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Journey into Hebel/Ytong/AAC formicariums


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#1 Offline CrazyLegs - Posted January 10 2017 - 5:15 PM

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Hey everyone,

 

After countless hours of researching formicarium ideas I've finally made a decision to try my hand at the Hebel type.

I will post my trials and tribulations here as a reference for any others who are procrastinating about where or how to start with this particular style of formicarium.

 

I started with a small glass tank I found laying around the house and cut a hebel block to the same dimensions.

I then proceeded to sculpt the surface into a natural looking shape.

 
nLfwA7oaGjlKY1yRVD8nnOUVF8WktUpv4spq8UkX
 
l0cnhZ00dC3UKUZDf2fY7OJJEXNK-eDOVX95-3MK
 
vy02PA9kpudUohI097JoG6g54PyUfFgb9_TyLdlP
 
I made the entrance hole large as I'm hoping to house one of the worlds largest ants, Myrmecia Brevinoda.
I even caught myself a worker from the wild to help me as a tunnel test subject.
 
-W1_4m8E6-YltoAYaNLU6c-uubZWXw_gkHof2fCk
 
As you can see these ants are no joke. This one is pushing 32mm!, and that's just the worker!
 
I will now begin sculpting the tunnels and return with the results. :)

Edited by CrazyLegs, February 5 2017 - 10:48 PM.
Properly embedded images in post

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#2 Offline Alabama Anter - Posted January 10 2017 - 5:36 PM

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Wow! I hope you get to catch the queen! Best wishes!
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Keeper of...

(2) Parakeets
(2) Peppered Corydoras
(4) Neon Tetras
(1) Hermit Crab
(100-300) Mealworms
(1) Tetramorium sp. E
(1) Dormymyrmex bicolor
(1) Dormymyrmex insanus
(1) Solenopsis invicta
(1) Formica fusca
(1) Lasius neoniger
(1) Crematogaster cerasi
(1) Myrmecosystus testacus

#3 Offline dspdrew - Posted January 10 2017 - 6:47 PM

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I liked your thread enough to properly embed the images for you. There's no reason to link to a picture when it can be added to your post.


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#4 Offline CrazyLegs - Posted January 10 2017 - 8:32 PM

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Hahaha, I was just on here trying to work out how to do that. Thank you very much dspdrew.

I apologize but I still haven't figured it out yet either. I'm getting on, and afraid the tech train has left me behind.

I'm a simple man with simple needs. :)

I'm looking into uploading to the gallery but not sure how to keep picture quality.

 

Thanks Alabama Anter. I have located a few Brevinoda nests near my area and have considered excavation of one that looks to be relatively new.

Although after some research I've found I may find myself standing inside quite a large hole.

There are almost always going to be tree roots nearby that will also cause some trouble.

For now I will keep an eye on them and see if they start flying soon.

Here is a well established M.nigrocincta nest In my back yard I would not want to mess with.

Serious bull ant nest
Serious nigrocinta nest

Edited by CrazyLegs, January 10 2017 - 8:45 PM.


#5 Offline T.C. - Posted January 10 2017 - 9:45 PM

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Welcome to formiculture my friend. I have always wanted to go to Australia, I must say I am jealous. Super cool formicarium you got there as well. Can't wait to see ants in it.


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#6 Offline FSTP - Posted January 10 2017 - 10:03 PM

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Welcome! 

 

Your formicarium looks great. Can't wait to see it full of some great Australian ants.


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#7 Offline CrazyLegs - Posted January 10 2017 - 10:41 PM

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Thanks everyone,

I really like the layout of this forum and it is the first forum I've been interested in enough to join. :)

My project is far from complete but that gives me time to keep a lookout for flying queens in the meantime.

 

My Hebel block is coming along, starting to resemble some sort of ants nest.

My main weapons of choice for the carving was a simple screwdriver and a cheap cordless drill with a 10mm bit.

The sculpting is an important part for me. I've been accused of having a little OCD.

So I will take my time and try my best to think like an ant. :D

 

I'm going to call my formicarium "The Crocodilian" due to the interesting shape that has occurred.

