Ants vs. Mites – The War Has Begun

Oh boy! 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 Dragon Island! Please SUBSCRIBE to my channel and hit the
bell icon. Welcome to the AC Family. Enjoy! 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 weeks. 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 Flight. 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. Hmmm… 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 generations. 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! Oh no… 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! OMG! 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. Oh man! 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 colour! 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. Oh man! 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 hope! 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 and explore. 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 tasty honey. 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! Wow! 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 was. 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 mites. 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 as scavengers. 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. Not good! 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 the outside. 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 this. Could they be communicating the existence
of the honey drop? Not quite. 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 skull. How awesome! 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 resting. 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! So funny! 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 of therapies. 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 II? 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 embarking on. 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 channel. 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. Please remember to LIKE, COMMENT, SHARE, & SUBSCRIBE
if you enjoyed this video to help us keep making more. It’s ant love forever!

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