What is more fun for an ant lover to observe the starting of a super organism?
I remember having my first pet ant colony back in the second year of high school. Observing development of the colony, the transition of different life stages, the complex social behavior, that planted my passion for social insects.
In the past month, I have found four newly mated gynes of various species. I guess the spring of Athens not only offer severe allergy but a great diversity of urban wildlife.
As a graduate student in an ant lab, I can now legitimately devote my spare time in rearing ants. Legitimately… meaning my boss would not have a problem with it. I am so thrilled to really observe how a colony develop from a single mother. Once again, I am filled with the joy and curiosity I had as a little boy back in high school.
Here I will provide a documentary of my colony development.
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Bot garden queen (Bony) (S. invicta): caught May 14 at parking lot of State Botanical Garden. Ken suggested she is a polygyne queen due to her relatively small gaster. The first batch of eggs counted to about 50. The brood has been developing well. As of June 5, the first cohort of worker pupae awaits to be in service. The cotton seems to be colonized by some fungus but it appears that she doesn’t care.
6/8/17: few worker pupae are starting to tan! She may have her first adult worker in the next two days.
6/10/17: her first nanitics are out and moving!
6/11/17: 4 nanitics are seen working around the brood. They often vibrate their gaster rapidly, up and down, don’t know why. I gave them a taste of the protein diet.
6/14/17: there are about 8 workers running around now. However the brood size is very small, I don’t see much larvae or eggs in the chamber. I am trying to get them to move to a new tube.
6/20/17: The family is steadily but slowly growing. I wanted them to move to a new tube but they still prefer the old and dirty one. They may be more willing to move when it is dried up.
7/7/17: developing pretty fast!! (But it’s almost two months…) There are maybe 30 workers now. Also they finally moved to the new tube.
Willow Run queen (suspected be to Argentine ants ): caught mating pair on my shirt on June 2 right outside my house, at the garden. Started laying eggs the second day. On June 6, she’s got about 20 eggs.
(updated: the colony died)
Carpenter queen (Daisy) (suspected Camponotus pennsylvanicus): caught on door frame of room 117 of the lab on June 5. This is not the first time a carpenter ant queen showed up inside the building. I wonder where their nest is. She produced her first egg today (June 6)! The next day (June 7) she has 3 eggs. Her eggs are apparently much bigger than the other queens’ eggs.
6/20/17: Her eggs didn’t hatch until yesterday. They develop slowly, indeed. ~3 first instar and ~11 eggs
6/28/17: Just got back from a weekend trip and was super excited to see her brood developing well. One of the larvae already made a cocoon and pupated!
6/30/17: She’s got 2 worker cocoons now.
7/7/17: 6 worker cocoons
7/8/17: finally, first ninatic worker emerged!!
7/9/17: second worker emerged.
7/14/17: she has 3 active workers now
(update: the queen stoped producing eggs after having 9 workers. the colony is not growing.)