My Tube of Camponotus Ligniperdus of Queen + 6–10 workers arrived today and it has been entertainment from the start. First of all, the Queen is very beautiful, with a goldey shining abdomen, laden with eggs I should say. A lot of interest and activity.
However once opened, I noticed that a worker was tugging very firmly on the cotton wool bung and I felt myself in a dilemma. Antkit's Ytong Glass nests aren't ready yet, so I also ordered a little 14 x 7 x 6 cm Arena to keep them in to await the new "Coming in April" nests.
But that one's not here yet, and I wanted a bigger box for now!
Fortunately my carer had picked me up a plastic box in Amwell's Aquatics with a double-hinged lid, so I have put the tube in that. I also put in a piece of rotten wood I brought from India, which has been used by ants in the past as there are tunnels in it. A few days ago I boiled it for half an hour, and scooped out some of the sand from a tunnel which previous ants had used.
One of the workers was "lame" as he only had one antenna, but he had a key "rôle" in the exploration of the new halfway house*. He (she) went to the entrance to "sniff the air" (as it were). The the results were reported (via antenna touching) to the rest of the young colony, and after that another worker was sent out for a recce.
Much exploring of the bug box which is now fully mapped out I reckon.
The Queen started to venture out, but later she returned to drink from the cotton wool bung.
Now the full colony has returned to the test tube which their first home.

*Oh that governments could do the same with their disabled citizens!
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14th April 2016:
Last night the entire brood returned to their test-tube, and they were still in there when I rose at 5.30 a.m. Come light of day and a little more warmth (last night was mild and it didn't fall below 18 deg C in the house) and interest in activity was shown.
I put a frozen 3rd instar cricket nymph in the opening of the tube (thanks to @Dan for this suggestion) and within less than a minute One-Arm (the ant with only one antenna) was at the cricket nymph investigating with his single antenna. Next minute he (yes I know it's 'she' really!) had picked it up and flung it outside. S/he was soon after it and feeding rather greedily. He was closely followed by his mate who followed on. This is the same one who was was the first to "sniff" the outside world yesterday, and I am assuming it was the same colleague too.
➙ Not long afterwards another ant went wildly exploring its box. This fellow can move extremely fast. I could have watched these guys all morning, but accounts need checking, and I'm going out this afternoon.
[*] The rest of the order from ANtkit has arrived but there'll be no time for checking this, grouting and setting up today as I have to go out.
. Looking forward to the next episode of this mini-drama.
PS: Explorer Ant was busily tugging at the cotton wool bung again! :o
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Yesterday I noticed that some "white webby stuff" had appeared near the opening of the tube. It looked something like the waxy part of a honeycomb but withoutt the honey in it. The ants seemed very interested in it. Please say if you know what this is!
My valiant carer identified the weird gooey stuff.
It's pieces of cotton wool which the ants have tugged out to the opening of the test tube!
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One-Eye seems to continue in his job of chief look-out and explorer.
He truly goes where no ant has gone before. He now has a mate with him and a third ant is showing interest in joining the trio.
I felt they guys just had to get out of the box they were in. There were only the EPS pebbles in it. They went from the test tube to this box because there was mould on the tube they came in, and they were pulling like mad at the cotton.
Now by the posts I read and watching by observation I have come to realise that the test-tube is their house and Home is Home. When it gets dark, the entire brood moves back into the tube (Most convenient when you want to put them in another box!)
So today when I put the tube into its new Arena, there was a brief period of panic when all the scenery changed, then within a few minutes the 3 main lookout were picking up pieces of sand and dropping them in the opening of the tube. The work was completed within the space of 20 minutes!
More in next,
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One-Eye is turning out to be quite a character. He's chief look-out, probe and investigator, boldly going where no Ant has gone before.
Now I need to explain that I break some of the rules of ant-keeping. I don't poke, but I do peep. Interestingly, this is only the 3rd day of these guys in their new Arena, and for the first two One-Eye and his mates were very jumpy, and they can run incredibly fast. On day two one of them escaped, it might have been One-Eye I'm not sure.
I called my carer in and catching him was a bit of a business. He ran onto my carer's hand and I said Knock him into the water!, planning to fish him out with a tea spoon. Somehow we got him back, but the jumpiness continued.
Next we put in a cricket and One-Eye and his lieutenants joined in and feasted, pulling the cricket back into the test tube, now blocked up with gritty sand. My carer next caught a house fly and that went into the little feeding bowl.
Then an interesting thing happened: I took the lid off the Arena and One-Eye carried on feeding, as blasé as you like.
This little drama is better than the Television for me!
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Whenever there's commotion inside the colony, One-Eye is sure to in the thick of it. Last I saw of him, he seems to have been promoted to some sort of Immigration Officer, checking on who goes in and comes out out the tube.
He'll be wanting to examine everyone's papers next, to check that everything is in order.
Well, he's only doing his job.
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Apparently, after the Coronation of the Queen, I found myself offered the rôle of Royal Correspondent for this Colony. The Job Description seemed very simple: Just keep a regular eye of the Arena and test-tube taking the odd note about Court Proceedings.
Little did I realise what Devil was in the detail. Here are a few of the Royal Edicts issued over the past 8 days:
1) Her Majesty required a Name. Queen Lignacia was suggested and the motion was quickly passed into Law.
2) Her Majesty did NOT wish her Royal Tube to be contained within the Arena. It just was not seemly in her place, so human helpers were enlisted to enact the task. It was not long before engineers, using a couple of Elbow Connectors were recruited and soon Queen Lignacia's Boudoir was put on Public View:
Her Majesty's Message to Her Kingdom and to Human Helpers:
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Never mind the EU Referendum, the politics and activity in the KQL, The Kingdom of Queen Lignacia has reached proportions of such intricacy, I am beginning to doubt my ability to keep the job of Royal Correspondent, and pray that Her Majesty will grant me a Leave of Extension.
So the latest episode in our tale was called:

