Eventually Acromyrmex octospinosus.
Will for now keep it to a simple healthy 4. Especially as hibernation is around the corner for the rest.
On the 15th of December 2015 I decided to finally take a gamble and be willing to put up a good portion of money for a colony I had wanted. Nervous of course as ants can be quite a risky investment especially when you haven't had your hand at keeping exotic species with requirements other than room temperature = A* but alas my wanting for more ant busyness got the better of me while the rest of my colonies slept. To be honest I make it sound like some horrible toss and turning of the mind. In truth I thought to myself "Christmas" and like that I made the purchase, not to say the previous doubts didn't have some pop up in my head. Anyway back to the story telling.
Christmas came slightly late in the end for me with my colony arriving just before New Years. The delay was anticipated (I say anticipated. It was quite obviously displayed across the top of the Antkit home page.) though with Antkit celebrating Christmas themselves + their wise decision to not risk losing ants in the Christmas mail rush I certainly didn't mind.
She arrived with 6 of her daughters and a pile of brood. Of course I was quite ecstatic and straight away put her in the spotlight for a couple of pictures as seen above. I wasn't too abrupt though and soon retired her to some darkness. This was where the first embarrassing part comes into play. For how joyful I was I soon clocked on I can't put an entire test tube on a heat mat with 0 temperature control. I wasn't organised well enough either to think about formicarium straight away. Now a little panicky because I wouldn't want to lose the queen (Looking back I don't think there was ever much risk of it in the first place. If anything this is more a good example of where paranoia merges into ant care).
I made a compromise. I had a spare antikit arena, a habistat and a heatmat ready. I taped some cotton wool into the centre of the arena. Placed the arena on the heat mat and then put a temperature probe through one of the ports and the habistat sensor through the other. To me this seemed brilliant though it probably did give a little bit too much open air vibe. It took the ants an hour to decide to begin tearing up the cotton wool and dragging it into the entrance. Here's a picture of my beautiful set up at the time. I take that back. Turns out I didn't really get a picture of this bastardized set up I wish to have once called a formicarium. The picture shows only a little bit of it as I pictured an ant nosing about around a cricket I had placed in there just in case they were hungry. I was quite generous with the portion I gave them.
As you can kind of see there is taped down cotton with some more cotton taped down on top of that to create a sheath in which the test tube sat fairly comfortably still.
They continued in this set up only briefly as I had come across the new AC hybrid nest which has a feed for a heat cable and everything. At first glance I was rather impressed and so felt quite eager to get one. It took quite a while to arrive but by February it finally got to my door. Sadly during this period I severely lack any record. The only thing I can say is the colony plodded along nicely with a couple of new arrivals and stayed inside the test tube connected to the AC hybrid nest for quite some time uninterested in seeing the new fancy nest in front of them. It was over sized in truth for what they needed at their current size.
Come March they were now 36 strong with a small brood freshly laid by the queen and a couple ready to hatch. Everything is going smoothly. Apart from paranoia was once again setting in strong. My Myrmica rubra came out of hibernation and a mite infestation was in full force. I quickly became obsessed with checking over my Camponotus habereri on a regular basis non stop scanning over them with a digital microscope. I did take quite a few photos though because of this. I'll have a display bellow in the spoiler. (WARNING: Contains 14 large images for anyone who has a device that will struggle with such.)
Picking up after the queen.
As snug as a bug.
Wondering what that light is.
Who needs 6 legs anyway?
Continuing on from Mrs 5 legs anyway I do have a sequence here where you can see her gaster move during the act of trophallaxis.
April was now here and over the past 30 odd days very little growth was made by the colony. I suspect it is partly because I had a bright light on them everyday of March. The brood understandably hadn't grown much but no more eggs appeared to have been laid either. Anyway past that I perhaps allowed excitement to get the better of me and decided I would now make my Habereri with a beautiful size of 36 an out world.
I wanted an out world as the fear of mites was still ever present and before that I had been feeding them by directly connecting test tubes full of goodies to the nest itself. This inside of a nest too large for the current population of ants = as you would guess a very messy formicarium. It's quite simple logic. It probably wouldn't have been such a bad idea to move them into a smaller formicarium altogether. After all 90% of the time they were all bunched up. The reason I suppose I never did was that I felt the heating method involved was working and I didn't want to tamper with anything that seemed to be working.
