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Cheeto's Atta mexicana - V2 (Finally Updated 5.18.24)


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#1 Offline CheetoLord02 - Posted August 23 2023 - 11:27 PM

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And Now... The moment you've all been waiting for...

The king of leafcutters has returned! After an excruciating 15 months or so, I have FINALLY gotten my hands on Atta mexicana again! For those who are perhaps new here, I have an old (and very popular) journal detailing the life of my old Atta mexicana colony before they were tragically cooked to death by my dad (accidentally). If you haven't read that journal yet, or it's just been a while, please go do so, as it's a great read.
https://www.formicul...+atta +mexicana

Rather than reviving that journal, I have decided to start a new one to "preserve" the story of that old colony from beginning to end. Maybe that's a bad idea, but whatever, lol.

Now, let's get into the good stuff, what you're all here for.

On August 1st, 2023, after two long and painful years of not having an Atta colony, I finally, FINALLY managed to witness a nuptial flight of the species, right here in Arizona. And let me just tell you, it was fantastic. I made a whole video about it on my YouTube, and I would very much appreciate if you checked it out. It's a fun one:

https://youtu.be/t0s...sr8kYD1giD9iYP6


After the horrifically exhausting experience of actually finding queens, it was time for the most painful part of them all: Waiting 6-7 weeks for workers, and dealing with failed queens. And let me tell you, for whatever reason, these queens were FAILING. I have no idea why, but unlike the 60-80%+ success rates recorded with this species by most Mexican antkeepers, my success rate has been horrible: currently only around 45% of the original ~70 queens are still alive after 3 weeks. Granted, mortality rates have slowed dramatically recently, but I've still got a few queens doing poorly, and am still experiencing a couple of random deaths here and there. I'll talk later about how I've been managing that.

But for now, let's get some dang pictures going already!


August 2nd, just a day after capture. Small fungus ball and some eggs.
 

IMG 20230802 222907505



August 15th, 2 weeks after capture. Fungus garden is now the size of a nickel, with the first larvae beginning to appear.
 

IMG 20230815 163500229



August 22nd, 3 weeks after capture. Fungus now the size of a quarter, with larvae growing well.
 

IMG 20230821 160731965



And that's about as far as the queens that are founding normally have gotten, and so far so good. But what about all of those queens that have failed?

Well, as some of you may know, I recently began working at Arizona State University's Social Insect Research Group. Within the specific ant lab I work in, there is an Atta mexicana colony. An Atta mexicana colony that I technically own. It belonged to a friend of mine, was brought into the lab for display, and then I was given ownership in exchange for a Camponotus ulcerosus colony that I found. However, that friend also really, really didn't want me to take the colony home, as everyone in the lab loves having them on display. I agree, and so I told him that I would leave the colony at the lab UNLESS I failed to catch more Atta this year, in which case I'd take them home, because I refuse to go another year without Atta at home. Luckily, that didn't happen, so everyone wins. Here's a picture of that colony:
 

IMG 20230911 132836361



But why am I telling you all of this? Well, because I technically own and have been caring for this Atta colony for a few months now, I also have the right do to whatever I want with it: Including taking as much fungus as I want to donate to my new queens. Doing so has saved a decent number that had lost their pellets or otherwise had their fungus die, but still a surprising number have failed to take care of boosted fungus, and simply let it die shortly after receiving it. Which, as you can imagine, is incredibly frustrating.

As a last resort to try and save these most stubborn queens, I decided to try introducing both live workers and brood along with the fungus, as I have heard that Atta mexicana workers can be pretty accepting of new queens. And lo and behold, that rumor was correct, and I now have 15 Atta mexicana "colonies" comprised of workers, fungus, and pupae from the colony at the lab, and a fresh queen that had failed founding.

Now, to say it has worked flawlessly would be a lie. For one, I overhydrated many of the setups, causing the new fungus to basically instantly die. Oops. A few other colonies, for seemingly no reason, also failed to care for their fungus. Now, only 3 are left with living fungus, however those 3 are absolutely thriving. They are cutting plants extremely well, growing the fungus quickly, and the queens are laying like crazy. It'll still take another 6-7 weeks for the eggs to develop into the first biological workers, but giving these queens a kickstart was definitely the right call. I also plan to boost the 12 failed colonies again, after drying out the nesting chambers a bit, which should hopefully get them up and running just fine.

Here's a quick video of one of the successful boosted colonies:

https://youtube.com/...o?feature=share


And a video of one of the queens founding normally:




And that's about all I have for you for now, which granted, is quite a lot. Hopefully you all are excited to read about me keeping Atta again, as spoiler alert: It's going to be bigger and better this time. And that's a promise! 500k workers or bust!!
 


