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Today it's Christmas day for me as both my new camera AND my new colony arrived today! Haven't done a worker count yet but I'm going to stick the colony in the fridge for a few minutes to chill them out before I release them into their new home so I shall do it then. I must say the colony looks fantastic and I'm very pleased. There's not a lot of brood to be honest but that's fine with me as I reckon the colony's more than large enough and I have a lot to learn about dealing with a colony of this size before it gets any larger. Kudos to ants Kalytta for supplying a very healthy colony even though it did take 2 weeks to arrive, though that was down to there being postal strikes in Germany recently. Good timing though because I want to shoot a video of the colony moving into the vivarium.
This is part of a sequence of videos I shot of the colony exploring the vivarium for the first time. It's a bit rough as I was still getting used to a new camera but it shows the workers feeding on maple syrup water and feeding each over quite well.
When I first released this colony into the vivarium I had two small heat mats placed under it with just 1 piece of bubble wrap placed on top of the mat to diffuse the heat a little. After 10 mins of observing workers running around in circles really fast it was clear that they were too hot and very uncomfortable so I then placed 1 piece of cardboard on top of the mat also and left them overnight. The next morning the whole colony had migrated out of the test tubes and onto the cool spot between the tubes and off the heat. So I turned off the heat mats and left them at room temperature for a week. I actually had to squirt water into this spot with a pipette to encourage the colony to move out again and back into the tubes where I could see them, a risky operation considering the queen was in there and some brood too. The trick worked though luckily with no casualties, although the queen's abdomen did get stuck on the floor of the viv until I gently dried her with a cotton bud and she was dragged back into the tube. Last Saturday morning I placed 3 pieces of cardboard on top of the heat mats and also attached a timer turning the heat on at 5am and turning off at 10pm, after all the temperature changes constantly outside instead of the same temperature 24 hours a day. After observing them for a week this seems to have done the trick as the colony is showing no signs of distress and are foraging and feeding normally. In fact I fed them a large whole spider the other day and within minutes there were about 10 workers on it, acting normally running around spreading their recruitment pheromones all over the place. It's really quite interesting watching the workers stumble upon and then react to these pheromones, they reacted instantly running about trying to locate the food item. The spider was then dragged into the queens chamber, at room temperature only the colony hardly left the tubes to forage so I'm glad the heat mats are spurring the workers into providing the queen with much needed protein for her future eggs.
The queen has still yet to lay any eggs but that is probably my fault as last week I decided to change the test tube nests from the 24mm diameter ones I originally used down to 15mm diameter ones. The larger ones were way to big and the colony was not happy in them, as they kept moving the queen into the tight space between the test tubes. They've stayed put for a week now and seem settled, also they've fed very well, probably too well given the size of their gasters.
Still no eggs as yet and since the queens gaster has not visibly increased in size I can only assume that perhaps this colony will not produce any more brood this year. So as the warm summer weather has arrived I have turned off the heat mat and will allow the colony to prepare for hibernation which according to other journals kept on this species will happen in September.
As in July the queen never produced any eggs and has remained dormant. This colony is now in hibernation however I do see the occasional worker venturing out of the nest and scouting about, probably for water which I am making sure is always available.