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By andavane
It's funny how I have been feeling a little wistful over the past few days:
Here I am, overwintering in India, in my wheelchair with my trusty carers on hand. I have seen so many ants since coming here. Taken the temperature of the walls with my radar gun thingie, 37.5 ° in shade and 40.7 ° in the sun.
So near and yet so far. All the ants you could want to see and no access to the nest.
And as far as I know, Father Christmas and his sleigh doesn't come out this far :crying:
But on my life journey I was yet to find out that these days Father Christmas comes in many shapes and sizes, and not always on December 24th/25th. This morning after taking my bath and drying off and poofing myself up a bit, in comes my carer Raj, Bullet Rajah, carrying a bug he had found and asking if I thought it might be a Queen ant...?
Sure as eggs are eggs it was a Queen, or it looked very much like one. Raj was sitting on his haunches near the bike shed when he saw something fall from the roof. Unable to fly, with just one wing I reckon she was looking for a place to make her nest.
What a good job I just happened to have a Mini Hearth from Tarheel Ants on me!
Photos to follow as soon as poss.
She shall be known as Queen Mysteriella the Unexpected.
Occultus, 1000101010 liked this
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By andavane
There is a drought going on here. No rain for quite awhile.
However of a morning ladies can be heard scrubbing steps and washing clothes. Plus after washing food plates, water doesn't go down a drain but seeps into the ground. So I guess all the varieties of ants take advantage of this abundant water supply.
Not long after catching this Queen, Raj stumps up another one telling me she still has her "feathers" [that's what they call insects' wings round here]. Indeed she had two. The first one, now know as Queen Mysteriella, soon removed her remaining "feather". I piped 3 ml-ish into the Ytong and she seems to be bobbing her head up-and-down, perhaps sucking moisture. I am surmising that access to moisture is much liked.
The second Queen still had both her "feathers", so I left her in a wee mason jar overnight. These jars are tight-sealed but I ventilated it morning and evening. This morning she still had her feathery wings, so I assumed she hadn't mated. Moreover when I opened the lid she became very active and eager to escape. So we wheeled myself plus the maiden Queen into the garden where I opened the lid and let her run onto a jatropha leaf.
I hope she finds a mate!
20161128_134849 Queen.jpg
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By andavane
161130 – Queen Mysteriella Ventures Forth
While towelling me dry today, my carers said: "Your ant has come out!"
Sure enough, the unexpected arrival had stuck her head out of the top hole of the Mini Hearth and was having a poke around, evidently foraging. The whole thing is very mysterious. She had had two days underground without surfacing, yet today up she comes. I checked the humidity. Levels had fallen to below 90%, at 89 I think so I got a little bottle cap, put some cotton wool i it and wetted it with a syringe. Next I put a wee drop of Indian honey on the wet wool, and added a tiny blob of lentil sambhar which the family had left over from breakfast. So everything was included, honey water and protein. The mysterious Majesty poked around at it all, but frankly she didn't show much interest in my offering. Probably the food isn't what she was used to having out in the ground, I reckoned. Oh well, I'll try a fly tomorrow I thought.
Whatever I do and whatever I see is still very exciting though, as I just haven't the foggiest idea what she is or what she eats. I thought she was fully claustral when she didn't come up from below, but now I am wondering whether perhaps she is semi-claustral. We shall see.
Later in the day I took another peep at her. To my surprise a lot of the food had gone! Oh wow! Shining a torch through the little window I spotted a swollen gastro, all banded, her legs clinging on to the ytong wall. Clinging to the wall, or onto the ceiling s what she seems to like doing.
Raj took a few snaps:
User avatar
By andavane
Last night Raj caught me 4 Queens (they were almost certainly Queens) which we have placed into my remaining 3 test tubes.
This morning a 13-year-old boy rushed into my room saying he had caught me an ant. She was very agitated so we placed her in a plastic box and put her in the fridge.
Over lunch I asked him some questions and he explained to me that she was "having sex on the ground".
Sounded interesting. I then asked him:
"Was the ant's partner big or small?"
"Very small" he replied. So his answers sounded authentic and I almost certainly now have a mated Queen.
Photos to follow.
User avatar
By andavane
With my 3 Mystery Queens I have begun to do tests to try to find out what sort they might be. For Now I'll call them,