Of course as said above I had kind of figured out shining bright lights into the queens eyes was not working too well. Yes I would expect a quiet period between batches of eggs but this was just a little bit meh. Even if not responsible for the lack of eggs it still isn't a good idea anyway.
My out world wasn't too fancy. It was a 13mm port ant kit arena. I used their sand, plaster of paris, some fake plants and a plastic slate arch way to create it.
Clearly beautiful but the practicality would bite me in the arse once the under side of the arch way became their new dump. Not an easy place to clean.
I decked it out with a lovely 12mmx75mm test tube full of sugar water which quaintly sat to one side. It was enough to at least drag my ants out into the out world. April carried on without much change in terms of colony size. Towards the end of the month their current nest was starting to look worse for wear and AC had recently released V2 of their hybrid nest so I thought to myself screw it I'll get one and change them over, clean up my old one and use it for another ant species. Moving them took a couple of days but was very easy. I simply connected the two nests and had the heat cable only run through the new one. Once they were in I disconnected the old giving it a good clean and a few days in the freezer.
Come May things would remain the same but at last some more eggs would be delivered. Not many but enough to put a smile on a young mans face. After this there is quite a gap between pictures therefore I will skip forward to the beginning of
At around 60 workers with quite a nice brood they had settled in absolutely fine to the new nest from months previously and actually did quite a good job of using the out world as their waste disposal site. Regrettably their first and second choice of dumping was under the arch and in the fake flora. At least I could actively clean though without disturbing the nest. My only concern is with plaster of paris it can mold quite badly. Luckily as it was bone dry this hasn't been occurring as I'm quite on the cleaning aspect of the whole thing. Everything is seemingly going well... And I am pleased to say remained that way.
I will quickly show you the set up I had at the time with these ants.
Top: Left = Camponotus habereri, Far Right = Camponotus pseudolendus (I will go into how one size doesn't fit all in their journal. They have proved challenging)
Level Bellow: Temporary Formica sanguinea (Long story short briefly moved them into their out of their old nest as stagnant growth with sudden large death count in previous nest), The arenas contain just some foods I would regularly rotate for feeding. Gyna lurida was a big win and huge favourite for the habereri but keeping them was an utter nightmare. They fly, are quick as lightning and can climb any surface basically.
I had to connect the habereri to an old AC hybrid nest. Yes it was introducing a lot of unnecessary space which could have become a dumping ground but I couldn't fit my habistat sensor inside the new nests which posed a problem of the heat cable going nuts temperature wise. I kept it connected as well out of curiosity to see if they'd prefer the higher humidity offered by the AC hybrid nest internal set up. Result is rather inconclusive.
September They had become a greedy bunch consuming food at an impressive rate. Was getting through 2 roaches and multiple wax worms + a variety of other protein sources a week. They were also drinking the sugar water filled 12mmx75mm test tube dry every 2 - 3 days. Their gasters were full, the air was moist, the ants were nice and hot. The queen was ready to give some. A boom of white mess everywhere all over the place. Clumps of eggs to be seen in all corners.
Heres some from a little earlier.
October. What had surprised me most was the development of the brood during this period. over a month and a half they were tearing through development.
Don't let the angle fool you there are a lot more there than the eye can see.
They seemed to have had a preference for the heat source next to the ultra high humidity of the second nest. (The second nest is quite badly stained from the previous 2 lots of occupants - Myrmica rubra followed by Formica sanguinea) Also note the reason why half looks black. This is because half the substrate underneath is sphagnum moss while the other half is cotton wool. A problem I have had this month was that every few days 1 - 2 workers would die. At first I assumed maybe it's just the generational gap however I clocked on it was because I was still supplying the sugar water via the 12x75 test tube which allowed only 2 - 3 ants in at any one time. After using a large test tube allowing a much greater amount to collect at once I have not experienced another death. Could have been that the supply wasn't able to meet the demand.
Everything is running smoothly and tonight I can see some new batches of freshly laid eggs once again. Their hunger remains insatiable.
One more thing to note as well. After almost 10 months. Finally. Finally the big guns have shown up at the party.
I've counted 6 in the nest so far. Am of course as happy as a clown.
I will conclude the journal here for now as I have been ages writing it. Believe it or not I actually started this about 11pm.
Thank you for reading thus far ^_^.