things while waiting on the ants to arrive.

1: that I wanted to have a larger outworld early on

2: that I wanted to build it myself

 

I wanted it to be as large as my space could accommodate in its current configuration, which gave me about 9”lx9”wx5”h to work with.

 

Then after looking around and doing my homework,  yesterday I realized that many nice already made outworlds would cost equal to or even maybe a little less than what I would wind up making myself. So I decided to just buy one I liked from THA. Though as per the original plan I was not going to add the larger outworld until I felt the ants were settled in after the stress of shipping and making a go of it  under my stewardship.

And then I remembered I had a fallen fortress with an additional outworld port. I figured I could use it and just plug up the nest portion. But picking it up for the first time the way I did I discovered the nest only attached to the outworld by magnets and rests  on the wood platform with it no glue or anything.

 

So I detached the nest portion and hooked up the outworld to the mini hearth for use right away.

It took a little bit to work out the best configuration but I went with this.

 

It keeps the ant nest facing forward to the main viewing area and put the outworld money shot on forward facing display too. And the ants taking a longer route around from the left side mini port to the outworld’s normal nest entrance/exit.

If everything goes smooth for the first month I’ll still expand the outworld to the med 9x5x5 THA one. I’ll see what I can do to incorporate both. I’ll keep the mini outworld for water and the occasional protein. Though I intend to do a mainly seed and fruit diet, I figure to give them a bit of everything including a bug after their stressful trip in the mail.

 

And hopefully ants this week.

 

with_added_outworld.jpg
 


Edited by Full_Frontal_Yeti, January 16 2023 - 8:44 PM.

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#3 Offline TacticalHandleGaming - Posted January 16 2023 - 11:38 PM

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Suggestion, with using the heat cable, I'd place it only on the corner opposite the water tower. It'll help keep humidity from getting too high. Other than that get looking setup. Pogonomyrmex are some of my favorite ants to keep.


Currently kept species

L. neoniger, P. occidentalis, C. modoc, C. novaeboracensis, C. vicinus, T. immigrans, A. occidentalis, P. imparis.

 

Previously kept species

T. rugatulus, B. depilis.

 

Looking for

Myrmecocystus kennedyi, Myrmecocystus pyramicus, Myrmecocystus semirufus, Myrmecocystus testaceus

Pheidole californica, Pheidole creightoni, Pheidole inquilina, Solenopsis molesta, Crematogaster coarctata, Crematogaster mutans

My youtube channel. 


#4 Offline ANTdrew - Posted January 17 2023 - 3:13 AM

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Display cases at Hobby Lobby are $7- $12. You can buy Perfect Cast plaster there as well for $8. If you have a drill to make holes and some 100 micron mesh, you’re set. The mesh would be the most expensive part, probably, but one roll will last for many builds.
"The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer." Prov. 30:25
Keep ordinary ants in extraordinary ways.

#5 Offline Full_Frontal_Yeti - Posted January 17 2023 - 9:22 AM

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Suggestion, with using the heat cable, I'd place it only on the corner opposite the water tower. It'll help keep humidity from getting too high. Other than that get looking setup. Pogonomyrmex are some of my favorite ants to keep.

 

I had started with the heat cable only on the lower left side, but i got a fair amount of condensation covering about 2/3 of the glass. When i placed the heat cable in direct contact with the glass i've not had any condensation sense. I make sure it is only touching the glass across the top nowhere near the bottom around the water tower itself. I do get a tiny patch of it right at the tube exit going over to the larger outworld. i intend to replace a bit of tube there with stainless mesh to allow a little venting, and hopefully make for a slightly dyer side of the nest to store seeds better.

 

 

Display cases at Hobby Lobby are $7- $12. You can buy Perfect Cast plaster there as well for $8. If you have a drill to make holes and some 100 micron mesh, you’re set. The mesh would be the most expensive part, probably, but one roll will last for many builds.


I'll still wind up here eventually. I do want to make the next bigger nest for their 3rd move when they outgrow the fallen. But that's a while out still at just 20 in a mini to start. So i figured $50 now for a nice THA outworld. And 1.5-2 years from now i'll do a whole new nest and outworld i make myself then.

 

 

Thanks for looking in yall. Here's to hope'n for ants in the next few days.