Crocodilian Formicarium
Adding 3rd dimension
 
I made sure to drill some internal tunnels connecting the two sides. I feel it adds some realism and dimension to the design.
The tank I'm using has black corner protectors so you wouldn't be able to see the ants crossing over there anyway.
Short end
 
Next I will be looking at coloring the hebel for a more realistic look.

 



#8 Offline CrazyLegs - Posted January 11 2017 - 4:13 AM

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I read some where in my travels that myrmecia didn't like raw Hebel underfoot. It may have been on this forum. :)

When you look at Hebel up close it resembles an Aero bar chocolate in texture.

I wanted to fill a lot of these bubbles in and effectively put a light seal over the block to make it look and feel more like the clay rich soil they live in.

I took a couple of fist sized clumps of clay from their natural habitat and mashed them in a bucket with some water.

Using a sponge I squeezed the sludgy mixture all over the block and set it in the sun to dry for a bit.

Clay sealing

Once it was dry I gave all the tunnels a good going over with my thumbs and used a damp sponge to dab the top and sides to reveal some of the Hebel texture.

I then drilled out a hole in the top to make a water reservoir being careful not to drill right through to the bottom.

You want the Hebel to soak up the water, not for it to spread across the glass.

Then I popped in a sponge to prevent drownings and also to retain moisture for longer.

Water reservoir
Cover the sponge with some moss, a little bit of lichen, and squeeze in a little water. Some plastic plants don't look too bad either.
Moss and water
The moss is a great little reminder to water your ants. If it looks a little dry, a little spritz will suffice.
Looks finished
Getting there
It looks finished but there's still a few things to take care of.
I will let my test ant go for a run in there and see if I need to make any adjustments.
 
The Crocodilian
The Crocodilian

 

 

 
 

 


Edited by CrazyLegs, January 11 2017 - 4:19 AM.

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#9 Offline FSTP - Posted January 11 2017 - 6:39 AM

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Wow! That is a really beautiful setup. You did a really nice job sculpting the Hebel it looks very naturalistic. Also very clever use of that moss to cover the sponge reservoir. 

 

I really wish AAC/Hebel/Ytong was something  that was  more readily available in the USA.


Edited by FSTP, January 11 2017 - 6:42 AM.

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#10 Offline T.C. - Posted January 11 2017 - 7:13 AM

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This is your first formicarium? My first one looked terrible, and even my best can't even compare to this one. Very nice job. I really like everything about it, the natural look, the hydration system, the plants on the top, and just how you have them tunnels sculpted. I am Giving you an A+ for an all around fantastic formicarium. Now i want to see it full of Myrmecia Brevinoda. ;)


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#11 Offline Alabama Anter - Posted January 11 2017 - 8:54 AM

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Omg! This is your first ever FORMICARIUM?! My first one was broken up into trillions of peices!
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Keeper of...

(2) Parakeets
(2) Peppered Corydoras
(4) Neon Tetras
(1) Hermit Crab
(100-300) Mealworms
(1) Tetramorium sp. E
(1) Dormymyrmex bicolor
(1) Dormymyrmex insanus
(1) Solenopsis invicta
(1) Formica fusca
(1) Lasius neoniger
(1) Crematogaster cerasi
(1) Myrmecosystus testacus

#12 Offline antgenius123 - Posted January 11 2017 - 9:28 AM

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Wow, very nice formicarium. Hope your ants do well!


Edited by antgenius123, January 11 2017 - 9:29 AM.

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Currently own:
(1x) Camponotus Sp.
(1x) Pheidole aurivillii (?)
(1x) Monomorium Sp. (?)

Other

#13 Offline Kevin - Posted January 11 2017 - 12:08 PM

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That is pretty awesome. I like the sculptured outworld, goodluck with it!

 

400 posts!


Edited by Kevin, January 11 2017 - 1:11 PM.

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Still developing formicaria, we shall see what I create.


#14 Offline CrazyLegs - Posted January 11 2017 - 7:55 PM

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Thanks for the kudos, :yahoo:

Yes, it is indeed my first attempt at a "Hebel" formicarium. I've had the old "two pieces of glass" ant farms and even made a couple myself but never had real success with keeping ants in them long term. With all the new tech and ideas these days and my sudden rekindled interest in ants, I thought I might be able to have another go.

