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By Leafcutter
#564
Minim Update 2

The Beech leaves have been cut a lot more so I guess they will take it. The fungus was being tended to a lot and the Queen is on the darkest side of the sphere, it has grown so much that I can hardly see her. It is amazing how fast the fungus grows :D. It is around 6cm high now and has grown outwards more.
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By Leafcutter
#569
Minim Update 3

The Attas have been cutting the rhododendron leaves which is a good sign and the fungus is nearly 5cm wide.
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By Leafcutter
#571
Minim Update 4

I got a small microscope powered by USB to take a few pictures of the dead soldier.


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User avatar
By Leafcutter
#581
Soldier Update

Well guys, I couldn't resist a big update so here it is:

The Attas have been busy as soon as I put the leaves in the sphere. They quickly cut them and started processing the in the fungus sphere. I also put in some rose petals which were very popular and were the first thing to be cut. I got a video of the ants cutting the rose petals and some pictures. The rose petals are a lovely yellowy white colour :)

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I really love this colony and hope they do well, it was a month yesterday since I have had them :o Doesn't time fly.

[video]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3IUKQSMNeow&feature=youtu.be[/video]
User avatar
By Leafcutter
#585
Minim Update 6

The ants have been busy cutting over the weekend but they are just dropping the leaves in front of the fungus sphere entrance. I just put some more rose petal in for them and that was taken straight into the fungus sphere. The Queen has also been moving around a bit and some condensation has begun to build up on the sphere. I will try and give them some privet and see if they take it.

I have not seen any eggs for a long time but I am not worrying about it as they are cutting the leaves. I think it was Adam who said the ants don't cut leaves if there isn't any eggs/larvae. They probably are deep inside the fungus. The structure of the fungus looks much more defined as there are little tunnels that go into the centre of the fungus. It is not as dark as I have seen before and is more of a light grey colour with lots of white tufts.
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By Leafcutter
#596
Minim Update 7

I just refilled the foraging sphere with some privet as they have not had it for a week now. I also splashed some water onto the leaves to moisten them a bit. Today I saw a worker carrying an egg! I was very glad when I saw it. It was the first egg I had seen since I got them. The fungus has grown to about 7cm high now but is light grey in colour.

Not much else to report but things are going quite well :)
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By Leafcutter
#602
Soldier Update 2

Here is the latest update for my Atta cephalotes colony

The fungus has been growing rapidly in size; I see new growth everyday. It has been fun watching them the last few days as they have been very active, her Royal Majesty Queen Atta made several appearances and even found a little hiding hole in the fungus! What I didn't notice until I took the photos below was that there is a brood pile in a part of the fungus. I have got a good close-up of it to show below. Colony growth is medium but the fungus is growing and leaves are being cut so all is happy happy happy :D.

At the moment my colony takes the following plant material:

Beech leaves
Privet leaves
Rose leaves
Plantain leaves
Rose petals

Their favourite has to be the Rose leaves as they are constantly cutting and processing it. I am going to try some different combinations of leaves in the foraging sphere as rose it very happily accepted... maybe too happily ;).
I am very pleased with this colony and it proves to me that Leafcutting ants are most extraordinary!

Now for the pictures and video:


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Some nice rose petals ready to be cut into pieces!!!

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Video:

[video]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JsZHj44PZeA[/video]
User avatar
By Leafcutter
#643
Soldier Update 3

Okay guys, be prepared as this is going to be a relatively large update :D

The fungus has grown considerably, now touching the top of the sphere on one side (so about 10.5cm high). The bottom half of the fungus is now an orange/white colour and on top of this there is new dark grey growth. The Queen has been up to her usual movements and is keeping her head in the fungus. She rarely moves from the darkest side of the sphere and there is little room between the sphere and the fungus on that side. The fungus is looking like it will fall over because of its height and mass at the top.

Lots of foraging as usual but I have discovered that the ants prefer rose petals over privet :o (Shock Horror!) The privet gives the fungus a much darker and healthier look compared to the light coloured rose petals. I am beginning to think that the ants "over-cut" when new leaves are added, as some older leaves that have not been processed are dumped in the waste chamber and along the 'ant highway'. The ants have also been cutting up privet stems and processing them which is interesting. They also chew away at the green, soft part of the stems and then just dump the wood parts in the waste chamber and in the 'ant highway'.

