Before you start reading this post, make sure you have checked the most recent post on this colony https://ants853.com/2020/01/31/weaver-ants-are-not-alone/

Last week I wrote : “The temperatures dropped considerably this week. The lowest my ant room thermometer recorded was 16.9C at night. Normally is stays around 18.5 and 19.2C during the day. I am not planning on using any type of heart source unless temperatures drop below 14C. These ants are widespread all across Asia, and in China, there are distributed mainly on the South but also a bit further up North where the winter is much colder, so I am expecting the ants to be able to withstand these temperatures.”

And I got a comment from a good friend that also lives in Thailand saying the following about what I wrote:

And I got more relaxed. But while doing a bit of research on them for this post, and future videos, I stumbled upon a interest piece of information, that would make question my previous association of ideas.

The research paper tested in laboratory the development of foundation chambers (with multiple queens) at different temperature ranges.

Basically, what should be retained from these 3 graphics is “that at 24C all queens produced adults, while queens kept at 20C had least success in rearing brood, with 80% producing larvae, and only 25% developing larvae, and none rearing brood through to adult workers”

Although my colony has already a small amount of workers, the development of brood (by multiple queens) seems to be impaired at 20C. One thing is colony survival, and another is colony development. At this stage, I still consider my colony to be in a precarious and delicate stage (although not exactly the same stage as the one being plotted). Bearing in mind that my workers are small workers, and most probably their life span isn’t that long, having the colony not developing properly, may end up seeing the sudden death of the existing workers soon, leaving the queen alone once again.

So what will I do?

Well, in the next days, I want to use some heat mats and make a small surrounding shack that will warm up the surrounding air around the nest. Before installing anything I will test it with a thermometer to make sure I got the right amount of heat. Not sure if this will make this week’s post… let’s see.

Another solution, may well be to use foreign brood to boost my colony, something I also found while researching.

“Queens in young O. smaragdina colonies adopted foreign pupae. An average of 84% of transplanted pupae developed to the adult stage and the workers displayed normal behaviour, suggesting that non-nestmate pupae were readily accepted by the residential queens. Krag et al. (2010) showed that O. smaragdina non-nestmate larvae were adopted by queenless colonies containing only mature workers. Having considered antagonistic  behaviour of O. smaragdina, we suggest that the nestmate recognition cues are developed after the pupal stage in O. smaragdina. Working with a few other ant species, Lenoir et al. (2001) showed that individual chemical cues were developed shortly after worker eclosure.”

I should have remembered this in the beginning… oh well, live and learn! 😦 I am not sure if I will manage to get my hands in any brood soon, but I will try, I would love to do a small brood boost just to make sure they would be ok! Let’s see in future updates.

Before moving on to show you how the colony is at this moment, I would like to share few more interesting things.

If you live on an area with Oecophylla smaragdina or longinoda queens, and manage to catch one, here is a cool thing you can do to keep your new queen in.

A couple of mango leaves rolled and sealed with a paper clip on one end, and some sort of thread on the other end. As you can see by the silk, the queen sealed herself in, waiting for workers to emerge. Pretty cool idea isn’t it?

And last but not least, I found some illustrations and a photo of how the ants make their nests.

I have always wondered how they actually pull the tips of the leafs inwards, well guess it is explained now 🙂

And now moving to the colony itself.

They continue on the same nest, the 4th, and the 3rd continues to exist but is still empty. I am convinced they will utilize it later on. Based on what I wrote above regarding the temperature, they may have moved out of the 3rd because when I rotated the nest, I reduced the sun exposure, so I cut their temperature down. So they had the need to move further closer to the window where the sun shines.

They have been milking the mealybug regularly, and I haven’t been seeing them consuming so much honey water as before. I am guessing the honeydew is way more nutritive than honey due to the amino acids the mealybug can extract from the plant.

Another thing I did was to install different feeding dishes on different locations. It seems that feeding the ants near their nest isn’t the best practice, as it will lower their pheromone laying trails, and I want to have more movement from my colony.

I continue to feed them baby roaches regularly and they have been accepting them, with some leftovers from time to time.

Regarding our uninvited Pheidole cf. parva colony, I have been doing my part, making sure they are well fed. I haven’t seen them foraging up the trunk except that one time when I spotted them for the first time, other than that they are ok. In my research, it turned out that Pheidole megacephala is a ferocious competitor and aggressor to Oecophylla longinoda (the African variant), especially their nests. Those African Pheidole, go up the tree trunk and swarm the african weaver ants nests, and take all their brood. I hope this won’t be the case, I hope I am not fostering my beautiful colony worst enemy.

Finally, regarding the Lemon Tree itself, seems to be doing fine! Everyday gets (now during winter time) 30 to 45 minutes of direct sunlight, and as started to develop a small bloom, which if pollinated, will turn into a lemon! And some new branches are developing as well, so all seems good right now!

Well, this is all for this week’s updates! Thank you for taking the time to read the posts, and leave me a comment if you want, and see you next week!

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