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Should the moisture be visible in these nests?

acrylic formicaria nests chinese sponge

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#1 Offline cfreidsma - Posted August 7 2018 - 2:10 PM

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I recently got these nests, and I am putting them through a test run with no ants. I put grout in the little one, and the vertical ones do not as I don't know exactly how I would add grout without messing them up anyways.

 

I've added the water and everything. They have been sitting for a few days now, but shouldn't there be some visible moisture? I'm just trying to figure out if maybe I need to tweak/modify them a little. 

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#2 Offline Major - Posted August 7 2018 - 2:16 PM

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Acrylic formicariums tend to use capillary action to maintain humidity. There usually should be some wetness visible between the sheets of acrylic. Get a cheap humidity probe from eBay or something and check it out. Shouldn't be to much of a concern. Don't move your ants in until you are sure that the hydration system is working.
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#3 Offline drtrmiller - Posted August 7 2018 - 2:42 PM

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Condensation droplets form when the dew point is reached.  Dew point is the temperature below which water condenses at a given relative humidity.  In order for water to condense in any enclosure kept in a typical, temperature-controlled room, the humidity has to be very high—typically 85-99%—and there has to be a drop in temperature.

 

The closer the humidity is to 99%, the less of a temperature drop is required for condensation to form.  For example, when the relative humidity is 85% at a temperature of 78 F, the temperature must drop to 73 F before condensation droplets will begin to form.  At 99% humidity at the same temperature, only a 0.3 F drop is required for condensation droplets to form.

 

Because acrylic nests typically have a lot of air flow between the acrylic layers, the humidity inside the nest is likely to be very close to the surrounding indoor air.  To increase the humidity, simply apply an extremely thin layer of white Elmer's glue—or better, wood glue—to the outside, between each layer of acrylic.  This glue dries clear, and is water-based and non-toxic, so it is completely safe for ants.  The glue will get sucked into any small gaps where air might enter, sealing them, and thereby increasing the humidity, making it more likely for condensation to form when the temperature decreases.

 

Using an online calculator to calculate the dew point at a given temperature and relative humidity, one can easily determine the relative humidity inside any enclosure by simply measuring the temperature at which water begins to condense.


Edited by drtrmiller, August 7 2018 - 2:55 PM.

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#4 Offline CoolColJ - Posted August 7 2018 - 3:00 PM

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Your grout is not going to get moisture from the hydration unless you wet it directly


Current ant colonies -
1) Opisthopsis Rufithorax (strobe ant), Melophorus Sp1. (furnace ant) red and black, Melophorus sp2. black and orange
9mm queen red head/black body Phediole sp, 7mm queen all black Phediole, 2x Phediole sp. red head/black body 8mm queens
Polyrhachis rufifemur, Camponotus suffusus

Journal = http://www.formicult...sp-furnace-ant/

Nasutitermes fumigatus/dixoni subterranean pet/feeder termite colony journal = http://www.formicult...ournal/?p=96808


#5 Offline cfreidsma - Posted August 7 2018 - 6:30 PM

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Condensation droplets form when the dew point is reached.  Dew point is the temperature below which water condenses at a given relative humidity.  In order for water to condense in any enclosure kept in a typical, temperature-controlled room, the humidity has to be very high—typically 85-99%—and there has to be a drop in temperature.

 

The closer the humidity is to 99%, the less of a temperature drop is required for condensation to form.  For example, when the relative humidity is 85% at a temperature of 78 F, the temperature must drop to 73 F before condensation droplets will begin to form.  At 99% humidity at the same temperature, only a 0.3 F drop is required for condensation droplets to form.

 

Because acrylic nests typically have a lot of air flow between the acrylic layers, the humidity inside the nest is likely to be very close to the surrounding indoor air.  To increase the humidity, simply apply an extremely thin layer of white Elmer's glue—or better, wood glue—to the outside, between each layer of acrylic.  This glue dries clear, and is water-based and non-toxic, so it is completely safe for ants.  The glue will get sucked into any small gaps where air might enter, sealing them, and thereby increasing the humidity, making it more likely for condensation to form when the temperature decreases.