Edited by CheetoLord02, May 18 2024 - 7:43 PM.

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#2 Offline NicholasP - Posted August 23 2023 - 11:49 PM

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Our king has returned.



#3 Offline ANTdrew - Posted August 24 2023 - 2:11 AM

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Lord of leaf-cutters is catchier, just my two cents.
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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.

#4 Offline AntsCali098 - Posted August 24 2023 - 9:10 AM

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Glad you are back! Good luck with the attas
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Interested buying in ants? Feel free to check out my shop

Feel free to read my journals, like this one.

 

Wishlist:

Atta sp (wish they were in CA), Crematogaster cerasi, Most Pheidole species

 

 


#5 Offline antsriondel - Posted August 24 2023 - 10:51 AM

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lets go!



#6 Offline Ernteameise - Posted August 24 2023 - 11:08 AM

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This is soooo cool!

Especially the story about your pet colony at the lab!


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#7 Offline Virginian_ants - Posted August 24 2023 - 11:49 AM

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Sooo jealous 



#8 Offline CheetoLord02 - Posted September 5 2023 - 6:45 PM

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https://youtu.be/MeJ...B4O9YIvEFWpoR6o

I've missed taking Atta timelapses. So far nothing too exciting has been happening, other than that I have re-boosted the colonies that previously failed to take care of their fungus, and now all 15 appear to be succeeding. I plan to repeat this process with any additional queens that need it. It's so strange knowing that I now have functional Atta colonies again. The colony in that timelapse, however, is absolutely head and shoulders above the rest, and is doing so exceptionally well, as you can likely see. The fungus is quite large, and is packed with absolutely HUNDREDS of eggs and small larvae. It'll still likely be 3-4 weeks before biological workers show up, but it will be extremely exciting when they do.

IMG_20230905_193915636.jpg
IMG_20230905_193957241.jpg
IMG_20230905_194011005.jpg



I think most of the larger brood you can see are leftovers from the boost, as when I initially boosted them, there were many larvae and pupae added alongside the fungus and workers. Today the colony cut yellow flowers.

IMG_20230905_170645831.jpg


That's about all I have for you all today, happy to report all is going well in the Atta world!


Also, P.S. to any future readers with Atta mexicana queens: If you are looking to replicate my worker boosting strategy, know it is all or nothing. If you do not boost with 50+ workers and a large chunk of fungus, the chances of failure are significantly higher. Boost with as much fungus and workers as possible for the highest chance of success.


Edited by CheetoLord02, September 7 2023 - 8:49 PM.

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#9 Offline 100lols - Posted September 5 2023 - 9:26 PM

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Happy to hear you’re having successful results with the boosting! Your job is a lifesaver :)

Your upload covering catching the queens illustrated the emotional roller coaster well!

#10 Offline CheetoLord02 - Posted September 6 2023 - 8:11 PM

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Fixed the images in the previous post, they bugged shortly after posting. Hopefully that doesn't happen again.

Also, for a limited time only, you, yes YOU, can experience the glory of Atta mexicana in the comfort of your own home! At least, some of the glory. Now available on Arthropod Antics, preserved Atta mexicana queens!

https://www.arthropo...-queen-specimen


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#11 Offline OiledOlives - Posted September 10 2023 - 2:48 PM

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Awesome!



#12 Offline CheetoLord02 - Posted November 3 2023 - 10:23 PM

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I'm back!

I've been pretty busy as of late and haven't really felt like updating, but thankfully things have been going quite well in the Atta world. I'm currently down to 10 or so colonies, as I've had 1-2 deaths and have distributed a few colonies to keepers who can legally receive them. That said, I only have 1 colony I plan on keeping long-term. Of my remaining 10, I have one that has absolutely blown my mind with how well they're doing, and they will be the sole focus of this journal from now on. Of my "extra" colonies, I actually believe I have a few infertile queens, as they have been producing "micro-males", deformed males that are only around the size of a typical worker. I don't have any pictures since they usually die 1-2 days after eclosing, but yeah. This infertility rate may explain my absolutely horrible natural founding rate. I'm not really sure what I did wrong in collecting, as I made sure to only collect dealates and there were tons of males for each queen, but idk.

Anyways, getting into the colony as the focus of this journal. Their 3x3x3 inch nest box is approaching half-full, they're already pushing 1,000 workers, and have begun producing the first 13mm+ workers. This was almost a naturally founded colony; this queen is the one featured in the "21 days" video in the first update. Shortly after her larvae pupated, she let all her fungus die, and I boosted her with new fungus and around 20 workers. The workers adopted her, her biological workers eclosed shortly afterwards, and ever since they have absolutely exploded. Here's a few pictures of the progress:

September 6th, shortly after all biological workers eclosed. Fungus garden still pretty small, but being added to.
 

