It seems like I have some sick Pogonomyrmex queens. I caught 5 Pogonomyrmex about 1.5 weeks ago, and placed them in sterile dirt setups inside of old pickle jars. They have a heating cable running between the jars to give them some heat. Three of the queens began digging some chambers right away. Two of the queens haven't dug, they're just running around inside their jar. Everyone got honey as a welcome gift.
The three that dug chambers seem to be sick (or dead). Symptoms are: bad balance and poor sense of distance (noticed first when they were digging), rubbing their head repeatedly with their front legs (not cleaning antennae, just rubbing), stretching their mandibles really wide, walking backwards/rearing backwards/falling over. Basically, acting like they have a really, really bad headache. One queen hid in her founding chamber, presumed dead; one queen died on the surface of her enclosure; the third queen I removed and put in a test tube to observe more directly. The two queens that haven't dug anything aren't showing signs of sickness (but also not acting fertile, so... bummer?).
I've been using this sterile soil for some of my other ants (several Tetramorium, several other Pogonomyrmex) without issue, and I've been using the tap water with all my ants without issue, so I don't think it's the materials. Since the two that aren't acting fertile also aren't showing these symptoms, maybe it has something to do with having mated? Perhaps they were gotten by parasitic wasps, or contracted some bad fungus, etc?
Has anyone seen anything like this? I know there's nothing I can do to save them, but I'm curious to know what might be the cause.