I'm a tiler by trade and have dealt with Hebel before, plenty of experience with a hammer and chisel too. %)

Who knows when my back finally gives in maybe I'll be able to carve ant farms for a living. Lol

 

Anyways I digress.....I added my test ant today, she looks pretty cool in there.

Bull ant on a hill

Brevinoda are pretty much nocturnal and the only time you see them in the day is if you disturb their nest. It will correlate well with my design as I will be able to get in there during the day and do maintenance and observe them in the evening.

With the use of a red spectrum light you can watch them without them seeing you.

Surveying the land
She really likes that little hill. :)
Myrmecia can climb glass but its an effort and they prefer not to, I haven't made a lid yet but it will surely be on the cards for this species.
Brevinoda are slow to develop so despite its small size and provided I can find a Queen, I'm hoping this formicarium will be good for a couple of years or up to 50 ants whichever comes first. I feel if you keep a smaller colony of larger ants you will become more attached to them individually.
Bull ant approaching nest entrance
she's showing some signs of intelligence here.
Cautious bull ant
You should always approach a foreign nest with caution.
Looking around their natural habitat I wouldn't be surprised if they reuse abandoned nests. Or even build upon an exposed earthworm tunnel.
She looks keen to go in so I'll be back shortly with an update.
 

 

 


Edited by CrazyLegs, January 11 2017 - 7:57 PM.

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#15 Offline CrazyLegs - Posted January 11 2017 - 8:53 PM

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After watching her make her way around the tunnels it became clear that I would need to modify them to accommodate two way traffic.

End of the line
Did I just come that way
I will have to add some more turn around areas and extra tunnels to allow alternative paths back and forth.
Lets have a rest
In hindsight I should've put her in before I did the clay seal but that's no big deal.
Lets head back
Have another rest

I took her out and popped in a nigrocincta. South East Queensland is crawling with them.

Much more space

There is plenty of space in there for ants this size.

Time will tell which queen I will find.

Sometimes it seems you can't pick your ants but more they pick you, by pure chance. ;) 


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#16 Offline Leo - Posted January 12 2017 - 12:37 AM

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cool :D


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#17 Offline CrazyLegs - Posted January 12 2017 - 2:56 PM

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The results from a little modification and reseal.

Crocodilian tunnel mods
I might just squeeze another turn around chamber on the short end.
Tunnel mods
 

 


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#18 Offline Kevin - Posted January 12 2017 - 4:20 PM

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That is actually quite beautiful. Goodluck again :)


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Still developing formicaria, we shall see what I create.


#19 Offline CrazyLegs - Posted January 13 2017 - 3:39 AM

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I was debating with myself over whether or not it was necessary to seal around the edge where the Hebel meets the glass. 

But at the end of the day if you don't do it your ants are going to drop rubbish down there and over time it will most likely be a mess.

I suppose it will also keep the nest a little more humid than the surface.

I wanted to be able to get this thing out again at some point and wasn't too keen on silicone.

I ended up going with a terracotta, air drying modelling clay.

modelling clay
I knew it was going to be difficult to match the color of the Hebel but my choices were terracotta or white. I'll deal with that later.
For now I washed some river sand that I had put through a sieve to get my desired size granules and spread it out on some paper to dry.
Washed river sand
I actually ended up putting it in the oven to dry it faster, it was taking too long. :whistle:
I rolled out long thin noodles with the clay and pushed it into the crevice with the back end of a paintbrush.
Try to do it without using water at this stage just to keep it as clean as possible. You can clean any mishaps off the glass later on.
Just keep coming back as it slowly dries and going over it with a well wrung sponge.
Then I used the brush to press in some of the river sand.
Sealing the nest
 
Myrmecia like to cover their larvae in small rocks to help them out when they pupate. So I put a small amount down into the tunnel area as well.
 

 



#20 Offline CrazyLegs - Posted January 14 2017 - 10:12 PM

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I wasn't happy with the stark contrast of the terracotta and the Hebel so I made two cups of tea. ;)

One white with two sugars and the other a half cup, black with three tea bags.

Almost complete

I happily drank one while I let the other sit to cool.

I used a pipette to squirt the tea around the formicarium.

It won't look like its doing much but when it dries the result is quite good.

Tea stained
I will just need to pierce the terracotta seal and squirt some down the front and side as well.
Morning sun
 

 


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