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Atta texana attempt to form colonies

queen atta texana wow ants

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#1 Offline dessertjuju - Posted May 18 2024 - 10:07 PM

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I'm tryna set up some Atta texana colonies from queens I catch in wild.
to see if we can figure something out.
 
Part 1: Observing: Austin, TX. April 29th, 2024. 5:40-6:10am
 
There was a large colony in area I dubbed "the cactus mesa". The mothership entrance was at the base of a large, or two large trees, no grasses or weeds in sight, many holes, too many to count. Got there around 5:30 am to watch the atta fly. Obviously dark, and used flashlights to make sure we got to where I wanted to observe. We saw another dude there without his shirt on hidden in the bushes. lol he said he went up close to look to see the ants, and somewhat obvious what had happened to him. anyways... the atta flew maybe around 5:40?50?6:00?, not sure if I chose the best colony to watch. Hard to see them take flight into the sky with the tree above us. We used our flashlights to sort of draw some near us and then up, but if they fly to the light then they don't fly up? Ended up turning light off most of the time. Next year I'll go somewhere else. Def got to see some fly in my face at least ;)
 
Part 1.5 Collecting: Austin, TX. April 29th, 2024. till 10:30ish am. 
 
Plan was to drive to gas stations along the highways on the outskirts of the city, where less light pollution. Never have done this before, and decided best way to learn is to just do it first. I had some gas stations in mind, and a time table that I guessed would take me from the time we left the observation (6:20?am) until around 11 am to collect queens. Goal was as many mated queens as possible, I hoped for around 60 mated?. Previous friend who gave me most of my instruction said he had caught 40-50 and only got 2 queens to survive till the end and form a successful colony (which I have adopted since, and it is quite healthy), so ya, I'm worried this might not work at all. I set out with a large plastic container/storage bin (just say little smaller than a classic TSA security bin//little bigger than size of a laptop --- does this matter? lol). 
 
First station. Drove to the first gas station, a specific Texaco that was sent to me via same friend who said they had previous luck finding mated queens there. I pulled in, didn't even get out of my truck and didn't see any ants around - although at this point didn't know what I would be looking for, in terms of numbers. But ya, no obvious "there be ants here" sign from this Texaco. Ok so *great*. At this point its getting light outside. I think I lost a bit of time driving north, and then the frontage road/plan situation/little bit of drama with some personal life stress had me waste an extra 15 min on the freeways looping around tryna decide what to do. But we won't dwell too much on that. ....
 
Second station. Arrived at second gas station. There's no other businesses around this one, to the west grass...empty land, and to the east, intersection and more land and eventually a toll road. Pulled in, parked. Doesn't look like much, but we get out. There's gotta be something here..right? Ohhh a queen, but has wings. So we assume not mated ya? *these my thoughts lol* We realize a problem - There's birds. These gd birds. I see them swooping up and chomping on bigger insects - my queens. fools! those r mine >.< ... There's a bunch of semis parked here. I realize if you look along the curb under the semis, the ants might be more protected from the birds. Sure enough I see a queen, no wings. YEs. one down. THere's nothing else at this gas station, only birds and few winged ones, maybe saw a total of 5-7, including males.
 
Third station. Not much luck so far. We drive past the toll road, to a Chevron, lets call it. oh. We pull in. There are ants SCATTERED. All over the concrete, by the cars filling their gas, by the building, by the light posts, along the curbs - but around 95% winged. So what, there was a colony close nearby, but too close? So the queens took off and flew to the lights before mating? Stayed there for a while caught perhaps 24 wingless females. Funny too tho, the workers were sweeping up the ants. Also a ton were dead and squished, not sure if by cars or what. We drove to few other gas stations, very little luck at the rest. Stopped collecting at maybe 10/10:30 am.
 
softpad.jpg
 
Part 2: Starting colonies/placing queens 
 
Grabbed 16 oz deli cups and filled 1/4 - 1/2 full with wet sand (wetted with DI water and sand was from terrarium reptile brand). Humidity and temp were to be somewhat controlled. I have access to research lab that is kept at a constant temperature and I found a storage bin dark with some holes on the side to allow some airflow. Poked two "X"s on deli cup lids w razors, in one I lodged a soaked kimwipe and the other one... well idk I just put there, thinking maybe needs some air ? looked good enough to me. Cups/containers placed in storage bin, lid on, placed in corner near desk with many NO TOUCH. don't BOTHER AT ALL please. signs :) They sat there till I felt ok about bothering them. 
 