a) Mystery 1: The first caught Queen about 21 days ago now. When Raj my carer caught her she had fallen from the balcony with only one "feather" (it's what they call Wings here.) It was soon eaten and the Queen, Her Majesty Mysteriella, soon adapted to he new home which is a Mini-Hearth from Tarheel Ants. I am presuming she's semi-claustral because she seems equally happy above or below, Upstairs or Downstairs, as it were.
She resides near the downpipes and seems to have a slight preference for down below. If it gets a little too wet there, she soon moves her brood upstairs. She'll quite happily chill out there and watch events as they come and go.
Her first meal was a wee drop of lentil soup from my plate. She ate quite a lot of that. Yesterday while bathing I saw a bug on the wall which my carer caught with a tissue. After getting reading I saw with a little sadness that the bug was a small praying mantis. Oh well, there are stacks of them here. She loved that. Today she had a wee smorgasbord of peanut chutney (the South Indian stuff is foretelling made from peanuts, garlic and a little red cherry. I added a strand of fresh cooked spinach to that. She 'turned her nose up' to it to begin with , but when I came in she was tucking in. She's a nice girl.
b) Mystery 2 is a little bigger and still lives in her test tube. She's been with us for a little less time, and she has a nice cluster of eggs. Regarding food she doesn't seem much to bother. Today she had a menu of two fennel seeds, 2 mustard seeds, and a little crushed fenugreek. She has not been sure to start with, but when I came back later she had carried a mustard seed deep in, close to the cotton wool. Interesting.
Mystery 3 is a very strange creature. She a right whopper and has her jaws almost constantly open. Anyone in or near her nest and she jumps on it, wielding her mandibles in anger. Most food she attacks with rage. I offered her a dead fly today and she lunged for that too! Later I saw her gently pick it up and carry it to the further corner of the tube.
For now I am assuming that she is very well fed somehow, and that she has everything she she needs, so will leave her be.
She has a considerably smaller brood that the smaller Mystery 2, and she is ferocious about guarding it.
All fascinating stuff. Photos to follow, when Raj can come to do it.
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By 1000101010
this is something to look forward to.
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By andavane
My trusty "Camera Boy" is currently out on his plot of land.
He should be back in a day or so.
Queen no 1, Mysteriella the first as it were now has some larvæ.
Dated: 16 Dec 2016
Arriived 20 Nov 2016,
all the way from next door but one.
User avatar
By andavane
When I looked in my box of tubed ants this morning I saw it was swarming.
At first I though babies had suddenly hatched, until I realised that was impossible. Here are a two shots, of the same Queen from slightly different angles. You can see the small invaders, well two of he same, showing two invaders on the outside. They were soon dispatched and the newspaper changed.
Now I am having to put ant-killer powder on the outside of the tissue box in an attempt to prevent a further attempted break-in tonight.
How ironic!!
Invader Break-in 2
Invader Break-in 1
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By veektoor
I'd highly recommend not using ant powder! Do you have a large dish you could fill up with water, you could then place the box in the dish and use it as a moat.

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By Squimbles
I would reccomend making a moat too. Never put ant powder near your ants. Thats just asking for trouble. Ants always return to the nest and if one ant was to find some and bring it back then RIP. Unless you use something that's nonlethal I think you could find a better method. I would try finding out where the invaders came from and also hide the ants away in a drawer or shelf. The worst place to put it would be near a window or door where there are small cracks. I have a huge lasius Niger colony under my front lawn. It is at its optimum capacity and I regularly catch ants their on nuptial flight days. Some of the ants can get into my front windowsill and some found my ants when I kept them near there before.
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By andavane
My first Mystery Ant Queen, caught on November 20th when she dropped from the balcony with only one wing, has stepped out of her underground to feed. I'm assuming she is semi-claustral. She now has a cocoon and a couple of eggs. She likes insects, but the young lady who's looking after her refuses to catch and pin those for her, so I am looking at what's in the South Indian diet to see what I could give her which she fancies.
This morning's breakfast was "Semiya Uppuma" which is a kind of light noodle-fry which has cashews, kale parappu, a kind of lentil, some pea and oh yes and some peas, all with chilli, ginger and other spices. So I made a selection for her and offered her a piece of each, all very small miniature pieces stored on damp cotton wool which is resting in a little earthenware worship lamp.
Within a minute or two she was tuning in the raisin, sipping its sweetness and perhaps a little protein, who knows?
Here she is:
Queen Mysteriella b
Queen Mysteriella c
Queen Mysteriella a
User avatar
By Leafcutter
You and your tagging haha!

The shape of the thorax does suggest Polyrhachis spp. but we need close up pictures for a complete ID.
User avatar
By milant
Leafcutter wrote:You and your tagging haha!

The shape of the thorax does suggest Polyrhachis spp. but we need close up pictures for a complete ID.

works tho doesnt it :P
User avatar
By 1000101010
i almost don't want to know what species she is.
i like the mystery.
User avatar
By andavane
Thanks guys, gals.
I'll arrange for more close-up pics.
Queen Mysteriella has a couple of cocoons and 2 or 3 larvæ.
Hopefully they will hatch soon.
Just to remind. Date of maiden flight: 20th November 2016.
More info soon!
PS: Whoops I nearly forgot:
My location is Tiruvannamalai, South India. Current outside night temp:
27 deg.
User avatar
By andavane
Thanks for the suggestion that my Mystery Queen may be a polyrachis sp.
Let's have a look at her, follow her progress and see!

@andavane loves a good mystery as well. Worry not we have FOUR more mysteries to solve, on this most spectacular Holiday of Holidays! :)

User avatar
By andavane
Hi Guys,
To complete the round-up, Raj (Bullet Rajah) has kindly made another video for me, showing the remainder of the merry gang to all:

Merry Christmas to All!
User avatar
By 1000101010
mad, no surprise. i don't think that last one has much interest in starting a colony.
(hint: the post above) .
User avatar
By andavane
Yari wrote:Nice queens and healthy brood! The last one reminds me of a giant camponotus major. Does she have wing scars? Such an impressive ant by the looks of it.

I've had a look but see any, Yari.
It doesn't look as if she has a family in mind.
I am thinking of just letting her go in the garden, near to where she was caught. Alternatively I have a bottle-rock-soil setup in preparation, just in case different surroundings induce a change.
A boy caught me another ant this morning, and she does appear to have wing scars.
The site is weeping a bit from each side. She's been tubed up. :)
User avatar
By andavane
Thanks to my carer Raj, we now have a cute video of the first mystery Queen (caught/mated on November 20th) having a good feed.
I just spotted her beady eyes!

User avatar
By andavane
Here she is, my Queen caught on Nov 20th (-ish!) 2016.
Fortunately Raj happened to have a little Ant Box on hand so in she went.
She's now a Mum of 5, she and her kids goes "walkies" most mornings, foraging around the nest area on their moats.
The other night I saw an an hanging around near the air vent, thinking she was inside.
Nope! she was OUTSIDE and waiting to get back in :)

User avatar
By andavane
According to usual advice, No.
But of course this is South India.
In England if I had a Polyrachis, I'd follow the Ankit advice.
Time will tell!
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