I'm back home and I finally have the answers I've been waiting for for weeks.
AC Family, there is just so much that has happened.
The Black Dragons, the name given by you the AC Family to my young Polyrhachis ant colony
living in their dragon skull, had strangely disappeared while I was away on a trip, and
for the entire 16 hr plane ride back, my imagination dreamt up some of the most intricate of scenarios.
Were they killed from a savage Pharaoh ant invasion?
Had they all drowned somehow in the waters of El Dragon?
Were they just hidden somewhere in the soils?
Had they escaped?
It had to be one of these scenarios, and finally after an agonizing two and a half weeks of
waiting to get back home to my Ant Room, I finally got to the bottom of the disappearance
of the Black Dragons, and you won't believe the new chapter that is now opening for El
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Welcome to the AC Family.
Opening the door to the Ant Room was a whole mix of emotions.
It was morning when I arrived.
I was happy to be back home, but needless to say, I was eager to see how the ant colonies
have been doing, for as you well know, a lot can happen in the Antiverse in just three
I immediately noticed how much all the ant kingdoms had changed.
Starting with the Selva de Fuego, the South American rainforest river home to the Fire
Nation, our massive fire ant colony was ravenous as usual, tearing up a roach, but their territories
had indeed transformed, both aquatic and terrestrial vegetation had thickened considerably, and
I was interested to spend some time finding out if our alien shrimp experiment from a
few weeks back had worked.
I also made some cool discoveries in the Hacienda Del Dorado, kingdom to the Golden Empire,
our great super colony of yellow crazy ants and a kraken blue crayfish beast living in
their communal pool, but more about that soon.
The Dark Knights, our multi-queen super colony of Black Crazy Ants in their transparent towers,
were enjoying the morning's humidity and appeared happy as normal.
In the lowlands, lay the Shire, territories of our fierce colony of Asian Bullet Ants,
who we last watched engage in a hunting session for live termite queens and kings in Nuptial
Take a look at how lush and green their kingdom became, and guess what guys, I peaked into
their nest and was pleased to discover something that may pleasantly surprise you.
I also couldn't wait to check on how the king and queen termite alates I saved to start
a termite colony were doing.
All this and more coming soon!
Because despite all these crazy things to report and look into, my main priority today
was to see what had happened to the Black Dragons in their island paludarium known as
El Dragon, and it seemed you the AC Family, based on a poll ran on our community tab,
felt the same.
Today we were going to get some answers.
So here before me stood El Dragon Island.
Still beautiful, but its vegetation had grown a bit thin, simply due to cutting it back
so much to keep it properly sized.
So first, I had to verify that the Black Dragons were indeed gone from the last location we
had seen them: in the skull.
I picked up the dragon skull and turned it over to examine the inside.
There was the nest, impressively created by the Polyrhachis ants, using debris glued together
with silk produced by their larvae.
At first glance, I couldn't tell if the nest was indeed empty, so I moved the skull against
the light to get a better look at the interior.
Ok yes, the nest was definitely evacuated.
No ant silhouettes.
So where then could they have gone?
Next, time to look for any avenues of escape, specifically leaves or sticks touching the
glass at any point which could have given the Black Dragons access off the island.
For El Dragon, my instruction to my house keeper, who takes great care of all the ants
in the Ant Room when I am away, was to cut all leaves getting close to the glass walls.
Doing so ensured the ants remained confined to the island and would not have a bridge
to the glass and therefore to the outside world.
I was nervous because escape seemed to be a likely possibility because of the fact that
all food placed onto El Dragon during this period of disappearance appeared untouched.
Usually, the ants would take the leftovers and dump them into the waters for the shrimps
to consume, but when the ants disappeared that all seemed to have stopped.
Checking the front glass.
Clear of plant contact.
Checking the back.
Also clear of plants touching.
I checked the east end of the island, nothing touching, and the west island, also clear
of any leaves or driftwood coming in contact with the glass.
OK, so no apparent bridge, so they couldn't have escaped.
This was actually also very assuring to me because no bridge also eliminated the possibility
that the Black Dragons were invaded by wild savage ants!
I don't see any pharaoh ants anywhere on the island.
In fact, I didn't see them anywhere!
Looking around my Ant Room, I suddenly noticed that savage Pharaoh ants were no longer seen
trailing in their usual locations.
After eight grueling months of invasions and terrorism against our ant colonies, it seems
the Pharaoh ants had finally decided to move on and out of the Ant Room!
The Pharaoh ants must have collectively decided the Ant Room no longer offered them the valuable
food and shelter resources they needed.
Thank goodness for that!
So if they weren't invaded, and hadn't escaped via a bridge touching the glass, my next guess
was perhaps they had all drowned?