IMG 20230906 215548318


A week later, 2 days apart (Sept. 11/13). Colony is cutting absurd amounts of plants for their size.

IMG 20230911 202205871
IMG 20230913 174634700


October 2nd, fungus garden is starting to expand horizontally.
 

IMG 20231002 222106653
IMG 20231002 222136839


Just the next day the connection between the two fungus clusters has become extremely thick and well-developed.

IMG 20231003 150028470
IMG 20231003 150038993

 

October 19, most of the focus has been on the second fungus cluster, and it's now just as large as the first one.
 

IMG 20231019 220108855
IMG 20231019 220052707


At this point, I started noticing the absolutely insane amounts of brood being produced by the colony. I don't know that I've ever seen this much brood compared to the amount of fungus they have.

IMG 20231019 215859126
IMG 20231019 215932576
IMG 20231019 220015435

 

 

October 25, pretty standard update. Fungus big, tons of brood, queen looking lovely.
 

IMG 20231025 181204007
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At this point I started noticing the first super chubby larvae.

IMG 20231025 183938023

 

 

As of last weekend, I took the Atta colony to a few local events where I was displaying various native arthropods. After the last event the fungus garden fell over, but thankfully everyone was fine, and they've continued to build up the fungus quickly in this new position.
 

IMG 20231103 221830207
IMG 20231103 221843034
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The way it fell left a corner of the nest that is largely sealed off by fungus, and that is where the queen has chosen to sit.
 

IMG 20231103 221908137
IMG 20231103 221910909

 

 

And that's the final update as of today, I couldn't possibly be happier with how this colony is doing, and I can't wait to continue periodically documenting their growth just like I did with my old colony.


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#13 Offline 100lols - Posted November 4 2023 - 12:46 AM

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What a sweet colony!! Beautiful :)

Nest expansion in the next update?

#14 Offline ANTdrew - Posted November 4 2023 - 2:03 AM

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Awesome! Glad to see an update.
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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.

#15 Offline CheetoLord02 - Posted November 5 2023 - 9:40 PM

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What a sweet colony!! Beautiful :)

Nest expansion in the next update?

Honestly just depends on how long between updates I go. If I wait another 2 months, then yeah, they will absolutely be in a new nest by that point. I'd anticipate that their current nesting chamber will be full by the end of the month, but I guess I'll just have to wait and see exactly how things progress.


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#16 Offline CheetoLord02 - Posted May 18 2024 - 7:50 PM

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We're back! It turns out, there is in fact a new nest expansion in the next update, even if it took me... 6 months.

I've had a busy past 6 months. Between two international trips, some family issues, school, etc., I haven't been focusing nearly as much on the Atta as I should have. Shortly after the previous update they had fully filled their nest, and I ended up "bonsai-ing" the Atta colony at that size until about last week. However, things in my life have finally calmed down, and I've decided to make the Atta a focus once again. After all, with how awful it was for me to catch those queens, it'd be a shame for me not to let them thrive to their fullest potential.

For starters, I made a new nest. It's massive, about 6.1 liters in capacity, by far the largest I've ever used for Atta, but it should still work well.

I moved the queen over with forceps first, and then just picked up the entire fungus garden and moved that.

 

Screenshot 2024 05 18 203811
Screenshot 2024 05 18 203837


Over the course of the next week, they grew dramatically due to me... well... actually feeding them.

 

IMG 20240508 224716862
IMG 20240511 015810107
IMG 20240514 183237785


Of course, this has also come with brood pouring out of every tiny nook and cranny.
 

IMG 20240511 020207110


Finally, a large outworld to finish everything off.
 

IMG 20240512 133625575


And that's all I have for now. A colony that's finally being grown out once more, with plenty of space to grow into. How fun!


P.S., I'm working on a really special project involving leafcutter ants. It'll probably take another few months to finished, but I'm so excited for it, and you all should be too.


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#17 Offline ANTdrew - Posted May 19 2024 - 3:20 AM

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Glad you’re back and have more time!
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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.

#18 Offline AntsCali098 - Posted May 20 2024 - 8:02 PM

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Glad the journal is back! Good luck growing these
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Interested buying in ants? Feel free to check out my shop

Feel free to read my journals, like this one.

 

Wishlist:

Atta sp (wish they were in CA), Crematogaster cerasi, Most Pheidole species

 

 


#19 Offline 100lols - Posted May 22 2024 - 4:55 AM

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Massive new setup is sweet!!! Can’t wait to see almost 6 liters of fungus lol.

#20 Offline Zzz - Posted July 8 2024 - 11:54 PM

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This is awesome, I read your last journal on atta and was sad they died, but I can’t wait to see what this colony has to offer to us. Instant follow of this journal!






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