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#6 Offline Full_Frontal_Yeti - Posted January 20 2023 - 8:48 PM

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There be Ants here.
They arrived feeling a little cold but appeared to warm up quickly. A 20+ colony from THA, i note several pupae and larvae, some still  golden and light yellow workers among them too. they are exploring their world and took no time in finding the larger outworld but have yet to  make the climb up into the mini outworld.

 

1.jpg

2.jpg

 

A few checking out the new appartment, it's actually kinda dark in there but the camera saw better in the low light

3.jpg

 

Her majesty

4.jpg

 

made it all the way to the larger outworld in maybe 10 min. there's a foraging g crew of 6 now 30 min after that

5.jpg

 

 

And then i noticed one worker in the back of the mini had died. In short order it was carried off twords the larger outworld, though it's been left in the tube a few inches shy now. I might need to have another vented tube run ready so i can swap out tubes for cleaning from time to time.


Edited by Full_Frontal_Yeti, January 20 2023 - 8:59 PM.

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#7 Offline Reacker - Posted January 21 2023 - 3:34 PM

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Nice setup!


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#8 Offline Full_Frontal_Yeti - Posted January 21 2023 - 7:00 PM

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^ thanks.

 

The layout did exactly what i wanted. When looking at the nest and outworld side by side like this. When an ant passes through the tube in the back ground it really catches your eye, as ant motion outside of where you expect to see it.

 

 

Everyone seems to be well settled in and now the waiting game of looking for new eggs is on. Once she starts laying again I'll add on a larger outworld to the setup. I'll be keeping the mini's outworld to any insects, so they don't drag smeary goo bits down the tube. And i keep a bit of apple in both outworlds for anyone who wants to tank up on the spot.

They have decided the bigger outworld is where the thrash goes, but not where yet. They take turns moving the trash back and forth across the outworld from one locaiton to another. I'm sure they'll work it out eventually.

 

nummy apple

nummyapple.jpg



#9 Offline Full_Frontal_Yeti - Posted January 22 2023 - 2:14 PM

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We have eggs.

I'm pretty sure they didn't show up with any or many at all. When they were in the test tube i could only spot larvae and pupae. As the tiny egg clutch is being held by a worker on top of the water tower, I'm pretty sure i'd a spotted this already if it'a been there this whole time.

 

not the best shot as they are little farther back than the macro lens would want but the bumps of the eggs as a clutch can be clearly seen

firsteggs.jpg

 

They have been doing well and i've seen at least 2-4 newly woken up gold workers each day sense they got here. Watching them get woke up is really neat.


Edited by Full_Frontal_Yeti, January 22 2023 - 2:21 PM.


#10 Offline ANTdrew - Posted January 22 2023 - 2:34 PM

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Seems like they’re off to a great start. Eclosing is the technical term for those workers hatching out.
Keep up the heat and give them plenty of protein.
"The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer." Prov. 30:25
Keep ordinary ants in extraordinary ways.

#11 Offline Full_Frontal_Yeti - Posted January 22 2023 - 2:52 PM

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Seems like they’re off to a great start. Eclosing is the technical term for those workers hatching out.
Keep up the heat and give them plenty of protein.

Even if they don't actually spin a cocoon?

 

It was the process of a worker basically moving the legs of the "sleeper" a  little bit, like just holding a leg and moving it back and forth a bit. they would do this to the sleeper and then the sleeper would start moving that limb a tiny bit, and the worker would start manipulating a differetn limb. They do this over the course of like an hour or so, moving the ants legs a bit and then leaving them a lone for a bit. They would move their antenna or a leg just a tiny bit on their own. Then another worker would come along and manipulate them a little more, and they'd move a little more on their own. Until eventually they got onto their own feet and started moving around a little. And in fairly short order they would start doing worker stuff after that.

Though i note the golden ones stay in the nest, move seeds around, tend to the queen and brood. Only the ones that have darkened up go out foraging.



#12 Offline ColAnt735 - Posted January 22 2023 - 3:41 PM

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Yeah enclosing is the proper term. The sleepy ones are pupae and the light workers are called callows.