I found this highly unlikely because they long proved their proficiency around water
but AC Family, let's move down into the waters to inspect.
El Dragon's River of Dragon's Tears was crystal clear.
Amazing to think that after half a year, these waters were healthy and clean.
The hair grass had since grown into a thick carpet creating a very favourable habitat
for our rasbora fish, who enjoyed the natural cover it offered.
Our rasbora fish by the way, began as a school of ten, but after counting them today, their
numbers had increased to 12!
They had been breeding in here!
And look at how bright and vividly coloured the males were!
It was clear the rasboras really took to this River of Dragon's Tears, well.
So did the shrimp!
The red cherry shrimp was the predominant genetic colour phase that survived over the
But perhaps the most impressive was the amano shrimp!
Check out how big they got!
The amano shrimp were almost two inches long!
I had no idea they would get this big!
Looking all around there were no signs of Polyrhachis ant bodies anywhere in the water.
The rasbora fish couldn't have eaten them, as they were much too small.
Could the shrimp have eaten all evidence of their drowned cadavres?
Perhaps, but again, all of them drowning seemed a bit of a stretch for me.
So now, there was only one other option left.
Could they have simply relocated somewhere else on El Dragon Island?
After all, from past experience, the Black Dragons were quick to decide to relocate,
seemingly on a whim.
So now, I had to dissect El Dragon Island and look for the Black Dragons.
AC Family, here we go...
I opened the tank, and that is when I saw it!
A leaf was touching the LED bank!
AC Family, I completely did not anticipate this.
Failing to inform my house keeper to also make sure the canopy of the paludarium was
clear of leaf contact was completely my mistake.
This was the bridge!
Alright, so let's reassess the possibilities now.
Invading pharaoh ants, still to me was unlikely because knowing pharaoh ants, had they moved
in and eaten our Black Dragons and brood, they would have stuck around and not moved
out of the Ant Room.
We also would be seeing them on the island.
This leaves us with the most likely situation.
AC Family, the Black Dragons had moved out of El Dragon Island, and relocated their whole
colony somewhere in my Ant Room!
I looked around, all around my ceiling, and the other terrariums.
They could literally be anywhere here!
So many places in which they could have nested, unless they actually marched out one of the
open windows and back into the outside world.
I stopped to think about this for a second.
Could the Black Dragons really be gone?
Well, the good thing about all this was that, there was a good chance the Black Dragons
were at least unharmed, and returning back into the wilderness from where they originally
came could be seen as a good thing for them, right?
If I ever did find them in the Ant Room, I would surely let you guys know about it ASAP,
but AC Family, I think we solved the mystery of their disappearance.
This was the bittersweet end of our journey, at least for now, with the Black Dragons.
Goodbye Black Dragons.
We'll really miss you.
But as we've seen time and time again, when one good thing heads out the window, it makes
room for another to enter.
When a good friend of mine heard that our Black Dragons had reportedly disappeared,
he told me of a friend of his who was offering me a colony, in case of the worst, to replace
the Black Dragons.
And when I found out the Black Dragons were indeed gone, I contacted him and took him
up on his friend's offer.
So AC Family, behold.
Our new friends!
Within this test tube is an active colony of Polyrhachis ants.
How neat right?
Sure they're not our Black Dragons and never will be, but they've come to us.
Let's pick them up and take a closer look.
The test tube was jam packed with about 50 or so worker ants.
This species, also belonging to the genus Polyrhachis, was similar to our Black Dragons
but instead of being all black and shiny, their gasters were a beautiful silvery gold
And suddenly, as if bearing herself in all her majestic glory, the queen of the colony
stepped out into the open for us to see.
Wow isn't she just amazing?
But it was then that I spotted something that made my heart sink!
Something that completely caught me off guard.
AC Family, have a look.
Do you guys see what I see?
If you haven't noticed yet, I'm using a new upgraded camera to film this episode because
I would eventually like to start uploading these ant videos in 4K, but the incredible
clarity of the camera has allowed me to see what exists in the microworld a whole lot
better, and AC Family, do you see the droves and masses of parasites?
Mites, AC Family.
This Polyrhachis colony was completely infested with mites.
It looked absolutely repulsive and agonizing.
Some ants were scratching themselves and showing concerning signs of discomfort!
My immediate response to this was to reject these ants.
I had to give them back!
I couldn't take these mite-infested ants in.
But then, my mind brought me to lay eyes on the neighbouring Golden Empire, our huge and
brilliant colony of yellow crazy ants.
If you've been AC Family for awhile, you'll know that the Golden Empire in its beginnings
were also victims of a mite plague.
It was devastating to discover but with persistence and collective remedies from you the AC Family,
we managed to successfully eradicate the mites naturally.
