How to make a giant aluminum ant nest

Ant Nest

The internets have been abuzz with this photo today (Click for the full size version).
It’s a photo of an aluminum cast of an ant nest made by Walter Tschinkel, a Florida entomologist–but there haven’t been a lot of additional details.

The nest you are looking at is one of a Florida harvester ant, and appeared with many other photos and casts in a 2004 paper about nest architecture in the Journal of Insect Science.  They are things of great beauty, and tell us a lot about how ants build.

The uppermost portions of a medium-small Pogonomyrmex badius nest

The uppermost portions of a medium-small Pogonomyrmex badius nest

This series of photos, for example, shows how the complexity of the nest structure grows as the colony adds workers.  You can find more amazing photos of different types of ant nest casts here in a 2012 article.

There is even a video of the process of making these casts! And yes, don’t do this at home. Even if Dr. Tschinkel did publish detailed instructions on all the different ways to make an ant nest cast.

I would be remiss if I did not also link to this older video that uses ten tons of cement to discover the extent of a much larger South American ant nest.

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Bug_girl has a PhD in Entomology, and is a pointy-headed former academic living in Ohio. She is obsessed with insects, but otherwise perfectly normal. Really! If you want a daily stream of cool info about bugs, follow her Facebook page or find her on Twitter.

3 Comments

  1. Avatar of criticaldragon1177

    Bug_girl,

    Wow, that was pretty interesting. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  2. Avatar of mrthumbtack

    Reminds me of a piece my former professor/friend Sam Ekwurtzel did using casts of moles tunnels. He poured plaster down the abandoned tunnels, dug up the casting and then refined that casting further into a ring of moles tunnels cast in iron.

  3. Avatar of sidhe3141

    Is it weird that the first thing I thought of when I saw that image was some kind of hydrocarbon?

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