 

Using an online calculator to calculate the dew point at a given temperature and relative humidity, one can easily determine the relative humidity inside any enclosure by simply measuring the temperature at which water begins to condense.

I'll pick up some glue the next time I go out to a store. I've taken them apart for now, and will do a reset after applying the glue. They have all three warped already though. Maybe after the glue and everything they will be fine. 

 

Now, do I go along the outside of the formicarium (after it is put together) with the glue? Or do I put glue in between the layers by the outer edge while putting it together? Maybe I'll try putting some grout in these also. Won't hurt to try I guess. 


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#6 Offline Trythis22 - Posted August 7 2018 - 8:07 PM

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On humidity, basically what drtmiller said. You would definitely have a great humidity gradient with that nest, but of course the concern is whether or not there's enough of it. I don't think your ants are going to dehydrate as long as you feed them, but a nest that is too dry is going to impact performance of many species. Two solutions exist that I personally would do right away, which I'll mention after giving you a way to pour grout in that nest. Your comment that you are willing to tweak/modify your nest is encouraging. 

 

Good that you've disassembled it. Remove the cover, insert the bolts again and screw in the nuts to keep everything together, create some forms with cardboard and tape to the sides to hold the grout, then pour your grout in those spaces. Reattach cover. You will need to be creative on some parts of that nest, but it definitely can be done. However, CoolColJ is right that grout has a hard time absorbing moisture from the air unless everything around it is soaking wet. You'd have to re-imagine this entire design to expand the amount of contact areas that sponge is going to have with the grout. The water reservoir will need to get bigger to hold about 300-1000% more volume as well. On that note, it's interesting why such a big nest has such a small water tank; none of my business. I have some ideas but you might not want to implement them. Let me know if you want to go all out and I can tell you how. It seems that you want to add the grout because you are concerned about formic acid. 

 

- See that sheet with the narrow slits that go against the sponge? Make them wider. Were they trying to ration out the water? Drill some holes if you can. This will create more surface area for the water to evaporate, increasing saturation in the immediate area. Or just cut out that piece completely. 

- Heat the water. If you have a form of heating you use for your ants, apply it to the bottom of that formicarium. This will create a heat gradient, but more importantly it means that the upper levels that are colder will reach dew point and begin to have condensation forming on the acrylic. Heat also increases the rate of evaporation, increasing RH%, making it easier for condensation to form. 

 

Like drtmiller implied, ventilation reduces humidity. However, it's an odd suggestion to glue the entire outer shell to prevent moisture from leaking out. It certainly is the fastest and cheapest(?) way to do it I suppose... Actually the fastest and cheapest way is to boil water, put some in a bowl, and place both that bowl and the formicarium in a small, enclosed space. Funny but that might be just what your formicarium needs to get started unless the gaps between the acrylic are huge, which I doubt. To me, the problem is not too much ventilation, but too much area to humidify and too little area for water to spread out. That is the real problem you have to deal with sooner or later. Both of which can be fixed, but may require a bit more investment on your part. I'd be happy to help but I won't waste time detailing a redesign/remodel that will never happen. If you're interested, just say so. 

 

If the warped(?) pieces are causing holes, fix them. Tighten the nuts and bolts properly and that nest should be watertight? Airtight is not equal to watertight but it doesn't matter since water molecules are larger than the ones found in air not to mention hydrogen bonds. Unless I'm missing something crucial about your nest, I don't see why you'd be losing too much moisture due to airflow. Once again, the real problem is the ratio of area to humidify versus means to do so. While other solutions exist, the two mentioned above are the most simple ones: Cut larger holes and heat the water/bottom of formicarium. 



#7 Offline drtrmiller - Posted August 7 2018 - 11:07 PM

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Now, do I go along the outside of the formicarium (after it is put together) with the glue? Or do I put glue in between the layers by the outer edge while putting it together? Maybe I'll try putting some grout in these also. Won't hurt to try I guess.