"There are approximately 10,010,300 words in the English language, but I could never string enough words together to properly express how much I want to hit you with a chair." (Alexander Hamilton to Thomas Jefferson)

 

This is a joke


#13 Offline Full_Frontal_Yeti - Posted January 23 2023 - 12:20 PM

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The Ants have been really busy for their first 3 days here. They arrived with around 18-23 larvae and pupae combined, they have woken up 2-4 workers a day sense then and are almost out of pupae. There seemed to be a little time gap between the larvae and the pupae. Looking like after the last pupae of this group wakes up there might be 1-3 weeks to the next one.

All the callow workers stay in the nest and move seeds around or tend to the brood and queen. While the darker workers tend to go out foraging more but some stay and work in the nest.

Mostly now I’m watching the egg clutch, I want to verify it’s growing/the queen is actively laying as that feels like the mile stone to say they settled into a happy home and I would relax a little in my noobness to all this.
This little callow worker seemed to notice I was trying to get a shot. They turned to face the camera and held up the eggs for me.
eggpose.jpg

 

And there is still just the one “soldier” or The Mega as I think of her.

She continues to be a lighter shade than the rest while the callows have been turning deep red. She just hangs out and never does any work. Mostly she stays in one of the two outworlds, but whenever she’s in the nest briefly she tends to hang from the ceiling.

And of course she’s noticeably bigger than the rest, I think of her as The Mega, so I now call he Meg, being the only uniquely identifiable one among the bunch, she got a name.

meg.jpg

 

 

most interesting i have seen that it looks like some of the ants seem to imagine the larger outworld is just more nest, while some clearly see it as the outside world to the nest.

A group of about 12 workers have been working in the larger outworld, rearranging the seeds there, while a much smaller number of ants have been carrying the seeds back to the nest.

Of the group that treats the outworld as nest, about 3/4 of them believe the front right corner of the outword is the spot for a pile of seeds to be kept. And they have been busy moving the seeds from else where in the outworld to the front right corner of the outworld.

Meanwhile the other 1/4 of this group is really sure the correct place to pile seeds is the front left corner of the outworld. So they have been busy moving what seeds they find to the front left corner.

And sure enough each groups finds the majority of seeds that needs to be moved, in the opposite corner of the outworld from where they pile the seeds. ;)

 

So for the last three days there has been a non stop stream of workers moving back and forth across the front of the outworld. Taking seeds from one corner and moving them to the other.

With an occasional outlier find of a seed somewhere else and bringing it to the seed pile in whichever corner this ant's team is rooting for.

And then there are 3-4 ants who do come to the big otuworld and take seeds back to the nest. interestingly these ants seem to pretty consistently just go to the front right corner pile and take from there back to the nest.

 

They are clearly not all of the same mind about where the nest is or is not. Nor where the seed pile is best kept among those who do agree that the outworld is just more nest.

After two and half days of this i intervened. I used a stick and just moved all the ants from the big outworld to the little one on top of the mini hearth.

And then in a little less than 5 min they were all back at it again. Oh well, you do you i guess.

 

I also found that they seem to be taking out the trash well, though a lot of it don't make it all the way to the larger outworld, but is dropped off in the tube along the way.

Which might make clean up easy if most of their trash is in the tube i can just do a swap out with clean tube while i clean the dirty one.


Edited by Full_Frontal_Yeti, January 23 2023 - 12:24 PM.


#14 Offline ANTdrew - Posted January 23 2023 - 1:50 PM

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Our outworlds don’t have sunlight or any airflow, so ants do just see them as part of the nest. Some people have experimented with mini fans to counteract this.
"The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer." Prov. 30:25
Keep ordinary ants in extraordinary ways.

#15 Offline Full_Frontal_Yeti - Posted January 25 2023 - 9:46 AM

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Had my first drama last night. I feared there were some kind of parasitic mites in the formicarium. I spotted a worker with an odd clump of white something one the back of the gaster.

And they seemed to be ignoring it rather than cleaning up. I got them out of the group and put them back in their shipping tube to isolate them from the group and try to get a better look at what was going on.

this was the best i could get

1.jpg

2.jpg

 

Now i had also wondered if this little pile of white whatever might be grains of sand that have stuck to the ant from some apple or cricket juice maybe. There is a fair amount of these tiny white specs of it from the formicarium pour and they have been moving it about with a fair amount of it in their tube now. My main goal was to ID if this was just a bit of sand or a mite of some kind. But the ant was worked up from the move and wouldn't hold still for a better look. Then i noticed another ant with less of it but also some white specs around the same location.

