My Pet Ants Discovered Agriculture


OMG! I can’t believe it! I think the world is pretty familiar that
ants are very intelligent and resourceful creatures, but this week, I believe to have
filmed for the very first time on this open-concept floating island ant farm, I’ve created for
my cute Pheidole ant colony, what has to be the ultimate demonstration of ant ingenuity
and imagination! Guys, I’m beside myself. My ants have officially discovered agriculture! Please SUBSCRIBE to my channel, and hit the
BELL ICON! Welcome to the AC Family. Enjoy! Welcome to Avista, the floating banyon bonsai
island kingdom, to my pet Pheidole ant colony, commonly known as Big-headed ants due to the
colony’s huge majors born with massive heads, and coincidingly, in a past video you guys
voted on a name for them, and “The Bobbleheads” came out on top. So, these ants from here on in shall be called
the Bobbleheads! But AC Family, this week, I seriously couldn’t
believe my eyes, when pretty much out of nowhere, the Bobbleheads started farming! I can’t wait to show you! Now if you’re new to the channel, the Bobbleheads
here, are a new super colony of Pheidole ants, possessing a whopping four queens, hidden
deep within the fortified royal chambers in the rich soils of Avista. Now I have got to say, the colony has been
eating a lot over the past few weeks! This made perfect sense because with four
egg-laying queens, each pumping out eggs, the ants needed all the nourishment they could
get, to feed their explosive ant population. Here was last night’s meal, half a cockroach,
where the remaining scraps of meat were being worked on by a few workers, as well as their
bustling detritivorous friends, Springtails, whom we call the Springcleaners. The Springcleaners have been excellent at
scavenging what leftovers the Bobbleheads couldn’t get at or chose to leave behind. But as I was watching the ants and Springcleaners
dealing with this roach carcass, I began to notice some of the Bobbleheads strangely interested
in something above, climbing the Great Tree of Wisdom. How peculiar, peculiar because I’ve always
known the ants to be ground-dwellers, rarely ever climbing to the tree tops. AC Family, Have a look! And that’s when I saw it. The Bobbleheads were farming mealybugs! OMG! I could not believe it! Alright so if you’re new to ants, and are
wondering why this is huge, is because ants have been well-documented to, at times, tend
what are commonly called “ant cows”. Essentially, plant insects like aphids or
mealybugs which live in colonies parasitically on plants, sucking the plant sap, and producing
as a bi-product, this sweet secretion called honeydew! And, to some species of ants this honeydew
is the nectar from the gods! They love the stuff, and stroke the ant cows
to stimulate them to produce more of it, kind of like milking them in a way! In fact, many ants even go as far as protecting,
relocating, and otherwise helping these ant cows proliferate, so they can continue to
collect this cherished honeydew. This incredible symbiosis between ants and
ant cows, can actually be traced back in fossils of Dominican Amber of Acropyga ants and mealybugs
from some 20-15 million years ago in the Miocene Epoch. And guys, the Bobbleheads have officially
engaged in this ancient pact with their own colony of mealybugs, here on Avista. Isn’t this incredible?! Look at them! What a surreal opportunity! Alright, so I immediately had so many questions. How on earth did the mealybugs get here? Were the ants full out herding the mealybugs,
i.e. physically transporting or guiding them around to new areas of the tree? Were they protecting these mealybugs aggressively? How many mealybugs were there? How fast were they breeding? And finally, I was wondering if by some miracle
I might be able to actually film the ants collecting the honeydew from these mealybugs! So about my first question, where did the
mealybugs come from? Upon researching mealybugs, apparently these
oval fuzzy-looking individuals are adult females and young, but the adult males look totally
different from these and have wings, looking sorta like small gnats. These adult males fly and mate with females
of mealybug colonies on other plants. Young mealybugs, who by the way are actually
called “crawlers”, and adult females, simply move by crawling to new plants if needed,
like if their host plant dies or if they simply want to try out a new plant. I highly believe a couple pregnant mealybugs
must have come with the bonsai tree or laid eggs on it. Shrubs and trees tend to be a mealybug favourite,
and our Great Tree of Wisdom here happens to be an ideal, thriving and healthy host
tree. I mean, look at this, over the past few weeks
since Avista was created, this Japanese bonsaied banyon tree grew a whole new team of leaves,
blooming from its twining branches. I was actually initially concerned that keeping
a tree indoors might not be possible due to light limitations, but the Tree of Wisdom
here has proven me wrong. I’ve been watering it well, giving it as much
light as I could, and I can actually see that its roots have begun to extend into the foundational
pillar pots below. For sure, Avista’s very healthy and growing
Great Tree of Wisdom, was providing this small colony of mealybugs a lot of delicious tree
sap, thereby providing our Bobbleheads with a valuable source of sweet honeydew. The next morning after the mealybug discovery