Smear an ultra thin layer of glue between the layers with a cotton bud (q-tip) after assembly.  You only want enough so that it dries to form a thin, skin-like jacket to prevent airflow between the layers.

 

 

 

@Trythis22 - While it is clear you have a great working technical knowledge in many areas, it would behoove you to have some hands-on experience with commercial laser-cut acrylic formicaries before offering speculative advice that is more likely to cause an effect the opposite of the one you probably intended.

For starters, acrylic is notorious for absorbing moisture in the air. While no plastic has an absorption capacity as high as a material like wood, acrylic warps in a similar manner as wood after being exposed to heat or humidity when fasteners either aren't installed, or aren't evenly spaced to provide uniform clamping force.  Even sub-millimeter warping can allow smaller ants to escape an enclosure.

Without the addition of an adhesive or elastic material between each layer, water-tightness is not generally possible with this type of assembly, hence my suggestion to smear PVA glue between the cracks to fill any gaps, which is a non-destructive, easily reversible technique I and others have practiced with success.

Over-tightening the screws and nuts must be avoided to prevent the brittle material from cracking instantly, or crazing over time, as well. They really shouldn't be much more than finger tight for this application.


Edited by drtrmiller, August 8 2018 - 12:52 AM.

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#8 Online DaveJay - Posted August 8 2018 - 3:35 AM

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Nothing much to add except that a simple way to check whether the water tower is adding to the humidity, and perhaps how sealed it is would be to simply take it out into the (relative) cold at night, the outside pieces cooling should mean condensation will form. It should be heaviest near the water source and lighter furthest from it. No condensation or condensation only in very close vicinity to the water source would indicate that the humidity is not penetrating into the nest.
Where/if condensation has formed a clearly defined clear area around the edges with no condensation would indicate a lot of air exchange around the perimeter.
Climatic conditions can effect the outcome but in general, and in most climates it should work as a basic guide.

One thing that comes to mind is that a better humidity gradient might be formed by sealing the edges near the water source and allowing increasing amount of ventilation moving away from it.
Speculation on my part, I have no experience with these formicariums, but ventilation is key to creating a decent humidity gradient in my experience with many types of enclosures.

#9 Offline CoolColJ - Posted August 8 2018 - 1:59 PM

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I personally would not glue these nests, as then you will not have a way to open them up to clean.

Just gaff tape up the sides, which leave no residue, or a waterproof type tape.

 

These nests work fine as is, without having visible water forming

And they can last up to 2 or more months with just one test tube refill.


Current ant colonies -
1) Opisthopsis Rufithorax (strobe ant), Melophorus Sp1. (furnace ant) red and black, Melophorus sp2. black and orange
9mm queen red head/black body Phediole sp, 7mm queen all black Phediole, 2x Phediole sp. red head/black body 8mm queens
Polyrhachis rufifemur, Camponotus suffusus

Journal = http://www.formicult...sp-furnace-ant/

Nasutitermes fumigatus/dixoni subterranean pet/feeder termite colony journal = http://www.formicult...ournal/?p=96808


#10 Offline Trythis22 - Posted August 8 2018 - 4:52 PM

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drtmiller, well, you got me there. I have zero interest in ordering one of these or moving on the acrylic when I haven't reached proficiency with glass yet. I think it's inevitable as an ant keeper to stay away from acrylic forever, but that's down the road. 

 

While acrylic and other thermoplastics are much more sensitive to thermal expansion than glass (about 10 times!), we are talking about maybe a 10 degree F increase from room temperature for ants. Generally, movement is approximately 0.00984" per foot length for each 20 degrees F of temperature change, or 0.062" per foot for an increase of 100 degrees F. Now, for our application, a 10 degree increase would mean 0.14mm expansion per foot. Think about how small a millimeter is, then cut that length in half 2 times. Decrease that length by actual length of acrylic divided by 12". That's big enough to fit three ant legs inside and not much more? So I'm not sure if that's really a concern here. 

