Amazing work CrazyLegs. Martialis had mentioned you on a thread I'd posted regarding a Ytong/Hebel nest build that I'm going to be starting on Wednesday myself. I did a quick search on you and this awesome thread came up. Have to compliment you on the workmanship on display here, really admirable stuff and looks like I have a lot to learn after seeing your work.
I was wondering if I could get a few opinions?
I'm in the process of building three Ytong nests, one for a Messor barbarus queen and approximately 30-40 workers with brood, a Myrmica rubra colony consisting of 3 queens and 40 or so workes and a load of brood and lastly a Lasius niger queen with around 10-20 workers and some brood. I'm going down the route seen in your first designs which are, should I say all-in-one designs, where the nest is directly inside the outworld. I'm looking to do a similar build to yourself, albeit with much smaller chambers and tunnels in keeping with the fact that I'm catering to the needs of smaller species.
I was wondering how the sponge hydration port used in your first nest worked out? This is the same concept I've wanted to incorporate into all of my nests. Did it work effectively? The only species of the three I have I am concerned about with regards to hydration are the Myrmica rubra as they are very much a moisture loving species. To that end I'm thinking about either drilling 3 reservoirs to cater to two thirds of the nest, with one area left 'slightly drier to give them a slight moisture gradient. I'll fill the reservoirs with with a fine mesh tube and fill that with either sponge or clay granules. Do you think that would be effective in this instance at all? Or do you find water towers in the bottoms of the nest to be more effective?
I will be incorporating digital hygrometer/thermometers with probe into each build, and will be citing (or hiding) the probe element within the nest itself so that should help with adjusting hydration.
Next, as I'm placing the Ytong nest directly into the outworld, in this case 30 X 20 X 20cm glass aquariums, would you recommend sealing them (the nest) at the edges against the glass? perhaps with silicone or grout?
Once the nests are carved I intend to leave them to soak in a tea mixture. The mixture will basically just be a couple of buckets of boiling water with 10-20 tea bags in that are left to soak. Once the bags are removed I'll just weigh down the nests and let them soak for a time. Then they'll be placed into the aquariums and the sides sealed against the glass. Once this is accomplished I'm intending to dab over the surface with a thin layer of 50/50 grout and white sand. My hope is that it'll dry to leave a sand effect surface to the top of the nest and outworld.
I've also decided that I'll build the nests with plenty of space for the colonies to grow into, but will plug out the connecting chambers with a small amount of dirt (enough to slightly block off the tunnel) leaving an entrance to the outworld and 6 or so chambers exposed. My theory is that as the colony for each species grows, they'll naturally dig out the small amount of dirt blocking the tunnel and expand into the new open chambers. If I could get an opinion on this too, that would be great. Do you think that's an ok option to go with?
That's about it I think. I'll post pictures as the project develops.
Really sorry for all the questions and the rather large post on your thread as I don't want to hijack it or anything. Hope you don't mind.
Again, fantastic work and I'll be checking back to see your updates. Well impressed with your work and you've really given me some great inspiration here.