Antroducing: Cosecha Reina colony settling in (Messor barbarus)

As someone who works in game development, watching ants is like watching people playtest your game. They go in the opposite direction of where they should be going, move that one rock back and forth half a dozen times, drop the quest item in favour of some garbage loot, get turned around and lost despite the clear signposting saying "AWESOME NEST THIS WAY"... but I'm jumping ahead here.

Our second Messor barbarus colony arrived today. Why we needed a second one, Stroomschok explains here. This one is smaller than the first, with only 6 workers and the massive, beautiful queen, whom we have already named Cosecha Reina (Queen Harvest in Spanish, because Spanish ants and all that). Their nest already prepared, I waste no time in connecting their test tube to the vinyl tubing that leads to the nest and the outworld. The little workers are very active and adventurous, and within 10 minutes one has already discovered the outworld. They are also very keen on a clean environment - as soon as the cotton plug is removed from their test tube they start taking out the trash, as well as ripping out the dirty cotton and throwing it outside the tube. And then, the shenanigans begin...

No sooner have the workers discovered the outworld, which has some seeds, fruit flies and honeydew in a delectable ant buffet, that one of them starts dragging back... a rock. Why, ant? She drags it about a third of a way to the test tube, then abandons it. Meanwhile, another intrepid explorer almost drowns in the honeydew drop. She seems dead, but after I pick her up and let her dry out in the sunlight for about 10 minutes, she starts moving again. However, she has trouble moving around, as her feet keep sticking to everything. It won't be for another couple of hours that she will become fully functional again, as the sticky liquid has glued her antennae to her head and her front legs to her body.

After several hours of observing the new colony, it is time to enact Operation: Save the Orphans. While the first Messor queen and many of her workers died of overheating, we think that the remaining brood can be salvaged and given to the new colony for adoption. I place the test tube in a lidded transparent box and open it. I start by clearing out the trash and dead ants that are clogging the entrance of the tube, then I place a tinfoil hut (not a hat) in the box in the hopes that the workers will carry the brood there. After a couple of hours, there is no sign of that happening, so I resort to more extreme methods, tilting the tube so that the brood and the workers slide out. Frantic activity follows, with the workers picking up the larvae and pupae and running around in a desperate attempt to save them. With a lot of patience, a pair of tweezers and some scraps of paper I manage to finally separate them from their brood without hurting anyone in the process. The orphaned ant babies are all gathered in a scrap of paper and placed in the new colony's outworld. 

Unfortunately, Cosecha Reina's workers are not very interested in their outworld right now. One of them has discovered the gypsum nest and is attempting to 'recruit' another ant to show her the cool stuff inside. The other ant is not having any of it and resists being dragged out of the tube for an exploratory expedition. Another worker has decided to finally move the rock that is partially blocking the vinyl tube and is dragging it towards the test tube. It makes it as far as the T intersection, then starts dragging it back towards the outworld. Then back towards the test tube. Now she's going towards the nest. Back to the test tube... wait a minute, is this ant training for ant strongman? Meanwhile, the first explorer has given up on recruiting the stubborn ant and has made her way to the outworld. She discovers the orphaned brood and runs for the hills. Then runs back, picks up the largest pupae and starts dragging it around. Our hopes are up, it looks like our orphans are being adopted. Oh, wait, she dropped it. Now she's picking up a seed. What are you doing, ant? Babies are more important than food! No, wait, she's picking up the pupae again. You can do it, ant, you're so close, just a little to the left and there's the tube entrance... aaaaand she drops it again. 

For the next half an hour or so we watch as two workers explore the vinyl tubing and part of the gypsum nest, while the remaining four huddle around the queen. Occasionally, one of the explorers attempts to recruit one of the sedentary ants, but more often than not she ends up dragged into the test tube, instead of the other way around. "I've been massaging the queen's feet for the last four hours, it's your turn now!" Operation: Save the Orphans is stalling at this point, so it's time for some deus ex machina. I pick up the remaining orphans on their scrap of paper and insert them in the T-junction, which is very close to the test tube. Now, the explorers immediately spring into action, picking up the larvae and pupae and finally carrying them into the test tube. They move so fast that the pictures we snap are all blurred. But, once the large pupae from the outworld is finally rescued, all the orphans are now safely housed in the test tube, with the queen and her workers caring for them. Happy ending!