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By Leafcutter
#880
Soldier Update 5

The ants have been busy these past few weeks with the introduction of rice, almond flakes and lentils. The Queen herself had remained hidden in the fungus for a week or so but now she has come out and is more lively than ever. She has been moving around the fungus sphere quite a lot and is quite sensitive to light. The workers have had a treat this past week. An apple slice was quite to their liking; although they ignored it completely at first. They have been busy chewing up the apple and drinking the juices.

The colony is doing well with a small population expansion or around 10 workers or so. I cannot give a definite indication as to the size of the colony as it is very difficult to count :o

The ants continue to enjoy bramble and privet and they have taken a liking to the almond flakes as well. They are soft enough for the ants to chew and light enough for them to carry.

Here are the pictures:

I have also made a video but I will post that in a Minim Update later this week as it takes ages to upload to YouTube.

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User avatar
By Leafcutter
#893
Minim Update 13

[video]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-pAGzzJ0iY&feature=youtu.be[/video]
User avatar
By Leafcutter
#1017
Soldier Update 6

Well guys this has been an interesting period for both me and the ants. Firstly, the ants have been exploring the setup and seeing what they can chew into (namely the silicone). The silicone around the edges of the glass foraging area and the waste chamber has been tested by the ants but due to the strong, accurate (well, mostly), joint between the glass they have been unable to escape (YET).

The exciting news was that the ants were trying to build another fungus garden in the sphere opposite but it turned out to be dead fungus which they were just dumping :evil:. I have however seen a large pupa in one of the fungus "pores", which I believe is a soldier pupa :dance:. The colony has been very very active over the last two weeks and it is already getting scary about what they can consume. I placed a slice of apple in for them and it had completely gone within the day. HRH has been going about her regular travels around the fungus sphere but she is very sensitive to light which is to be expected. I did manage to get a few better quality pictures of the fungus and the ants using an external light source.

Things are progressing well but I really need to get a moat sorted out as soon as possible. The population is on a steady increase and I expect there will be a wave of workers eclosing soon, along with the soldier pupa. The ants have been taking Ivy leaves and seem to like them as equally as privet. My neighbour's privet hedge was trimmed some time ago so I cannot get long stems of fresh privet now :(

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User avatar
By Leafcutter
#1027
Minim Update 14

The ants were very kind to me a few days ago, they completely emptied the leaf sphere of any leaf fragments so I thought that it was a good time to turn to the foraging tank. I got some frozen privet out and some fresh ivy and I am sure you guys can guess which leaf type they took :D

I did a few videos of the ants when they found the leaves in the foraging tank. I hope you guys like them. There is also a video of the fungus with a soldier pupa :)





User avatar
By Leafcutter
#1032
Minim Update 15

Just doing my daily checks on the ants and I noticed a light coloured soldier. A couple of weeks back I did see a large pupa in the fungus so it must have been the soldier :D I cannot get my DSLR to focus on it properly so I will try and get a few pictures of it when my new USB Microscope is set up.
User avatar
By Leafcutter
#1105
Minim Update 16

Hi guys,

With the increased Atta activity and colony expansion, the ants have been exploring around the setup a lot more. A few weeks ago the ants decided to take advantage of the fact that I had not positioned the glass lid on top of the waste chamber properly. There were at least twenty media workers roaming around in the incubator :o. I quickly picked them up with some cotton wool (well it took me an hour really :lol: ). This is the first escape I have experienced and it is not at all pleasant.

The fungus has been growing and shrinking a fair bit since that last update. About three weeks ago, the fungus filled the entire main sphere :dance:. Then a week later it had shrunk to 2/3 of the sphere. Privet, bramble and ivy leaves have been the 'big thing' with the Attas; as usual they still prefer privet!

The big news is that there are many soldiers in the colony now, I managed to count four one day but on closer inspection there are a few more. I got a fairly detailed picture of a soldier on the fungus and she is freakishly awesome. I wouldn't like to experience the pain that the soldiers could cause though. (crazy mandibles!).

It has become increasingly hard to refill the foraging area with leaves. For this reason I closed off the foraging tank with a stopper I made two weeks ago. I did this a couple of hours after giving the ants an apple slice (to distract them of course :lol: ). I am considering a permanent moat in the system to make it easier to feed the ants. The waste chamber and foraging area have temporarily switched purposes as the waste chamber is sealed but the foraging area is not completely sealed. The ants have been very kind to me by dumping waste in the foraging area so I can empty it without major attacks from the ants.

The final thing for this update is the lack of humidity in the setup, apart from the main fungus sphere. I am designing a humidification system for some acrylic cylinders. Eventually I will replace the spheres with cylinders because they have a larger volume and the humidity system can only be implemented by having a flat bottom to the container. The ants have been trying hard to start a new fungus garden but due to the lack of humidity, the fungus fragments just dry up and die before it can establish properly. I will be writing a Work In Progress journal about the cylinder humidity system.

Enjoy the pictures guys :)

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User avatar
By Leafcutter
#1247
Minim Update 17

Bit of a Disaster!

Yesterday I went to check up on the ants and I noticed lots of little white bits in the waste chamber (one sphere that the ants have chosen). On closer inspection there were hundreds in the waste chamber and I think they are mites! I quickly blocked of the waste chamber completely so the mites can't spread to the fungus garden. Luckily the fungus garden is untouched by the mites yet. I need a solution quickly to get rid of the mites. I sprayed diluted lemon juice all over the setup and inside some spheres as the mites were on the outside of the spheres too.

I am considering building the new setup as quickly as possible and moving them into it as the mites are going to be a big problem if they go into the fungus garden.

Any other tips would be greatly appreciated as I have not had to deal with this situation before!
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By jonthefish
#1248
Fingers cross its a harmless mite. You might find they are feeding on the great amount of organic matter. However like yourself I would worry and attempt to make efforts to get rid. Good luck Leaf cutter.
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By Occultus
#1249
Remove the colony and wash the entire formicarium in boiling water. Another trick is to cut pieces of raisin in half and leave them around the outworld . The mites will get stuck to it and then you can throw the raisins out.
If any of your ants start showing mites on their body then you'll need to spray them all with your lemon juice solution.

Most mites are harmless, not sure how they impact Atta cepholates and the fungus garden though.
I lost my first ever ant colony( Aphaenogaster senilis) because of a mite infestation. I was inexperienced and was feeding them insects from the garden.

Some ant keepers have also purposely introduced predatory mites that feed on other mites into their colonies.

Good luck mate, hope this infestation is dealt with quickly.
User avatar
By Leafcutter
#1254
Thanks guys. I will try the raisin trick but I am going to try and build the new Atta setup soon. If the raisins don't work I will have to move the colony to the new setup.

Fingers crossed that the raisins work :)
User avatar
By Leafcutter
#1258
Minim Update 18

I think the mites are under control now but the setup will need a fresh start. I have opened up the foraging area temporarily for the ants so that they can have a wander.
User avatar
By Leafcutter
#1263
Soldier Update 7

It has been quite a hectic few weeks. The mite infestation has been pretty much cleared up now, so I hope I will not be seeing mites again. The fungus has been growing and shrinking a lot recently and the ants can clear a whole sphere full of leaves in a single day. The big news with the colony is that they will be receiving a new setup soon and I have decided to use cylinders as they are much easier to drill.

I completely removed the sphere which contained the mites and blocked off the end of the tube.

I am going to use the design the at I posted in the Work In Progress thread to make the nest even better. The original idea of the humidity system has now gone because the ants would just block up the holes in the false bottom of the cylinders with dirt. I will have the foraging area downsized so that there is more room around the cylinders.

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Pictures below. Enjoy guys :D

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User avatar
By Leafcutter
#1292
Minim Update 19

I was doing my daily checks on the ants this morning and I accidentally tapped the fungus sphere with my mini LED light and the ants were quite furious. After they calmed down I was amazed to see a large soldier pupa being held by one of the ants. I quickly went to get my camera and I was happy to see that the pupa hadn't disappeared back into the fungus.

I got a nice picture of the pupa so I hope you guys like it. The Queen was looking dead as always but after 3 minutes of observing her, she moved a little bit so that was a relief :D.

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User avatar
By Leafcutter
#1533
Minim Update 21

You can see in the Live Atta Cam that there are lots of light coloured workers now. The colony has had a considerable increase in size but I am wondering whether the one fungus garden that they currently are using will be enough to feed them.

The mite infestation has really grown out of control now and they are multiplying very quickly. I tried using the raisin method but the ants just end up eating them. Lots of the workers have been rubbing their legs against their bodies so I am wondering if the mites are on the workers' bodies. I haven't seen any mites on the workers though. For this reason I have ordered acrylic sheet and all the necessary items to build the Cylinder nest Setup as this is the only way I will be able to get rid of the mites all together. Ended up spending around £100 on the lot.