I revisted Avista to look again, and to my surprise, I found another grouping of mealybugs
just below the place I spotted the others the night before. It seems there were multiple herds of ant
cows on this tree, all tended by the ants, and you could actually see the honeydew collected
in their social stomachs through their semi-transparent bodies against the light. How cool! AC Family, I really hoped we could film the
mealybugs excreting it and the ants drinking it! Let’s keep our fingers crossed. Up in the tree at the original spot, the ants
were indeed up early, still collecting honeydew, and it looks like there was a group of mealybugs
living on an opposing twig, that I hadn’t noticed before. Right off the bat, I could see that there
were more mealybugs here now, at this first spot, than there were the night before, so
either the mealybugs breed impossibly fast, or more likely, the mealybugs were being brought
around the tree and planted into place by the ants, or the mealybugs were simply walking
freely around the tree, stationing themselves around as desired. I was determined to find out. But meanwhile, at ground level, the Bobbleheads
were busy with breakfast, a superworm which they desperately were trying to fit into one
of their holes. And look at that major being oh so helpful,
supporting that superworm, while the ants tried to figure out how they were going to
fit it all, through the nest entrance. Now you may notice some of the ants, this
major included, carry mites which look like big sores on their body. I cringe at the sight of them and I find it
very uncomfortable to look at! You may have noticed some on the ants from
last night. But, I discussed in a previous video that
these mites were likely at a harmless mite life stage, mouthless and anus-less phoretic
mites, not a lethal parasitic kind, who are simply clinging on to the ants in hopes to
find an ideal environment before transforming into their next life stage and falling off. These ants have had them since their founding
test tube rearing days, and would have never become the big and booming colony they are
now, had these body mites been the vampiric blood-sucking kind. I hope they eventually fall off our Bobbleheads,
and go on to eat their regular diet of decaying organic matter. Speaking of which, AC Family, this roach carcass
needs to be removed. As always, I’m the colony’s garbage man! Let me discreetly slip in with my tweezers
and yoink! Woops, dropping it to allow some stray Bobbleheads
to deboard, and removed! Oops, one more ant to return to the colony. Every single worker counts, right? And then AC Family, I spotted something pretty
amazing! Some ants were seizing a maggot, presumably
just captured from their decaying garbage. This was interesting, because before the ants
never bothered these clean-up Avistan-born fly larvae, as they helped with cleaning up
their garbage. Gnats visiting Avista would lay eggs on carcass
leftovers, and the hatching maggots would eat the ant garbage, to develop into adult
gnats, where they would then fly off from their Avistan birthplace. But now, it looks like the ants have changed
their mind, and have learned that the maggots were a valuable source of nourishment, as
well. How neat! The ants’ garbage attracts food sources to
the island for them to catch and eat! Their garbage was bait for prey! Hmmm… I suppose, in this sense, you could also look
at this entire island of Avista here, as a single superorganism, which eats outside insects,
produces waste, and drinks water. Mind-blowing stuff! Alright, and now that I mentioned it, it’s
time for us to assume the role of “rain cloud”, and provide some water to the inhabitants
of Avista. I always use room-temperature bottled water,
when offering my ants their H2O, as I am always super paranoid that chlorine and other such
chemicals from tap water could harm the ants. Now watch what happens every time it rains
on Avista. At the onset of water entering the nest, the
Bobbleheads immediately mobilize and start to bring the brood kept in the most shallow
chambers out of the nest to drier areas. Eggs, larvae, and pupae from these shallower
nest areas are all carried outside where it is dry. The queens and young located deeper in the
nest, are brought deeper into their underground fortress where it is dry. If these ever fill up with water, the entire
colony would be flooded out and surface, but they rarely do this, because truth is, having
the young and queens outside in the open like this, is very risky, as it makes them vulnerable
to predators and the elements, so the ants quickly decide on a plan of action, and this
time decide on a back up space somewhere over this rock boulder. The ants act quickly to transport all the
young to this drier holding space. I find it so amazing how ants can collectively
make very quick, critical decisions, and execute these plans with great speed. What makes it all even more crazy, is they
communicate their plans entirely through pheromones, biochemicals which make up their whole ant
language. Amazing to think that amidst all the confusion
and franticness of the rain, it only took one ant to release pheromones, indicating
it knew a safe dry place to move the brood, before all other ants decided to join in on
this ant’s proposed campaign, and start this mass movement of the brood. I don’t know about you, but had this been
a group of humans in this situation, only capable of simple audible communication like
yelling at each other, I doubt they would have been able to act as swiftly and in sync. Now in case you were concerned about the ants
having to always deal with these frequent watering events, the important thing to keep
in mind is that water is vital to the well-being of the ants, and the entire system here on
Avista. The ants and all inhabitants need to drink,
the moisture helps hold soil together to support the tunnels and chambers of the Bobbleheads’
nest, and the colony’s young require the humidity. The water also feeds the tree, of course,
which we now know goes on to provide sustenance to these newly discovered mealybugs, which
feed our ants. The water makes its way down into Avista’s
soil-filled foundational pillars, into which I do see the ants have begun to burrow, as
well as Springcleaners. And somewhere within the nest, the ants have
a designated bathroom area or two where they poop, and recent research supports that plants
are fertilized by ant poop, so I’m sure the Great Tree of Wisdom is happy the ants are
around providing some fresh nourishing ant poop all the time. The tree’s roots eat this ant poop with the
help of water. So, AC Family as you can see, water is vital
and ties all of Avista’s organisms together. What is kept completely dry though, is the
ivory rock border of the island, as well as the glass floor. This is purposely done as it was supposed
to discourage the ants from frequenting these dry, dead spaces. And oh look, the ants have decided to start
moving the brood back into the nest from their temporary brood cache. I guess, all nest areas are clear of water
now, and it’s back to regular programming. I just love how busy and invested these ants
are all the time, at ensuring the good of the colony. Aren’t they just the cutest, AC Family? By the way, providing food, taking out the
trash, and watering, aren’t the only chores I have to do to maintain Avista. I also take the time to readjust the wire
braces to ensure the banyon tree grows into an ideal shape and within a desired space
as the tree grows. There! Much better! Alright, AC Family, now back to the ant cows! I checked the mealybug herds after repositioning
the branches, and turns out they were still stationed in place, but the ants had been
spooked and abandoned their cows. I guess in their minds, my giant hands weren’t
worth sticking around, to defend their honeydew sources. But I waited, and it wasn’t long before the
ant cow-tending ants came climbing back up the tree, to return to their stations, to
continue milking their livestock. They weren’t going to let a pair of flimsy
giant hands keep them from their God-given nectar! The ants checked each herd carefully. Now AC Family, are you ready for this? The moment we all were waiting for! What I filmed next was truly an utter dream
come true! Yup, you guess it! I finally got to film the ants collecting
honeydew from their mealybugs. Check this out! At first, I thought I caught a mealybug excreting
honeydew here, and the ant came to collect it, but I didn’t quite get a good view of
it. I switched my camera angle, and then, I thought
I saw an ant with a droplet of liquid in its mouth. I believe I may have just missed the process! And then I noticed this mealybug here kind
of lifting its back end and producing a drop that… Ooop! Shot out before the ant could find it! Wow! Did you just see that?! It seems the ants needed a bit of luck and
some attentive antennae if they were to collect this yummy mealybug bi-product, which the
mealybugs clearly weren’t willing to keep around. I also noticed a mealybug from an opposing
branch shooting out some honeydew. And guys, what’s real crazy about all this,
all this action is happening on such a tiny scale, I was unable to see what was actually
going on through my camera display, until I could review the video files and zoom in
during editing of this 4K footage! It just looked to me like some ants hovering
uneventfully over some mealybugs. It’s amazing how much we can miss with the
naked eye just because we’re so big! Anyway, another mealybug is lifting it’s butt,
go get it ant! And oh, it shot out a moment too soon! Another missed opportunity! Based on this hit or miss method, now I wondered
if the ants were actually “milking” the mealybugs as research had formerly suggested, and not
just simply trying to feel and smell which mealybugs were basically going to blow. And finally, AC Family, after patiently waiting
and filming, one of the mealybugs produced a drop of honeydew and success! The ant stopped to drink the tasty liquid
treat! One insect’s bi-product is another insect’s
food! We did it! We got to see it! That was just amazing, right?! So, after drinking enough honeydew to fill
their social stomachs, the fully filled ants made their way down the tree and into their
nest to share their collected honeydew with the rest of the colony, through mouth to mouth
transfer, a process called trophallaxis. It was just amazing to think that the ants
were acquiring nourishment from an additional food source, and who would have ever thought
the ants would wander into the trees and have the idea of drinking this honeydew squirting
out of these mealybugs’ butts?! Nobody taught them this! They just discovered it on their own! They discovered farming! I continued to film the ants well into the
night, and it seemed the honeydew collection operations did not stop. The night shift workers were out still collecting,
and here is more one-of-a-kind, mind-blowing footage, of this intimate honeydew feeding
behaviour of these ants! Check them out! One even full out took a droplet of honeydew
home! The ants continued to miss a few times, however,
often coming really close! But check this out AC Family, watch this mealybug
shooting a drop of honeydew which hit the opposing twig, and look, the ants did not
pass up the opportunity to drink it up. How neat! I guess this was another effective tactic
for honeydew collection. 5 second rule! Perhaps these projectile honeydew droplets
weren’t as good as drinking it fresh from the mealybugs’ body? Who knows? And hey, will you lookey here! It’s a mealybug actually walking! OK, so I guess this solves the mystery of
whether or not the ants were responsible at choosing where the mealybugs were stationed. It seems the mealybugs choose, where to hang
out and drink the tree sap, and the ants just follow. AC Family, these ant cows are free range! Alright! But having all this honeydew-producing, free-range
livestock around, does also make it easy for moochers to take advantage. It looks like we have a visitor. Now, I wondered if this was a male mealybug,
or a legit gnat attempting to drink up the honeydew. I guessed the latter, based on photos. I watched it attempt to inch closer to the
mealybugs. Were the ants going to defend their ant cows
from this wolf-like, stealthy gnat? The gnat approached the mealybug herd. And bam! The ant scared it away, and the gnat was gone! And so AC Family, there you have it! Our Bobbleheads have figured out how to farm
food produced from another organism! And through all of this, I learned that it’s
actually not as simple and straight forward as ants just easily milking some ant cows,
as I initially imagined. It’s actually quite an involved process of
technique and tactics. But the whole idea that ants manage to pull
off such an intrinsically human activity like agriculture is quite mind-blowing to me, or
perhaps it isn’t the ants, that are pulling off an intrinsically human activity, but us
that are pulling off an intrinsically ant activity. They after all farmed first, geological timescale-ly
speaking! Overall, I love being able to witness the
interesting evolution of the floating island of Avista. I can’t help but feel like we’re celestial
beings, creators of these worlds, witnessing the development and evolution of a planet,
and its population of inhabitants. I wonder what’s next for these ants. I do hope these ants can work out some kind
of sustainable farming solution, though, because if these mealybugs completely take over this
bonsai tree and kill it, who knows what that would mean for the entire island of Avista? I’ll just assume the ants have it all figured
out, since they’ve lasted for millions of years longer than we have, doing it. Speaking of which, I wonder how good of a
job we’re doing with our plans of sustainable farming, on our floating island. AC Family, what do you think? Did you enjoy this week’s episode? I truly love how the Bobbleheads and Avista
are developing, and other than a phoretic mite problem, I foresee that the ants are
well on their way to success, and when they outgrow this floating island of Avista here,
I plan on connecting another floating island using a bridge, until the Bobblehead’s ant
kingdom of Avista, is an impressive archipelago of multiple connected floating islands. Wouldn’t that be just so cool?! I’ll continue to update you guys, so be sure
to hit that SUBSCRIBE button and BELL icon now, so you don’t miss out on this continuing
ant story, and hit the LIKE button every single time, including now. And if you’re new to the channel and want
to catch up on all your AntsCanada Lore, feel free to binge watch this complete story line
playlist here, which traces the origins of all the ant colonies of the ant room, so you
can follow their stories and better appreciate how these ant kingdoms came to be, and why
we love them so much! AC Inner Colony, I have left a hidden cookie
for you here, if you would just like to watch some extended play footage of the ants drinking
honeydew. There is so much that I think you guys can
catch from the footage, that I may have missed, so do check it out! And before we proceed to the AC Question of
the Week, I’d like to plug my daily vlogging channel, daily vlogs of my travels around
the world, which often includes a lot of nature stuff so do check it out! And now it’s time for the AC Question of the
Week! Last week we asked: Why was the death of the Guppy Gang
actually beneficial to the Selva de Fuego and its inhabitants? Congratulations to Shiny Piplup who correctly
answered: They were pleasing to the eye but weren’t
doing their intended job of controlling the ant
population, and causing a lot of excess waste. Congratulations Shiny Piplup! You just won a free e-book handbook from our
shop! In this week’s AC Question of the Week, we
ask: Name one neat fact you learned
about mealybugs in this video. 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, and
SUBSCRIBE if you enjoyed this video to help us keep making more. It’s ant love forever!

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