I imagined that had we taken the easy route and given up on the Golden Empire when we
discovered they had mites, we wouldn't have this amazing, thriving ant colony, we call
the Golden Empire, today!
We've successfully battled mites before, and if there was anyone who could save these Polyrhachis
ants, it would be us, AC Family.
Fate delivered them to our doorstep, and a part of me felt like if we were to not take
these ants in, they would surely die.
Without having to run a poll, I already knew you ant-loving AC Family were with me on this.
We needed to give these ants a fighting chance against these mites, and we were their only
And so, I went ahead and made the executive decision to move these Polyrhachis ants onto
El Dragon Island to start their rehabilitation against this mite infestation.
My plan was to place this test tube directly onto the island and hope the ants would take
to the various hiding places on the island to nest.
So AC Family, here we go.
I placed the test tube inside.
Alright, and now it was time to remove the cotton blocker: 1 - 2 - 3!
The Polyrhchis were free to explore the island.
At first, the ants seemed weary to rush out and explore their new surroundings, but eventually,
the ants began to wander around.
Check 'em out!
At first they hung out in the area around the test tube, and soon began to wander further
They climbed the branches, inspected the plants, and ventured off into El Dragon's wilderness
to report their findings back to the colony.
Even after several minutes, the colony still seemed reluctant to leave their test tube,
but what better way to encourage the ants to come out of hiding than a little bit of
Shall we, AC Family?
Placing a drop of honey onto a spot on the dirft wood.
And it wasn't long before one of them discovered it!
Look at it, AC Family!
Now that the ant was keeping still, I could actually see it's amazing body and anatomy!
Not only did this species of Polyrhachis have an amazing irridescent metallic-coloured gaster,
but it also bared the most incredible armoured spines ever!
It looked almost dangerous to touch, with those sharp hooked body spines.
As more ants came to drink from the honey drop, I could also see how bad the mite infestation
Check them out, AC Family.
Mites encrusted the lining of their eyes, and various parts of their body.
And guys, look at this worker.
It began to sort of twitch and convulse, assuming from the discomfort caused by these body mites.
Now guys, if you're new to the channel and the odd world of mites, here's a crash course
on what the two possible outcomes of this mite infestation could be.
Let's start with the worst case scenario, that these mites are lethal blood-sucking
These types of parasitic mites, latch on to soft areas of a host insect and like a vampire,
use their specialized mouth parts to pierce into the insect to drink their hemolymph,
the technical term for insect blood.
I once had a colony of camponotus ants with these blood-sucking mites, and turns out they
died in a matter of days upon spotting the mites.
If these mites on these Polyrhachis ants were blood-sucking mites, then chances are this
ant colony would not last much longer.
But, the other possible scenario is that these mites are simply phoretic mites, meaning mites
that have transformed into these specialized body latchers, for the purposes of being transported
to new more favourable lands.
You see, when an environment gets too dry or too wet, or provides too little food or
water, or is "too much of anything" really, for regular scavenging mites that feed on
decaying material and fungi, the mites transform into a life stage called the deutonymph stage,
where they become body latchers onto other larger insects until the insects carry them
to a more fertile promised land.
And when they do reach more favourable lands, these deutonymph mites proceed to their next
life stage, and fall off the host insect and run off to live their ordinary helpful lives
While they are body latchers, the phoretic mites do not feed from the host insect's blood.
They're just attached hitching a ride.
In fact they don't even eat at all!
They don't even have mouth parts or anuses at this deutnymph mite stage.
The mites infecting the Golden Empire in the past, were these phoretic mites.
Now according to my Acarologist friend, Dr. Kaitlin Campbell from the University of North
Carolina, a mite scientist who has helped us with our mite-related troubles in the past,
phoretic mites are not as deadly as the blood-sucking mites, but they can still get dangerous for
the ants if allowed to proceed to extreme levels, especially for the queen and brood.
I mean imagine having to eat, shed, and grow as a larva or having to constantly egg-lay
with all of these phoretic mites covering you.
Anyway, after we moved the Golden Empire into their Hacienda Del Dorado last year, their
mites did eventually fall off, so my hopes in all of this, were that these mites infecting
this Polyrhachis ant colony were also just phoretic mites, and that the ever lush El
Dragon Island here, would provide the mites the perfect environment to transform out of
the deutonymph phoretic stage and fall off the ants.
After this video is released, I will surely have Dr. Kaitlin look at this video to get
her opinion on whether or not these are phoretic mites.
Looking at the ant colony it did seem the ants were much more open now to exploring
Peeking into the test tube, I saw one ant holding a single mature larva.
Was this the only brood they had left?
The queen must have stopped her egg-laying.
