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Unwanted Boys: Pogonomyrmex occidentalis laid a batch of males ...

pogonomyrmex harvester ants male alates alates alate

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#1 Offline futurebird - Posted May 14 2023 - 11:19 AM

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I really thought my Pogonomyrmex colony was on the way out. The newest calllows were all male for about two weeks. I thought that either the queen had run out of sperm, or maybe her ability to fertilize eggs had faltered... (Since I couldn't find her for much of that time I also wondered if the workers were trying to lay eggs, but could not determine if this is possible with this species.)

Well today I noticed some young callows who were regular female workers! The spat of boys seems to be over and the queen might be going back to making workers and fertilizing her eggs. I'm hopeful this means the colony won't die off. It's only two years old and doing just fine otherwise. 

The things is... this has happened before with this queen... though not as dramatically. Last summer I found a *queen* (so a fertilized egg but with too much food? why would they raise just one queen?) then later I found two males ... I saved these in my pinning box since I thought it was neat to have all of the "morphs" of this species. 

But this time it was like 20 or 30 males! No queens. I think... maybe their sisters ate them after awhile? Since I never saw them in the outworld and now there are only a few left as the colony gets back to normal.

What the heck is going on with this colony? I feed them mostly grass seeds, but do give an insect every other week which they seem to like. They have a large outworld and two plate glass "sandwich" sand nests to live in. There are around 500 workers in this colony, it's very lively. 


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Starting this July I'm posting videos of my ants every week on youTube.

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#2 Offline Ernteameise - Posted May 14 2023 - 12:11 PM

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I do not have enough experience to explain what goes on here....
However, it will be interesting to see how this develops.
I know from European wood ants that they first produce males in spring, reason is that for opening the valve for sperm to enter the ovary, they need a certain temperature and when it is too cold, they cannot fertilize the eggs.
Not sure if this happens in your species, though.
Keep us updated.

I like the video.
Cute how the girls care for their brothers, really interesting to watch. I also hope the poor baby got another seed to munch on!
May I ask which camera you are using for these amazing videos?
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#3 Offline ReignofRage - Posted May 14 2023 - 1:44 PM

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Pogonomyrmex are known to make alates "early on". As time goes on it will only increase the amounts they make. For example, P. rugosus are known to start producing males and queens within nine months of founding.


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#4 Offline ANTdrew - Posted May 14 2023 - 3:41 PM

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I think most species begin making males and only later make queens once the productive capacity of the colony is ready. What I do know now after raising multiple species to alates is that it is a tremendous drain on the colony. In fact, an ant colony is really never the same again. Overall growth and vigor markedly decline as all energy goes into producing massive and energetically costly queens. It can seem like the colony is dying.
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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.

#5 Offline futurebird - Posted May 14 2023 - 3:50 PM

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The males were hungry and they don't know how to shell seeds on their own... but they *do* know how to steal seeds from babies (larvae) and I watched them do this with impunity after their sisters lost interest in feeding them directly. 

So the nurse ants are shelling grass seeds and chewing them into ant bread for the larvae... but who is really eating it??


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Starting this July I'm posting videos of my ants every week on youTube.

I like to make relaxing videos that capture the joy of watching ants.

If that sounds like your kind of thing... follow me >here<






Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: pogonomyrmex, harvester ants, male alates, alates, alate

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