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Plastics in formicaria...safe vs. unsafe plastics?

plastic plastics formicaria

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10 replies to this topic

#1 Offline Spencer70 - Posted May 20 2019 - 5:24 PM

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Hi all,

 

As I am getting into the hobby and am really loving it, I have stumbled upon some discussions about plastics and ant keeping.

 

I have seen many plastic formicaria (e.g., AntsCanada hybrid nests, as well as 3D printed ones, as well as plastic nests and outworlds from other companies). Further, I stumbled upon one warning that vinyl aquarium hose or tubing is fatal to one species (Veromessor pergandei, I believe). Elsewhere, I have been totally intrigued with some ant keepers' videos of leafcutter ants in an array of clear tubes (and gray plastic elbow connectors) mounted on a wall, marching in very long clear tubes. Of course acrylic is used too in other setups. One of my colonies was sold to me in Tupperware tub, and the ants seemed fine.

 

I am curious of some species are sensitive to some types of plastics, or if some materials are better than others. 

 

As my any keeping skills improve, I daydream of some day setting up a colony of diurnally active ants in my classroom, one that incorporates a wall-mounted tube for marching and foraging. I'm not ready yet, of course, but it would be pretty cool for my science students to be able to make observations on behavior, estimate population size, etc., and not have to be clustered around one small formicarium.

 

The other day I picked up a polycarbonate food tray (the ones used at sandwich shops like Subway) from a local restaurant supply place, thinking the dense and very clear plastic was inert, if food grade, but noticed there was a Prop., 65 warning that the polycarbonate contains BPA. I still may give the container a try if one of my colonies grows to the point of being able to be split. The polycarbonate is a little more rigid and much more clear then Tupperware and inexpensive reusable plastic containers found at local grocery stores.

 

Anyway, thank you for any input on the matter.

 

 


Spencer Holmes

Brentwood, Calif.

 

Just starting in this hobby...

One Camponotus quercicola colony

One Liometopum occidentale colony


#2 Offline drtrmiller - Posted May 20 2019 - 7:44 PM

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All common thermoplastics are fine for contact with ants.

 

Vinyl tubing safety is not species dependent.  Vinyl plastics can emit dangerous compounds when heated.  So the user who posted the "warning" you read either did something they shouldn't have, or their ants died from other causes and they blamed the tubing.

Amateur users blame everything when their ants die, yet strangely, they never perform an autopsy.


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#3 Offline Serafine - Posted May 21 2019 - 3:23 AM

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I don't think the temperatures used in antkeeping are sufficient to cause serious issues with vinyl tubing. In my setup there's a spot where the connection tube from the first outworld to the second outworld runs along above the edge of the nests where the heating cable is and the ants frequently store pupae at this spot.


Edited by Serafine, May 21 2019 - 3:24 AM.

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#4 Offline Barristan - Posted May 21 2019 - 10:10 AM

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For vinyl tubing you can look for the "food-safe" symbol:

 

200px EU food contact material symbol.svg

 

Some vinyl tubing I bought which were not food-safe had a very strong smell and I know one case antstore.net had to recall specific vinyl tubing since their Chinese supplier used cheap vinyl tubing which was not food safe and emitted a strong smell too and a lot of ant keepers reported that their ants refused to move through the tubing.

 

"food-safe" vinyl tubing doesn't or only slightly smell.

 

I keep my small colonies in air tight boxes which are food-safe too and never had a problem. If the plastic has a strong smell I wouldn't use it for ants or other animals.


Edited by Barristan, May 21 2019 - 10:13 AM.

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#5 Offline Ant_Dude2908 - Posted May 21 2019 - 10:33 AM

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Plastic nests aren't the best for ants with formic acid (Camponotus, Lasius, Formica, ect.) because when they get spooked, they often emit formic acid from a gland in their gaster, and the acid can bead up on the plastic and potentially kill your ants. If you are looking to buy a nest, go with Tar Heel Ants. If you insist on using plastic nests, pour some grout in the chambers. Same with the out worlds.

#6 Offline Acutus - Posted May 21 2019 - 11:55 AM

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 when their ants die, yet strangely, they never perform an autopsy.

 

Seriously. Can that be done?


Billy

 

Currently keeping:

Camponotus chromaiodes

Camponotus castaneus

Camponotus pennsylvanicus

Aphaenogaster "NOT tennesseensis" fulva


#7 Offline drtrmiller - Posted May 21 2019 - 12:08 PM

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 when their ants die, yet strangely, they never perform an autopsy.

 

Seriously. Can that be done?

 

 

Sure, between microscopy and gas chromatography, a skilled and trained person may use a number of tools and methods to examine ants and their internal tissues to determine possible causes of death.  Or you can just look at them as they die and infer the cause of death.


Edited by drtrmiller, May 21 2019 - 12:20 PM.

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#8 Offline Ant_Dude2908 - Posted May 21 2019 - 12:17 PM

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Probably expensive.

#9 Offline Acutus - Posted May 21 2019 - 1:09 PM

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Probably expensive.

 

What he said. :) But thanks for the reply. I honestly wouldn't have thought to do it but It's cool knowing it can be done. :)


 If you insist on using plastic nests, pour some grout in the chambers. Same with the out worlds.

 

By grout you mean the powder? Unmixed? or mixed and allowed to harden?


Billy

 

Currently keeping:

Camponotus chromaiodes

Camponotus castaneus

Camponotus pennsylvanicus

Aphaenogaster "NOT tennesseensis" fulva


#10 Offline Ant_Dude2908 - Posted May 21 2019 - 1:10 PM

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Mixed and let sit for a few days. Unmixed grout or uncured grout can kill the ants.
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#11 Offline Serafine - Posted May 22 2019 - 3:51 AM

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 when their ants die, yet strangely, they never perform an autopsy.

 

Seriously. Can that be done?

 

 

I don't think you need to disect your ants in order to make an eucated guess on why things went wrong. Sometimes queens die for no apparent reason but usually you can deduce a few things which (or the combination of which) might have been the source of your problems.

 

 

 


By grout you mean the powder? Unmixed? or mixed and allowed to harden?

 

You can also just use a mixture of sand and clay. Not sure about the US but in Europe literally every ant shop has this stuff (usually in different colors as well).


Edited by Serafine, May 22 2019 - 3:51 AM.

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