There has been a good increase in the amount of workers but I cannot put a number on them yet. The Queen has been busy laying eggs and there are big brood pile in parts of the fungus. I managed to capture some of the brood in one of the videos and in some pictures.

This colony is, so far, doing pretty well and I am pleased :)

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It is quite difficult for me to do videos with my shaky hands and the fact that I have to nearly put my head into the incubator when recording. Excuse the focussing noise and shakiness.

[video]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NaU6-Yv--0[/video]

[video]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5ZklOyZGQs&feature=youtu.be[/video]
User avatar
By Leafcutter
#647
I forgot to mention that I ordered an LED Strip light kit from ebay on Sunday and they have arrived. I will do a Minim update later this evening to show you guys the kit :)

There are a load of combinations of colours so I can have red, yellow, white blue, pink!
If anyone wants to buy a 5m kit, here is the link. It is so cheap!!! A couple of years ago LED strip lights were around £30.
User avatar
By Leafcutter
#655
Minim Update 8

Here are some pictures of the light show in the Atta colony. They are really enjoying themselves in the party house :dance:

:lol:
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User avatar
By AKF
#657
Looks great!

If your handy with electronics / microcontrollers, grab an arduino, LDR and 3 mosfets and you can have the lights automatically turn red when the ambient light level drops. Allows for night time viewing without mucking up the natural daylight cycle :)
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By Leafcutter
#661
Good idea Antsy but the LEDs are just for viewing purposes at the moment :D

The ants had a really good party last night, disco lights and everything!
By Myrmicaman
#671
Brilliant and most fascinating. This is the acme of ant keeping I think. :clap:

Most ants can't see red light so you may find under red light they think it's dark.

It's interesting they use beech leaves as these contain chemicals toxic to other plants (why beechwoods have almost no undergrowth in them compared to, say, oakwoods). Obviously they don't affect the ants' fungus. You might try bramble leaves - many tropical rain forest insects accept bramble in place of their real food as it obviously tastes similar.

May HRH lay many eggs and her fungus be fruitful! :D
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By Leafcutter
#672
I have been using the red LED light and I have been watching them closely. I will get some bramble in the next few hours and will update with the results. Thank you for you kind comments Myrmicaman :D

To be honest they haven't been cutting the beech very much so I will remove it, just for safety's sake :)
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By Leafcutter
#673
Myrmicaman wrote:Brilliant and most fascinating. This is the acme of ant keeping I think. :clap:

Most ants can't see red light so you may find under red light they think it's dark.

It's interesting they use beech leaves as these contain chemicals toxic to other plants (why beechwoods have almost no undergrowth in them compared to, say, oakwoods). Obviously they don't affect the ants' fungus. You might try bramble leaves - many tropical rain forest insects accept bramble in place of their real food as it obviously tastes similar.

May HRH lay many eggs and her fungus be fruitful! :D


Just added some bramble and will see if they cut it :)
User avatar
By Leafcutter
#677
The bramble has been accepted well and the ants have been busy cutting some of it. There are a few bramble fragments being processed at the moment.
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By Leafcutter
#682
makopet wrote:Great colony setup. If I recall a Atta queen can live for over 10 years....


Thanks Makopet.

I actually believe it is 15 years :think:
User avatar
By Leafcutter
#689
Minim Update 9

Haven't updated in a while due to my LED strip lights giving me some issues. The lights would work for 10 mins and then just flash red, at which point I couldn't control the LEDs with the remote at all. We emailed the seller and he quickly sent out a new controller for free as this seemed to be the issue. After trying the new controller, the same issue arose. We have now nailed it down to the AC Adaptor because it was getting extremely hot when the LEDs were plugged in and may have damaged the LEDs. Hopefully the seller will be able to give me a refund or a replacement :)
User avatar
By AKF
#690
As long as the LEDs still operate on all colours then you should be fine. The LEDs each have their own current limiting resistors so the LED controller is just a PID controller so all it does is turn the LEDs on and off very fast to control their brightness. If i'm not mistaken a standard 12V 2A DC supply should be fine for that number of LEDs but do check the AC adapter that has been supplied and ensure the voltage matches and that the replacement is either the same amperage or preferably higher.

