Antroducing: The fired-up court of the Queen of Buttons (Myrmica rubra)

Most people will likely have heard of 'fire ants'. These aggressive little red buggers originate from the Amazon rainforest. But through human trading, they have been unleashed upon big parts of northern America and east Asia where the local fauna has trouble dealing with an ant species accustomed to the much higher selection pressures of a tropical jungle.

To show how much dealing with these invasive ants is srs bsns, they even got their own acronym: RIFA, which stands for 'Red Imported Fire Ant'. As if their true name Solenopsis Invicta isn't bad-ass enough (Invicta meaning 'undefeated' in Latin).

In fact, humankind is so captivated by them that we've come to call any red invasive ant species 'fire ant' these days (it's probably because their sting). Even species that aren't even in the Solenopsis genus, like the Myrmica rubra for examply, is now called 'European Fire Ant'.

I'll admit: it's a name more befitting to their attitude than the 'red knot ant' as their name used to be in Dutch, because they are by far the most ferocious little scrappers of all the ant species we're keeping. Even though they seemed so docile in the beginning.

The Queen of Buttons ant her court ('button' a translation to the Dutch word for 'knot').
Her majesty, at the top, is surprisingly small compared to her workers.

As I unpacked their formicarium from the box, it appeared the Myrmica rubra colony had met some bad luck in the mail: the little box serving as their outworld had been crushed and so the ants were confined to their tunnels for a few days by a little wad of cotton until I received replacement parts.

Two workers with their queen, lazily parked with their brood, a third ant, the largest, patrolling the tunnels.To keep them occupied for now, I dropped some dead fruit flies into their nest, two of them stuck in the entrance tunnel, but one fell through into their foyer. Quickly found by the patroller, she picked it up and leisurely goes to inspect it for a good 10 minutes at the far side of the nest.

Once satisfied she brought it back around to present to her queen in the brood room to be met with... a temper tantrum of royal proportions! Our disgraced worker fled with her offering into the next room, quickly joined by the other two workers who started ripping up the now abandoned fruit fly in a tiny little ball of fury and stingers.

Death to intruders!

However, suddenly worker #1 confiscated the now extremely dead fruit fly to dump it in the most distant place away from the brood room as possible. Her sisters,  still having some royal displeasure to distribute to the intruder, immediately ran after her... finding the two fruit flies stuck in the entrance instead.

It took quite a while for the colony to calm down after that security breach, but when I checked back later that day, the brood room had actually been moved to the foyer, where the queen was now cordially hosting a royal banquet in honor of her hungry larvae. The three fruitflies serving as her honored guests... and main course.

Quite a vicious bunch, are they not? Just wait until the next update, about what happened when we invited some actual live fruit flies for dinner after we had the outworld fixed.