Stats: 26 mated queens. 12 containers with 2 each, 1 container with just 1. 13 containers total. One container had sickly looking lady, but w.e i put her in one with another lady. 
 
sandqueens.jpg
 
lids.jpg
 
binofbins.jpg

Edited by dessertjuju, May 18 2024 - 10:09 PM.

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#2 Online AsdinAnts - Posted May 19 2024 - 4:19 PM

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just because they don't have wings on doesnt mean that they are actually mated, and vis versa for winged queens.

Anyways, good luck with your colonies!

Edited by AsdinAnts, May 19 2024 - 8:34 PM.

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Currently keeping
-A. occidentalis
-B. patagonicus
-C. vicinus
-F. neogagates
-M. invidia
-Stennama spec..
I will want to also keep some other lasius types in the future.
You should also subscribe to my youtube channel! https://www.youtube.com/@AsdAnts

#3 Offline dessertjuju - Posted May 19 2024 - 8:32 PM

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Part 3: Checking in. May 10, 2024. 12 nights post flight. 

 

Bin was left undisturbed for 12 nights. Slowly removed the deli cups and peeked inside. Wowwww. Actually working.  :D I guess I'll summarize "results" in a prettier table soon, but for now (and new pics are below all this fantastic text):

 

Mortality:

- 3/13 had both queens visibly alive working on the same garden. The other containers I only saw 1 queen with her garden. In some of these containers I found the other queen dead in the dirt. Either buried by it or still in a tunnel and she was just dead. Some containers I couldn't locate the other queen, I guess I somewhat assumed she was dead in the dirt. I found all the dead ones I could and removed them to prevent pathogens from spreading.

 

- 1/13 had both queens dead. This came from the container with a sick looking lady, who had fungus all over her, the other queen dug down, but also got taken over by the same mold/fungus. 

 

Garden Location:

- 3/13 had gardens growing on top of the sand.

- 9/13 had gardens growing below the sand. 1/13 had no garden (^sick/both dead one) One was a container with two queens. Other two were just single queens. I was tryna see if how I packed the sand influenced whether they dug down or not, but I'm not sure it made a ton of a difference. Some heavier packed sand was dug down into, and vice versa. The wetness of the sand didn't appear to determine digging decisions either. 

 

Garden Size:

I shall need a better measurement for this. Size varied for sure. Some looked smaller than the queens head, say 1-2mm. A few looked like 4mm. I would somewhat assume gardens tended to by two queens may be larger than those tended to just by 1, but my largest garden was from single queen. (For the record this is queen 4 i call her). It appears the gardens on top of the dirt are larger than those below. Perhaps bc of moisture coming from dirt? who knows. 

 

Eggs: 

I didn't count, hard to see if there are eggs in those with gardens below the dirt. Yes for sure some, lets say 2-3 from memory. Those above ground all had eggs, but those gardens were larger. 

 

Questions:

- why queen just stand there over the garden? What does she do? lay eggs and rearrange them? Does she rearrange the fungus? She just looks at it/protects it? Like momma bird over nest. Just sit there ok. 

 

queen4.png

belowandtwotrue.png

post12nights-1-12.png


Edited by dessertjuju, May 24 2024 - 11:58 AM.

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#4 Offline dessertjuju - Posted May 20 2024 - 10:35 AM

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Checking in continued. Post 16 nights. 

 

Mortality: I didn't see any more queen mortality and one of the queens that I assumed was dead because I couldn't see her appeared.

Garden size: It's also been difficult to take pics of the gardens below the dirt. I'd say they all grew in size, and saw eggs below of at least some. Gardens on top def grew, Queen 4 has the largest garden and she be laying them eggs on top. 

 

(ill upload numbers later i guess)

queen4comparison.png

eggs4.png

 


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#5 Offline dessertjuju - Posted May 25 2024 - 10:14 PM

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Part 3: Checking in. May 22, 2024. 24 nights post flight. 

 

*hoping to find larvae*...TLDR: no :/

 

Stats:

Mortality: I've got 14/26 queens still alive. 

 

Queen-team: lol only 2/12 containers have both queens still alive working on a garden together. Last check in was 3/12. But one container's 1 queen has passed so now the other one is left on its own. This was the only case I saw that a garden was started by two together and then one passed. All other instances of queens dying happened before gardens were started aka within first 12 nights before I checked in on them. 

 

As above, so below: 3/12 containers have formed their "gardens/eggs" above the dirt. Rest are below. 

 

"....Nesting location" aka eggs vs gardens: As I've seen gardens grow and increase in size, I've also noticed some *gardens* had not grown at all. Confused me for sure at first last week, but I sort of ignored it. This week though as I looked closer I realized that in many of these containers, what I thought were small minute fungus gardens, were in fact just eggs - with no fungus. So, the queens had laid eggs but failed to start cultivating/growing their fungus. Where'd the fungus go? Did they forget to bring a bit of fungus with them on their flight? Why they not capable of cultivating fungus... or maybe conditions weren't favorable - this wouldn't make a ton of sense, I was mixed the water/dirt substrate before dividing it ,across the containers so I'd assume the humidity was consistent and the temperature is the same for all the containers... no good reason tbd. Maybe I'll look at dirt level in all the containers to see if the amount of dirt made a difference --- OR the more probable reason is that just some of the queens r incompetent. Survival of the fittest. whatcha gonna do. 

.... but yea, so there's 3/12 containers didn't have any fungus and only eggs. So these I FUNGUS BOOSTED ok whack attempt what's it mean...

 

FUNGUS BOOSTINg - I had been told this might work. I have another Atta texana colony that is decent sized (maybe eventually ill upload pic) I'd say its ~3 years old now so I took some fungus from the garden plus some worker ants and added lil bit to these 3 containers. We'll see if the queens incorporate this fungus into their lives and if the worker ants accept the new queens. This could end in tragedy but idk these queens would've survived anyways if they can't seem to grow their fungus. 

 

Fungus boost container 1: This container is one of the two with both queens still alive and they have made their egg pile on top of the dirt. ok but.... lol so turns out these queens have personalities. When I open the lid EVERYTIME one of them gets ~agro af~ and starts walking in circles and opening and closing her mandibles, the other one doesn't seem to care. Yes I say I can tell them apart simply because of this difference in behavior - also none of the other ants in the other containers get mad like this one queen. But anyways, i put some fungus and ants in the container and agro queen freaaks out and starts running around and then finds the hole and hides herself in the dirt like a gd ostrich. The other one sort of looked at the fungus but then followed the agro one...at a much slower pace. 2 ostriches. The worker ants didn't really bother the queens they sort of rummaged around the container and of course climbed the sides of it to try to get out. Not allowed. Stay put. TBD on what happens. 

1-collage2.png

 

Fungus boost container 2: There's 1 queen left, and she's made her egg pile below the dirt. I put some fungus and workers on the top, but the queen had covered up her digging hole to the underground so there's not really a way for her to access the fungus/ a way for the worker ants to access her. So this might just be boring, queen has no idea I'm tryna help her out. 

 

Fungus boost container 10: 1 queen left, made her egg pile below the dirt, although there is still a hole-ish to allow access to the below. 

 

----

 

Horse betting on ant queens:

Been enough nights that we can see which queens got their sht together and are successfully building their garden - although no larvae, but still solid progress on some nice looking fungus dishes. The bigger fungus gardens have started to curl up on the sides to form circular platters with ledges. If we are making bets on which queens will make it to the end these are the top contestants. 4, 11, 12, then maybe 6, 7, 9, 13 with also decent gardens. So if we are gonna actually make a bet - lets say a superfecta hah - 4,11,12 / 4,11,12 / 4,11,12, 6, 9, 13 / 11, 12, 6, 7, 9, 13  B)  ;) (pics of most of these below)

 

This is the favorite. 

4-progression.png

 

Hard to see the size of the underground gardens w the iffy transparency of containers.

undergroundqueens6-7.png

 

Unfortunately, there was an earthquake - aka me picking up the container and lifting the lid too fast and a chunk of the dirt collapsed. I guess this is a danger I never thought about - this must sometimes happen in the wild too huh? Anyways, the chunk of dirt barely missed the queen - but did miss her - we'll see if she can dig herself out of this one. 

11-collage.png

 

This queen has some white crap on her thorax. The other queen did die in this container, and while I removed her, I noticed a bit of mold on the kimwipe I put in the lid to control humidity. I'm worried its the beginning of a pathogen infection, so we'll have to wait and see if she survives. would be a shame...this garden was looking healthy. 