If your inclined that may be a good time to experiment with your own control electronics.

What you could do (and I would do if it was my setup) would be to use a Raspberry Pi, Camera Board or USB Webcam, Temperature/Humidity Sensor and a set of MOSFETs and create a little web-enabled python script. You could then have a webpage that gives you a view of the brood chamber, the temperature and a web-enabled remote control. You could even log the temperature and humidity curves to a chart and even control the supplies to the heaters to automatically create an optimal environment.

Obviously this isn't a 5 minute job but it's also neither expensive nor outside the realms of a beginner. I have just taken a pic of the parts you need. For a decent power supply I just use an old PC power supply (the sort from the inside of a tower PC) as it has a nice steady 5V to power the Pi and sensors and a 12V rail to power the LEDs

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The 433MHz stuff is optional but its a safe and isolated way to power on/off AC supplies (like the heater cable, cooling fans, water pumps etc)
User avatar
By Leafcutter
#692
antsy wrote:As long as the LEDs still operate on all colours then you should be fine. The LEDs each have their own current limiting resistors so the LED controller is just a PID controller so all it does is turn the LEDs on and off very fast to control their brightness. If i'm not mistaken a standard 12V 2A DC supply should be fine for that number of LEDs but do check the AC adapter that has been supplied and ensure the voltage matches and that the replacement is either the same amperage or preferably higher.

If your inclined that may be a good time to experiment with your own control electronics.

What you could do (and I would do if it was my setup) would be to use a Raspberry Pi, Camera Board or USB Webcam, Temperature/Humidity Sensor and a set of MOSFETs and create a little web-enabled python script. You could then have a webpage that gives you a view of the brood chamber, the temperature and a web-enabled remote control. You could even log the temperature and humidity curves to a chart and even control the supplies to the heaters to automatically create an optimal environment.

Obviously this isn't a 5 minute job but it's also neither expensive nor outside the realms of a beginner. I have just taken a pic of the parts you need. For a decent power supply I just use an old PC power supply (the sort from the inside of a tower PC) as it has a nice steady 5V to power the Pi and sensors and a 12V rail to power the LEDs

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The 433MHz stuff is optional but its a safe and isolated way to power on/off AC supplies (like the heater cable, cooling fans, water pumps etc)


I would like to try something like this Luke. How would I go about setting something like this up?
User avatar
By AKF
#693
Drop me an email and i'll talk you through the various options and we can get something designed.
User avatar
By Leafcutter
#731
Soldier Update 4

Update Incoming!.......

The ants have been doing well. The fungus in good shape, well not so much :D. There has been lots of leaf processing going on throughout the last few weeks. The fungus is now lop-sided with the Queen now residing near the entrance to the sphere. The temperature has increased for some reason, to around 25.5-26 degrees which is okay. Humidity has increased but the perlite I added to the sphere did not help as they moved it all out and into the tubing. I had to get a plastic spoon and remove it as it was blocking the entrance so they were not able to bring in leaves :o

Here are the pictures:

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User avatar
By Leafcutter
#733
Minim Update 11

I have seen lots of pupae being carried around the fungus garden. There is a lot of brood in the fungus now and there has been a small population expansion. Yesterday evening I saw at least eight light coloured workers :) This colony is progressing well and I am very happy with them. I probably need to setup an external moat system by early next year!
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By Leafcutter
#855
Minim Update 12

Well guys, the fungus got so large at the top that it fell over to the left ::). I have introduced brussel sprouts to them and they are cutting the leafy fragments. I cut up the sprouts so that the leaves were separate, then I put boiling water onto them to kill any pesticides that may be on them. The ants seem to like them, I will also be getting some almond flakes for them to take as Deansie said that his colony likes them. As it is becoming colder and leaves are not as fresh, I will be introducing a new rotation table (the ants were privet bound :D).

I will be trialling:

Almond flakes
Lentils
Rice
Brussel sprouts
Cabbage
Lettuce
Cauliflower leaves
Orange Rind
Fresh Peas
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