This one larva was especially crucial then because it was the only larva left that could
spin the silk needed to construct their leaf or debris nest.
This sole larva was precious to their survival and could not be allowed to die.
Let's hope it remains alive and functional for the colony and unaffected by the mites.
Suddenly, a commotion in the test tube.
Workers were returning to the colony and reporting something exciting they had discovered outside.
Returning workers vibrated vigorously to get other ants excited about the apparent news.
It's just amazing to be able to visually witness news spreading through an ant colony like
Could they be communicating the existence of the honey drop?
It seems the ants have found something of greater significance to them.
I noticed ants entering and exiting the dragon's skull with great enthusiasm and vigor.
AC Family, the Polyrhachis ants had officially decided to make the colony move into the dragon's
It seems the Black Dragons and this colony share similar tastes for housing.
Coming back a few hours later, the test tube was much more empty now with a small group
still hanging out.
Peeking into the skull and wow!
There they are, huddled together in its cavities, cleaning themselves, feeding each other, and
But perhaps the most shocking of all, was this!
It seemed the ants had found the Black Dragon's nest and were currently exploring the inside.
And the next morning, the Polyrhachis ants had moved into the nest, and those who couldn't
fit remained huddled around the outside!
El Dragon was officially this Polyrhachis colony's new home.
They even showed signs of territorialism, and defended the premises aggressively from
my threatening tweezers!
Alright, AC Family, now that the ants were settled in, here's where we come together
and come up with a mite rehabilitation plan.
What should we do?
In the past, we tried a variety of therapies and it is hard to pinpoint which therapies
actually worked at ultimately getting rid of mites, but perhaps it was a combination
One was lemon therapy.
Many of you AC Family suggested lemon therapy in the past, that somehow the lemons contained
certain agents that deterred the mites.
As mentioned, we also tried introduction to a lush terrarium in the past, which we have
already done here today.
Another remedy to our mite problem was introducing healthy uninfected workers by combining two
ant colonies together, but this was not something we could do here until we were certain this
Polyrhachis ant species was known to be polygynous, and allowed more than one queen per colony,
and also were ok with colony fusion of unrelated ant colonies.
Most ant species aren't, meaning in most ants, if two unrelated ant colonies were placed
into a setup together, they would war to the death.
I would need to first get a proper ID on these ants from my myrmecologist friend who studies
Polyrhachis to see if there has been any research on their biology and lifestyle, before we
go ahead with mixing in a second colony, plus I don't think this is an easy species to find
in the wild, so I anticipate we won't be attempting colony fusion therapy anytime soon.
So what do you think, AC Family?
Should we proceed with lemon therapy now?
Or do you think taking these mite-infested ants in was a mistake?
Should I just get rid of the colony and retire El Dragon Island?
Transform it into another terrarium for another ant colony perhaps?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments section.
The fate of El Dragon and these ants is in your hands.
Alright AC Family, didn't I tell you this episode was a lot?
I personally have high hopes for this Polyrhachis colony, and feel we can help them battle the
mites, but the colony is still young and it does look like they are off to a rough start.
Also, if they do make it, would you guys be OK if we call this colony the Black Dragons
Let me know.
Guys, be sure to hit that SUBSCRIBE button and BELL ICON now so you don't miss out on
this epic on going ant story, and hit the LIKE button every single time, including now!
Also, if you're new to the channel and want to catch up on all your AntsCanada Lore, I've
put together a complete story line playlist so you can watch how all of the ant colonies
you love on this channel, came to be, all their challenges and hardships, all their
successes and life events, their entire story lines can now be watched from the very start
so you can better appreciate the journey these ants, as well as us watching them, have been
It's incredible how epic the lives of ants are!
AC Inner Colony, I have left a hidden cookie for you here, if you would just like to watch
the entire process of the ants moving into El Dragon, and also take a deeper look at
how bad the mite infestation actually is.
Assess it for yourselves.
Before we proceed to the AC Question of the Week, I would like to plug my daily vlogging
I upload a vlog every single day of my travels around the world, which often includes a lot
of nature stuff.
And now it's time for the AC Question of the Week!
Last week we asked:
Why is a path like that in this video a great location to find queen ants?
Congratulations to Bals Patric who correctly answered:
A path is a great location to find queen ants because when the queen is looking for a place
for her nest, she will go out in open field (the path)
where it is easier to notice her.
Congratulations Bals Patric you just won a free e-book handbook from our shop.
In this week's AC Question of the Week, we ask:
Why do we hope these mites are phoretic mites?
Leave your answer in the comments section and you could also win a free e-book handbook
from our shop.
Hope you can subscribe to the channel as we upload every Saturday at 8AM EST.
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It's ant love forever!