Any other suggestions on killing the mites would really help but as soon as the new setup is built I will be cleaning out the current setup thoroughly and getting the ants and fungus moved in ASAP.

Any tips would be very helpful for the move to go successfully but in the meantime I will be documenting my build progress :)
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By Leafcutter
#1557
Minim Update 22

I got a screenshot of a soldier which walked around the fungus and was captured on video through the live feed. Look now 17:35 21/04/15.

I have a picture anyway if you miss the soldier:

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User avatar
By Leafcutter
#1566
Soldier Update 8

An exclusive update for you guys. The new Atta setup is going forward now and the semi-final plans have been drawn so feel free to ask questions and generally comment about the ideas. I will be incorporating a humidifying cylinder in the centre of the setup which will be full with water and an aquarium heater will heat the water so a bit of slight evaporation will take place. This will humidify the setup. The humidifying cylinder will be blocked off by fine mesh so no ants can go swimming :P.

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User avatar
By Leafcutter
#1663
Minim Update 23

I did a recording of the fungus chamber today with my DSLR and made a time-lapse of 20 minutes down to 1 minute 15 seconds. Enjoy guys :)

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By Leafcutter
#1693
Minim Update 24

I emailed Andrew Stephenson (the guy who I purchased my colony from), to ask him about the 'mites' and here's what he said:

Colony looks fantastic!
Mites are not, I believe, mites. Not sure what they are but I am sure they are not mites. You find these creatures in every setup of ants I have ever seen. They are not in a symbiotic relationship with the ants but there seems to be some form of interaction. The main things are as follows.
1. I have never seen them do any harm to the colony.
2. The ants never allow them onto the fungus garden so they are always kept at a distance.
3. I use them as an indicator species. One of the diagnostic tools I use when someone contacts me to say their colony is not doing well is I ask them if the 'mites' can be seen on the fungus. If they are then they are correct, there are problems but normally they are not and that means the colony is behaving as I would expect.

Bottom line, don't worry about the little white 'mites'.

This is a relief :D. They are not on the fungus itself and it puts me to rest to know that the colony will be fine. Still, I would like to move them into the new setup when it is built for aesthetic purposes :)
User avatar
By AKF
#1696
Sounds like good info there from Andrew.
I have seen very tiny, white and slow moving mites in my M. rubida setup presumably due to the high humidity and is most likely a dust mite.
If you can get one on your microscope at 200x you should be able to get an ID.
User avatar
By Leafcutter
#1697
antsy wrote:Sounds like good info there from Andrew.
I have seen very tiny, white and slow moving mites in my M. rubida setup presumably due to the high humidity and is most likely a dust mite.
If you can get one on your microscope at 200x you should be able to get an ID.


Yes I was thinking of doing this. I will get it up on the live feed now :) .
User avatar
By AKF
#1698
Saw it, same as mine. Dust mite.
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By Leafcutter
#1700
antsy wrote:Saw it, same as mine. Dust mite.


Well, that's just one of them. There must be thousands in the waste chamber!
User avatar
By AKF
#1701
Dust mites feed on decaying organic matter so that stands to reason. I have counted about 6 in the M. rubida and could only spot 2 in the C. ligs

I don't think there is any reason to worry tho.
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By Leafcutter
#1702
Anyway. That's that then :). When the new setup is done, I will give the whole incubator a clean too. Panic over :D.
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By jonthefish
#1722
That is great news to hear. Phew!! I was getting concerned at your attempt at moving the colony across and not allowing a single of these mites across.

Come on Leafcutter start the build of the new setup ;-)
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By Leafcutter
#1727
The 1.5m acrylic sheet seems to have been lost in the post :D. I have sent an email to them but they siad they tried to deliver twice on Thursday then on Friday and left a note. No note was left so I don't know where the sheet is.
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By Leafcutter
#1802
Minim Update 25

The ants are awaiting a delivery of fresh rose leaves currently being frozen for about half an hour. The fungus is still filling most of the sphere but I don't think the ants have any intention to build another fungus garden any time soon :o. I have seen a large increase in the number of soldiers walking around the fungus garden. I can count at least seven but I have seen at least five soldier pupae in the fungus recently. The colony is progressing in size, very slowly but surely.

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