The king of fungus growers hath returned!
I wasn't planning on making this journal, and honestly I'm not sure if there'll be many updates since the colony has already somewhat plateaued, but I want to get the documentation for this species out there, since not many people have kept them before.
On March 26th, I caught this large C. wheeleri colony under a rock near the bottom of a wash. The soil was gravelly and damp. Surprisingly, the sole dealate queen and a decent amount of fungus was found right at the surface. I was able to collect around 200 workers.
The colony only had a few small pieces of fungus present, since they were fresh out of diapause. I quickly moved them into an Ant Den from Arthropod Antics; this nest is my go-to for most fungus growers, and I have had a Trachymyrmex arizonensis colony in one for over a year now, and they have continued to thrive. Needless to say, the nest was an obvious choice. You can check it out here: https://www.arthropo...one-formicarium
I started off by offering the colony both steel-cut oats and caterpillar frass. I was relatively confident that they would not need frass, however since I had some laying around and I knew they would take it, I decided to offer it in the beginning to ensure their fungus would start growing right away. Since they only had a small amount, it would have been catastrophic if they didn't start to grow it right away. However, to my relief, they immediately began feeding the fungus with both frass and oats.
It grew steadily over the next week or two.
Eventually they ran out of frass, and switched to using exclusively steel-cut oats. At this point, due to no longer using frass, the fungus became amazingly white and fluffy. These images are from the end of April, about a month after I collected the colony.
I was out of state almost the entire month of May, first on a trip to Illinois to visit family, and then on a trip to Costa Rica. If you haven't seen it, I've been uploading videos twice a week about my Costa Rica trip to my YouTube. You should check them out! https://www.youtube....ArthropodAntics
To my surprise, when I returned home on June 2nd, the colony's fungus was massive!
And finally, just a few days ago, I noticed that they have begun producing female alates! A pretty significant number of them, too! The fungus has even grown a bit more in the last few weeks. I have no idea how much bigger it will get, but the nest is almost completely full. If it grows much more, I'll likely have to attach new nesting space via the expansion port on the Ant Den.
And that's the current state of my mature Cyphomyrmex wheeleri colony! It's been amazing to keep these ants, and I feel super lucky to have them, since I know they are seldom kept by hobbyists. The way that I encountered them was super lucky, and the fact that I managed to get them to thrive was probably a combination of luck and skill. After all, I do tend to know what I'm doing when it comes to fungus growers
I do plan on using this colony to boost new queens with fungus this summer. Finding dealate C. wheeleri isn't hard, but they are typically foraging queens that have already deposited their fungus, and so collecting them will just result in them dying. However, being able to provide them a new fungus garden should ensure their success, and mean that I can provide C. wheeleri colonies to many more hobbyists this year, and even raise a colony from a solo queen myself. Very exciting!