November 2nd 2019
I arrived in Thailand for a short holiday. My brother in law was getting married. Normally the first thing I do after unpacking is to go around the house and check how is everything, how is the soil, dry? moist? how are the trees? do I see any ant trails or nests? etc…
My house is located at the very edge of a residential complex, so it borders with two other houses, the main street and a huge green area (grass, trees and shrubs), so I am quite well exposed regarding ants flying in.
Since it was November, and most of the nuptial flights had already occurred (since the stronger flying period will occur from April/May to August/September, matching Thailand’s rainy season), I wasn’t expecting to find anything extraordinary to be honest. Although, the usual suspects are always found flying throughout the whole year, Solenopsis geminata, Iridomyrmex anceps, Tetramorium bicarinatum, Pheidole sp, etc.
When all of a sudden, I noticed in one of my trees, a big green gaster, totally exposed! You could not imagine my excitement! For the very first time ever, I had weaver ants in my garden, and it was not only workers, but a queen as well!
The Queen was surely on its foundation nest, since it was still totally open. I could see few workers in the front and in the back holding down another leaf to cover her up. These workers were still very bright yellow, telling me that this was a very recent colony, and these workers recently had just recently eclosed. From my other experiences raising Oecophylla queens to young colonies, I estimate this colony to be no more than 40 days old. Being day 0, the day the queen layed her first egg, 23rd September 2019, being their foundation birthday.
I was going to leave home soon after, since I had to go the family home village, where the wedding was going to take place. I still debated whether I should take them immediately or not, but I decided leave them be. The worse case scenario, I would have a colony in my garden! Rather have a live one free than a dead one home.
November 5th 2019
Few days later, upon returning home, I went straight out looking for them, to see if they had remained in the same place, and unfortunately not. I got a bit disappointed at first, but didn’t give up searching for them. After few moments, I found them not far away!
They had moved to a nearby leaf, but this time, they had closed themselves in very well. The only opening was on the underside of the leaf, so it wasn’t very easy to spot them initially.
November 6th 2019
My plan was to capture this young colony for my own keeping. Since I always move around for my short trips within Thailand, I decided not to touch them until the very end of my holidays. And good things do come to those who wait. And so, just to make sure they would do well, I started to feed some drops of honey water. Which they happily accepted !
I continued to feed the colony whenever possible, for the remainder of my holidays.
November 11th 2019
Return to Macau. The colony arrived safely with only two dead workers. I believe the main reason was due to the fact that the container had no ventilation, and the leaf kept breathing, because there was a significant amount of condensation inside. I have kept a mental note on this, for this could have been potentially dangerous to the whole colony.
I transferred the leaf into another box, with some ventilation and added a mini dish with honey water. Some workers came out and drank. The leaf still maintained its green and lively aspect.
November 12th 2019
I went out and bought a lemon tree, it was either a lemon or a mango tree. The mango was too tall, so the lemon tree was picked. I made sure to ask if the seller was using any products or chemicals to which he said no. I also asked him if the tree had any ants, he also said no way! but that would turn out to be false as you will see in the future!
Nonetheless I gave the tree a big shower and cleaned the nearby leafs, where the nest was going to be placed. Finally added the colony to the lemon tree after couple hours. I did it by using some hot glue and linking the leaf to a branch. I also hot glued a small plastic dish for some honey water, right next to the nest.
Few moments later, I gave them their first roach and they loved it! I also noticed the first signs of leaf drying up and getting wrinkled.
Regarding containment, to be honest, at this stage I hadn’t the whole thing figured out yet. I knew they would take some time to start getting more aggressive, bold and territorial, but I wasn’t sure how long it would take. I could foresee having some sort of moat in near future. Or a powder type of barrier. I didn’t worry too much.
November 13th 2019
The workers normally don’t venture out, preferring to keep inside the nest, only coming out to forage once the lights are turned out.
The colony continue to show much interest on freshly killed nymph roaches, once the gate keeper worker smells the presence of the roach, and gives out the alert, you can see some commotion inside the nest as the other workers start rushing towards the entrance to fight the potential intruder that approaches.
Once within their reach, the workers quickly snatch the nymph from the tweezers and start pulling it in multiple directions, just like the medieval times, death on the torture rack.
Also, as you can see, the leaf has darkened significantly and started to get wrinkled.
November 15th 2019
Some very good news!!
The nest had some larvae present, as they were seen weaving the entrance a bit more! And they had their third nymph roach feeding.
At this stage I hadn’t yet been able to see if the Queen was OK or not, so this was quite significant to me.