12-collage.png

 

 


Edited by dessertjuju, May 25 2024 - 10:23 PM.

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#6 Online AsdinAnts - Posted May 26 2024 - 7:08 AM

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Really happy for these girls!

The queens with no fungus pellets could have dropped them on accident during their nuptial flights, or they could have dropped them when you were picking them up because they got spooked.
Currently keeping
-A. occidentalis
-B. patagonicus
-C. vicinus
-F. neogagates
-M. invidia
-Stennama spec..
I will want to also keep some other lasius types in the future.
You should also subscribe to my youtube channel! https://www.youtube.com/@AsdAnts

#7 Offline dessertjuju - Posted June 2 2024 - 7:24 PM

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Checking in --- for larvae.

 

5/30/24. 31 nights post capture. 

 

To recap.

About half of my queens are still alive, yet their gardens are not what they should be. The star queens (4, 12) have a cupped fungus dish and plenty of eggs while some queens (2, 10) are under the dirt with nothing except eggs. I thought previously they had a fungus garden, but in fact were just eggs (realized this last week). So I boosted some of these non-existent fungus gardens with fungus from my current colony (I boosted 3 containers: 1,2, 10). 

 

Fungus Boosting Success:

wowwwwww. Queens in containers 1 and 10 completely adopted the other fungus as their own, and the worker ants have accepted the new queens. Queens in container 1 were the scared ones, but it looks like nothing is wrong at all. Completely surprising. Hopefully though these queens have mated so the colony can continue to grow. If my queens are not mated then the workers will soon die and there will be no one left to keep the fungus happy and well... no colony. Regardless, super exciting this fungus boosting went well. 

10-boostcollage.png

 

 

Where's my baby ants?

I am in touch with another local who is also growing up new colonies from collected ants in the area. His new queens already have decently matured larvae and i have nONE. porque? My guess is the humidity or temp is different and rather than time, the queen decides to lay these fertilized eggs based on the size of the fungus garden, so if my gardens are small, I won't see larvae grow until the fungus is the right size. (Hypothesis makes sense to me, bc the garden's gotta be big enough to feed said larvae when they hatch into ants??? idk real reasoning. I find it hard to believe that all 13 of my de-alated queens that are still alive are all coincidentally unmated) Anyways, doesn't matter, my queen 4 with the largest garden still only has eggs. and I'm complaining and complaining and questioning so much so that I open up my dark bin of ant containers again the day after (I've never opened bin two days in a row...) so I take a closer look. ALAS!? could it be. These spherical eggs are a little too oval-shaped, little too ovoid (yes this is a word apparently). See pic below. So yes, perhaps my queen 4 has laid fertilized eggs and I may get worker ants in June. We shall see.  :)  :whistle: patience. 

4-larvae.png

 

Excavate the losers. Turn them into champions. 

As i mentioned, I have a decent # of queens that are chilling under the dirt watching their eggs with NO fungus. Lame. Lazy [censored] queens sitting there listening to silence. She has no fungus, there is no chance for her. SO . I decide to take the chance and excavate these lazy ladies and combine them with the others. ----- interjection

 

Excavating these queens under the dirt was TERRIFYING. I had a clean plastic spoon and the dirt was wet and heavy and could totally collapse on my queens (as it did to queen 11, which ended up dying ... yes i opened container this week and after collapse she dead... and same happened to my dual queens in 13, the water made the dirt fall and I had to emergency excavate them, they seem saved for now. but yeah,,, i learned do not let your queens dig below dirt when tryna grow colonies way too dangerous and also too difficult to help them if you wanna fungus boost. 

 

So ya... excavated to COMBINE them with the others --- Maybe they will work together, and Ill redo my containers and move their eggs on the top of the dirt. Maybe I'll even fungus boost these ones and add worker ants so they can continue to be lazy and just need to concentrate on one thing at a time. So this is what I did. A little combination of some queens, reduced containers and put in new ones with new dirt and fungus boosted them since it went so well for 8 and 10. I am hopeful now for the used to be failures. Little less worried about their survival if they can get along with the workers and grow the fungus. I'll be happy when I see their larvae tho. 

 

8-13-excavating.png

7-5-6newgardens.png

 

 


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