Alright so a few things to update on..
Firstoff, I expanded their foraging setup and added a taller container packed with the same pre-boiled substrate. I'm hoping that the ants will move their entire nest there because there's lots more room for the fungus to grow in. I feel like I've restricted its size but we'll see about that.
Second, the fungus wasn't looking all too hot and the refuse pile was growing a bit. There's these tiny that I feed to my mite-specialist ants (Myrmecina americana & Ponera pennsylvanica) but they don't give the leafcutter ants much interest nor the ants to them. The mites stick to the refuse pile and I haven't found any in or around the living fungus or the nest chamber itself which is good. I'm not too worried. Nonetheless today I plan on cleaning out the foraging container after work. The fungus itself wasn't growing and was actually shrinking, and the only thing I could calculate was that the moisture was running a bit under the ants' regulations meter so I re-moisturised the substrate (little by little to avoid any potential floods). This morning, 12 hours later, I noticed that the ants had already begun to rebuild it upwards
Third, I've discovered this "trick" to getting your leafcutters to cut more foliage when you want them to--especially if you're concerned that they haven't been cutting much lately. I was sensing that my leafcutters weren't cutting as much leaves as they usually do, so an idea popped in my head. Bait the leaves. In an experiment to record difference in cutting normal leaves vs. baited leaves, I collected a rose stem from outside with a few leaves on it. The difference is this time I sprayed the little stem with a concentrated mix (well mixed) of water, sugar, and apple juice (~100 mL of water, 1/3 more apple juice, 1/3 sugar). I skewed it to a toothpick as I always did, and left it in the foraging container. Within an hour of returning, I noticed there were about 10 foragers out constantly and those leaving to the nest were replaced by those leaving the nest as if they were on work shifts. They were very attracted to the coating that I put on the leaves. I returned about an hour later and I noticed that 4 ants were cutting on one leaf at the same time, whilst many others were cleaning other leaves on the stem! There was a pile of leaves left in the nest by the fungus, as the ants were already working on turning them into pulp.
By this morning, there was a noticeable increase in the size and height of the fungus, and it was peppered with dark pulpy leaf-fertilizer. This is a trick that I hope any other leafcutter ant owners give a try.
I have to report on is that there has been a disappearance of the eggs, larvae and pupae. The ants have moved them into the garden. Although I'm confident in my ants knowing what's best, I must admit I feel a slight concern with their "disappearance." They do emerge being carried by the workers periodically.
The last thing I'd like to note is that I've noticed that the smallest workers actually clean the larger ones from head to toe periodically. Really cool to watch.
Anyway here's a quick picture that I took before I set off to work of the ants this morning.
Thats all for now,