Now i'm  really worrying, and get that one out to the tube too. They give me a better shot of it.

3.jpg

 

Not that i would know what a mite looks like but those look like grains of sand to me.

So i gave the Ant a bath. I figured if it was just a bit of sticky something holding on a grain of sand it would come right off.

Nope.

I even used a q-tip to try and brush it off but it remained. So i returned them to quarantine with the other ant.

In the mean time i spotted another ant with a single white dot on it's gasrter but lost them in short order.

I went to bed with the two in the tube on the heat cable with a bit of apple for food/water and humidity.

 

In the morning they were both cleaned up with no signs of any white dots on them, nor any to be seen anywhere else among the rest of the colony.

I had been hoping that if it was just hard to clean/reach dirt that they would eventually clean each other and i guess that's what happened.

I put them back with the rest now.

 

On the actually just good news i noticed the egg clutch has at least tripled in size this morning, and we're down to the last two larva i can spot as the others are all early pupae now with body definition showing and a couple with the tinniest visible little black dots for eyes.

 

I used up the last of the crickets  yesterday (i asked for three, they sell no less than 5) and will let them roll on seeds and fruit for a little while now so i imagine egg production will commensurately slow down too. I'm counting about 45 workers now including the callows which is just amazing to me for a "20+" colony to be at just 5 days after arrival, but they did show up with a fairly fat looking brood pile of larvae and pupae.

 

My hope is to have them grown to the fallen fortress sooner than later, but once there i want to keep them in that until i'm ready to make their own next bigger nest myself. I can't stop thinking of ways to heat the nest  while also keeping the heat cable from ruining the over aesthetics. As well as other technological automation frills baked in, like dedicated in location and size temp probe ports for thermostat heating control.


Edited by Full_Frontal_Yeti, January 25 2023 - 9:49 AM.


#16 Offline OiledOlives - Posted January 25 2023 - 11:22 AM

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That is sand

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#17 Offline Full_Frontal_Yeti - Posted January 26 2023 - 8:59 AM

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So far the worker ants seem to be mostly unconcerned about light. The room's 50-60% light time is fairly low light and strong shadow is cast inside the nest area leaving them in dark/low light conditions. The other time a large florescent overhead lights a work desk and casts light directly into the nest. And while only the queen seems to care, she does. If the light stays on for a little while she will seek a shadow spot to get out of light, often hanging form the ceiling behind a stalactite.
I'm going to use the port next to the water tower to make a little chamber with some vinyl tube blacked out with electrical tape. A 3/8 fits to a 1/2 and i figure a 3/4" length of 1/2" will make a nice little chamber for her. I notice she also seems to get a little bothered when the water tower is crowded with brood and tending workers and she can't get some space to herself where the rest are not bumping into her consistently.

Yesterday while cleaning the mini hearth's out world i vibrated the nest a bit too much and got them sired up. While the workers were settled back down in fairly short order the queen left the nest. She was out in the tube going to the outworld. I opened the top up of it and used a bit of paper to make a little breeze so it might be more the outside world. She would come down to the exit but not step into the outworld. Eventually workers dragged/herded her back into the nest(which i had covered the glass of to make dark), but she came right back out maybe 1 min later, going to about the half/way spot in the tube and just hanging out there for a while.
Eventually the workers got her back to the nest and she seemed to settled down this time.

The last news, is bad news. They found a weak spot in the nest near the water tower and have started excavating. The hole has gotten large enough to hold 3 workers now. I hope whatever weakness this is is just a patch they can tear up but not something that will lead to a whole new exit in the nest.
I fear the first major escape they have will be their last in this home as my honey is being a real saint about all this with me. Ants are her nightmare fuel, she don't like any bugs but ants somehow made the top of her bad bugs list right over anything that flies and might sting. They freak her out and she sees all bugs as just gross.
So keeping a real close eye on this, if i spot any bits of material falling out below the nest i'll have to at least take it off the feet so it's flush with the stand as a floor.
And then i might have to figure out moving them into the fallen fortress sooner than might be optimal for them.