November 17th 2019
Started feeding the colony regularly every other day. Always great to see the colony in action, capturing their prey.
I also took the opportunity to take the first macro photos of the colony.
November 19th 2019
The leaf is not totally desiccated. Some openings that occurred have been patched with silk. I wonder when they will start to move, and if the dried up nest will hinder their growth.
The colony continues to accept nymph roaches readily.
November 23rd 2019
Its the colony’s 60th day birthday !!
I noticed some stains on the leaf. Not sure if it is poop or the fluids from the insects transported inside. The opening has been partially teared up to allow the entry of a larger nymph roach. The size of the workers continue to look very uniform and I don’t see any that may stand out as a larger worker yet.
November 26th 2019
Recorded my first YouTube video on my channel regarding this colony!
November 28th 2019
With the commotion of the feeding, and since the Queen was nearby the entrance, I was able to see her clearly for the first time since they were taken out from the tree and brought home. I was really pleased to see her alive and well ! I named her Queen Antoinette 😀 ALL HAIL QUEEN ANTOINETTE !!
November 29th to December 21st 2019
During this period, due to several factors (work, life, and so on), I didn’t really took any photos or recorded anything regarding the colony activity.
I also left Macau on the 13th December and went to Thailand again , where I would be staying until the 5th January 2020. All my pets and ant colonies were left under the care of my house lady, who is already used to it by now 🙂
December 22nd 2019
My brother in law, who stayed back in Macau – and believe it or not, was sleeping in the ant room 😀 – sent me some photos of the colony. OMG! The colony had moved!! You cannot imagine how happy and excited I was!!
I immediately contacted my house lady, just to make sure she would provide them their roaches, nearby their new nest location.
December 23rd 2019
Colony’s 3rd month birthday, 90 days! Pity I wasn’t there to celebrate 😦
January 5th 2020
Upon returning from holidays, I went straight to my ant room just to check on them!! I gave them a larger roach and sprayed some water on the leaves, just to make sure they weren’t missing anything.
The new nest location is located in the middle of the lemon tree, one of the tallest leaves of the tree. The new nest location, forces the workers to forage farther away in order to reach the honey water dish.
The old nest is completely abandoned, but not empty. Left behind were all the insect body parts that they had consumed before. Unfortunately I didn’t take any photo of this, which I regret now. I removed the nest.
January 14th 2020
During my lunch break, I find my colony weaving another nest! This one was a quite small one to be honest, but nevertheless, a new nest is always good news, as it means that the colony is clearly expanding and in need of more space!
They continue to live inside the first weaved nest, as far as I could see the second nest was empty.
January 16th 2020
Something awkward happened! The second nest seems to be partially reopened, but a new one, much larger is being weaved. Colony is starting to get bold and easily foraging to nearby areas. I see much more movement and activity.
Compared to beginning, workers are estimated to be 50% larger. I was expecting bigger and faster growth to be honest with increasing aggression. But so far so good.
The colony continues without any barrier, and self contained. I found a small Pheidole colony living on the base of the plant, which turned out to be quite interesting, as they will scavenge all the insect remains the weaver ants drop.
January 18th 2020
Colony abandons its first nest, and second nest is now totally opened.
The third and much larger nest now houses the queen and all its brood and workers. Workers are seen pulling the silk apart from the first nest. Why they do so, I have no idea. Maybe it’s the lingering presence of a pheromone that signals the workers to break the silk to allow the queen to pass through the tight entrance.
I also uploaded the second YouTube video regarding the first 120 days of the colony.
January 23rd 2020
Its the colony 4th month birthday!! Congratulations Queen Antoinette and her daughters!!
January 24th 2020
First real time Friday update as promised !
Few days after posting the video, I notice the lemon tree was tilting towards the window. My room window is facing North West, so not for sun exposure, and so I decided to give it a turn so the nest wouldn’t be touching the window and the plant could correct herself a bit.
Well today upon arriving from work, I found them yet again weaving a new nest. The 3rd and larger nest yet to date is on the right side, and the 4th and new nest is on the left side of the same branch.
The Queen as also moved. You can see her bootay down there 🥰
I wonder if its because they are searching for a warmer place to nest 🤔 since I rotate the plant, the most exposed area was precisely where they are now weaving the new one.
The temperatures inside the room average 22C to 24C daily, which I consider pretty reasonable for this time of year. I will continue to observe their nesting behavior and keep you all updated with new entries every Friday!
Happy Chinese New Year of the Metal Rat for everybody!!