As much as we like Cosecha Reina and her workers, they do seem to be a bit ... disorganized. Ants running up and down the tubes for no apparent reason, yummy honeydew and nutritious fruitflies completely ignored in favour of seeds, seeds and more seeds, many of which they can't even open yet. And when we check on them the next morning the whole tube is just littered with rocks, seeds and not a single ant in sight. But don't expect them to clean it up either, because aside from the occasional scout getting lost in the gypsum nest, the whole colony is taking a day off. Mañana!
Such a stark contrast to one of the new colonies that arrived today. These Formica fusca, in Dutch called 'grey running ant', are all about personal initiative, maximum efficiency, fluid organisation and above all: getting things done. Dutch ants indeed!
Already when unpacking the gypsum nest from the bubble-wrap, I notice this one ant patrolling the outworld and keeping guard at the nest entrance. After a quick inventory of the nest's occupants I count a single queen (now proudly named Dutchie), slightly bigger than a Lasius niger queen, five small 'first-generation' workers, and three larger ones of whom the entrance guard with her 9-ish millimeters is the biggest, let's call her Hilda for now.
They had a long and stressing travel behind them so I decide to give offer them a big banquet: 7 fruitflies and a big drop of honeydew (basically sugar water loaded with healthy amino-acids). It takes Hilda mere seconds to figure out something's up and she immediately starts running zig-zag patterns away from the entrance. Halfway the outworld she finds the first fruifly, and without a single moment of hesitation Hilda grabs it in her mandibles and runs immediately back to the nest.
Finding the exact entrance is a bit tricky with a big fly blocking your antennae, but once inside she goes straight to the brood chamber. Smaller workers she runs into along the way get all excited and try to fight the already dead fruitfly, but Hilda 'ain't got no time for that' so the smaller workers simply get dragged along.
Arrived at the brood chamber she proudly presents the fly to her queen and her entourage of royal nannies, but she wastes no time and runs outside again to continue her perimeter check. In record time she has found four more of the dead fruitflies and deposited them in the same timely manner now at the room adjacent to the brood room, a newly-designated larder. The queen is very excited by all this and to the frustration of her workers, keeps blocking the hallway with her giant butt.
Hilda wastes a bit of time chasing the one fly that is still alive (a caught escapee from Jackie's feeding time, swept into the outworld); it can't exactly fly, being specially mutated and all, but it still make great fruithopper. The chase is cut short however when Hilda finally runs into the irresistable honeydew. For a second her target tries to sample the liquid as well, but quickly changes its mind and skedaddles.
Hilda completely gorges herself on the golden goodness for the next few minutes, her gaster (the balloon-like part of her abdomen), slowly grows until it's twice as big as before. All that flysweeping certainly worked up a mighty appetite.
Of course this carb-bonanza needs to shared! So off to the colony again and giving every worker she runs into a big slurp through the manner of trophallaxis (basically: "the vomit from my special 'social stomach' is delicious and nutritious and you should totally eat it"). One of the other larger workers is persuaded by this to venture outside and fill up on honeydew as well.
Eventually, having made sure everyone, even the queen, has a yummy in their tummy and after helping the smaller workers for while, chopping up flies into bite-size chunks for the larvae, Hilda goes back out again make sure her social stomach is topped up on honeydew.
Her hard labour the last hour must have rewarded her a ton of karma, and the cosmos is just about to pay out the balance: The outworld is treated with Fluon, a teflon coating that makes the wall too slippery to climb for ants and escape. And as it happens... for fruitflies too. So just when Hilda exits the tunnel, the unlucky fly lands literally right in front of her mandibles and is caught in the blink of an eye. No more chicken chase for you, in you go!
When I check upon them later that evening, the last fly is gone as well and a staggering third of the drop of honeydew is gone. Thus ends a day of hard labour for Hilda, pride of queen Dutchie's colony.
However, the Formica fusca colony is not the only one we received. Keep checking our blog as we update it with the other amazing ants that came out of this box: