So I finally got a semi-decent camera and can finally start posting pictures of some of my colonies. This is a small (for now) colony of Pheidole megacephala that live in a 3"x3" plaster nest. There's approximately 500 workers, 45+ queens, and a small amount of brood. I captured them about a week ago and the queens/workers/brood are from 3 different colonies.
Getting a picture of the queens is hard since they tend to hide in the nooks of brood piles and the workers also like to dog pile on them; blocking me from taking non-blurry photos. About 15 queens in this one photo.
Of course with lots of queens comes lots of eggs.
and I mean LOTS of eggs... They have at least 10 different egg piles similar in size to this one that I didn't photograph. Keep in mind that's only a weeks worth of eggs since I collected them with only pupae.
I've had around 4 colonies of megacephala over the course of several years, and each colony had several queens inhabited by these seemingly harmless mites. You can see one on the thorax near the head.
They apparently derive sustenance from the ants during trophallaxis - here one has scurried down onto the queen's mandibles and is stealing a quick drink. I've witnessed this numerous times.
It seems only certain queens have the mites. Some have just one, others 4-5, and a few none at all.
Interestingly enough they're only found on the queens.
More updates soon to come once those masses of eggs start to hatch...