If i have to go this route i'm thinking i'll fill all but two of the chambers with some sand/substrate that they can excavate whenever they feel like having more space.

I also put in the order for the larger outworld from TarHeelAnts, as the egg pile has been obviously growing so i feel like they will make it and i can invest in the next bigger outworld for them sooner than later.
getting the 9x5x5 with a desert canyon style and all the trim. I also asked for an additional port so i can add on more outworld space later down the line.
I also asked that, if, not sure if he does or not, but if he designs the outworlds with a front facing direction in mind, to place the entrance/exit ports by the front facing wall so that the ant's high traffic area will be up next to the front view as a good place to get macro shots.

Edited by Full_Frontal_Yeti, January 26 2023 - 11:15 AM.


#18 Offline Full_Frontal_Yeti - Posted January 27 2023 - 3:41 PM

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As from the last post, the queen seems not entirely pleased with her home conditions in some way. Feeling pretty sure about temps and humidity

I'm pretty sure she'd be happier with more darkness than my room winds up providing, even though the rest of the ants don't seem to  care.

And as before i notice sometimes she just seems to go off running around in a bit of a tizzy when it seemed she was wanting a bit of personal space or something and the water tower was a bit too hectic or something maybe.

 

But i'm not sure how much of this is the light as she will come out into the tube which is full lit by the overhead "day time" lamp. She comes zooming out of the nest and about 1/2 way down the tube and just hangs out. Kind of slowly wondering close to the outworld exit and back.

 

While she is out in the tube now i attached the little darkened chamber for her.

you can see her in the background in the tube.

queenchamber.jpg

 

 

Hopefully she finds the space to her liking and stops making me nervous like this.

Couple of ants are herding her back to the nest now.

 

And she went in, looked around, came right back out, now down in the tube again.


Edited by Full_Frontal_Yeti, January 27 2023 - 3:46 PM.


#19 Offline antsriondel - Posted January 27 2023 - 3:47 PM

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As from the last post, the queen seems not entirely pleased with her home conditions in some way. Feeling pretty sure about temps and humidity

I'm pretty sure she'd be happier with more darkness than my room winds up providing, even though the rest of the ants don't seem to  care.

And as before i notice sometimes she just seems to go off running around in a bit of a tizzy when it seemed she was wanting a bit of personal space or something and the water tower was a bit too hectic or something maybe.

 

But i'm not sure how much of this is the light as she will come out into the tube which is full lit by the overhead "day time" lamp. She comes zooming out of the nest and about 1/2 way down the tube and just hangs out. Kind of slowly wondering close to the outworld exit and back.

 

While she is out in the tube now i attached the little darkened chamber for her.

you can see her in the background in the tube.

attachicon.gifqueenchamber.jpg

 

 

Hopefully she finds the space to her liking and stops making me nervous like this.

Couple of ants are herding her back to the nest now.

 

And she went in, looked around, came right back out, now down in the tube again.

Nice! I might have to get a colony of these in the future.



#20 Offline Full_Frontal_Yeti - Posted January 27 2023 - 4:29 PM

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Here are some updates on day to day ant stuff for other noobs considering the hobby.

 

1: one of the water dispensers is broke,  it's just a thimble sized bit of water but it dumped all of it into the mini hearth outworld in about 10 min after i had freshened it up. Now the outworld is so humid it gets massive water drops and ants get stuck in them. So i dried it as best i could and am keeping the lid off while it dries back out.

 

2: i'll never pick up an ant wiht a q-tip again. having read this a few times i did so when i needed to capture an escape and it took me almost 10 min to get her disentangled from the tip of it. She just went to town biting the day lights out of ti and got all tangled up and there i am with two pairs of tweezers trying to take tangled cotton fibers off an ant. once she was sufficiently freed i put her back and figured her family would help wiht the rest.

 

3: i believe i had an ant resurrection. I spotted what surely was a dead ant being carried awawy from the nest down the tube and left there. it was checked out by several workers, mostly ignored and walked over, then eventually a worker took it all the way to the trash pile in the big outworld where it seemed to make the trash pile official. Then a few minuets later it got up and walked off. WTF?


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