One-Eye on the Road

Yesterday the show went to Cambridge to give a demo to a small group of children. As soon as One-Eye was introduced, there were shouts and whoops of glee as one boy explained he had a story book about a cat called One-Eye. This chap was taken straight to their hearts and several minutes were spent in trying to spot him.
After some chat about Ants in general, we moved to a separate table for soft drinks, and the Colony was placed in a Pyrex Baking dish, and water gently poured around the Arena to make a Moat.
Then we removed the lid, and all could peer in.
It wasn't long before a boy shouted, "ONE OF THEM IS OUT", and indeed, where the corner of the Pyrex dish has strayed to within 2 or 3 mm of the edge of the bowl, a worker had skilfully hopped the gap and was out on the coffee table. No fear whatever do these little guys show!
I was totally unable to catch it, but one of the Mums got an empty cup and somehow adroitly flicked him. Then all were back and a huge sigh of relief went round, but the subject of ants had come alive in a very big way.
After the show we trundled back from Cambridge and put the ants on the table to settle down.
All was calm very quickly, except for the humans who needed to lie down and chill out for a couple of hours!
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Death of One-Eye
As I write this entry, I ask myself whether readers will doubt my words.
I have no video, no visible proof and no witnesses. All I can do is to entreat readers of this meagre journal to accept these words as Truth.
Still, I know what I have just witnessed so let's, as Sherlock Holmes has always suggested, begin at the beginning and then carry on until the end is reached.
With Summer inching its way into the still-lengthening days, flies and bugs are beginning to become evident. I urged my carers to catch me one for the but they were too busy, and after all such work is a bit outside their remit! :) So I though I would give them a change and had a frozen blood-worm given to me from the freezer. We chipped off a little piece and I left it in their dish.
This morning when I came in, an ant had its head buried in the congealed clot, happy (as I imagined) that he had found such scrumptious, nutritious and delicious fare. Until I noticed that its limbs had all remained in the same position as if, in human terms, it were in a catatonic state. In deep concern, I placed the nest in a bowl of water to make a moat and removed the lid. No movement, nothing from the ant at all.
It was One-Eye.
It was what happened after that which has astonished me. I took out the body and gentle rolled it, hoping against hope to see a jerking of the limbs, but no. Things had gone too far, One-Eye's tubes having become blocked with the food I pray he was delighting in.
So I returned him to his feeding dish, and it wasn't long before some other workers began to carry him away, holding the still body up aloft like a solitary pall-bearer.
Lunch came and went and I settled back to my seat, supposed to read and work, but as always having my favourite nest nearby.
And then, two more workers came along, carrying the body back into the feeding dish. They took his head back to the blood-cloth where he had 'drowned in bliss', and to my astonishment one ant began working on his body, touching, coaxing manoeuvring, cajoling. Had I not know anything, I would have said, becoming a Para-Medic giving the kiss of life!.
Oh how I was wishing that I should see a twitch, a term, a tremor from 'One-Eye'. But nothing. All as still as ever.
And it now remains for me to ask:
Had Movement Returned,
Would Anyone Ever Have Believed Me?
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Yeah, Adam is my buddy from way back in the seventies.
Interestingly, his daughter wrote a dissertation on....
Messor barbarus with a rather complicated title.
If you really want the title, I'll dig it out!

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