 

Finger tight is the way to go for nuts and bolts meant to be removed. So my point was that finger tight should be enough to prevent meaningful loss of water vapors inside the formicarium.

 

The glue is odd but it'll work for sure. I was just questioning whether or not that will solve cfreidsma's problem of too little humidity to a meaningful extent. On that note, as long as the sponge is wicking properly I don't think condensation is a requirement for a successful formicarium. Ants get the majority of their water from food. So all of us might be putting the cart ahead of the horse..? CoolColJ seems to have experience with these nests and it's worked for him. 

 

The bottom line is that we are all here to offer advice to cfreidsma. It's his nest and up to him to decide what he wants to do with it. I hope I've made my points clear. I really don't think I need to clarify this but I will just in case: You need proper tools to work with anything in life and an understanding of how to use those tools. 



#11 Offline CoolColJ - Posted August 8 2018 - 5:22 PM

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I know of someone who has these two nests housing Iridomyrmex bicknelli

 

quote - They're actually quite good. The water tubes last about 2 months in summer. Winter much longer. I filled them up 2 months ago and they're like 2/3 full still

 

The ants actually blocked up the entrance to the outworld and made a tunnel through it.

Hydration is sufficient as these are more on the wet loving side ants

 


Edited by CoolColJ, August 8 2018 - 5:24 PM.

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Current ant colonies -
1) Opisthopsis Rufithorax (strobe ant), Melophorus Sp1. (furnace ant) red and black, Melophorus sp2. black and orange
9mm queen red head/black body Phediole sp, 7mm queen all black Phediole, 2x Phediole sp. red head/black body 8mm queens
Polyrhachis rufifemur, Camponotus suffusus

Journal = http://www.formicult...sp-furnace-ant/

Nasutitermes fumigatus/dixoni subterranean pet/feeder termite colony journal = http://www.formicult...ournal/?p=96808


#12 Offline drtrmiller - Posted August 8 2018 - 5:45 PM

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While acrylic and other thermoplastics are much more sensitive to thermal expansion than glass (about 10 times!), we are talking about maybe a 10 degree F increase from room temperature for ants. Generally, movement is approximately 0.00984" per foot length for each 20 degrees F of temperature change, or 0.062" per foot for an increase of 100 degrees F. Now, for our application, a 10 degree increase would mean 0.14mm expansion per foot. Think about how small a millimeter is, then cut that length in half 2 times. Decrease that length by actual length of acrylic divided by 12". That's big enough to fit three ant legs inside and not much more? So I'm not sure if that's really a concern here. 

 

Nobody has said anything about expansion!  I mentioned that the material warps.

 

warp: become or cause to become bent or twisted out of shape, typically as a result of the effects of heat or dampness.



#13 Offline dspdrew - Posted August 8 2018 - 6:21 PM

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That's big enough to fit three ant legs inside and not much more?


Legs of what species? There are some very small species of ants.

#14 Offline fleetingyouth - Posted August 8 2018 - 7:23 PM

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I ordered one of these but haven't put it together yet. What I was wondering is with the vertical nest is it just exposed whenever its in the light or is there a way to cover the nest and leave the Outworld in the light? 

 

Also was it the nest or outworld pieces that warped?



#15 Offline Trythis22 - Posted August 8 2018 - 9:00 PM

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drtmiller, 10 degrees above room temperature is enough to warp acrylic? Please provide a source for that claim. I assume that is a Chinese nest; the climate in most parts of China exceed 80 degrees regularly in the summer and it is very humid there. If the product begins to warp at the slightest offence, you've just been ripped off. We are not dealing with extreme temperatures, we are dealing with ants. From what I can see, that nest is bound together with bolts and nuts so structurally, all the pieces act as one unit, which gives further resistance to warpage. I am more than willing to change my mind if you provide evidence that 80 degrees will warp acrylic to a point that ants can escape. I think you do an excellent job describing conceptual ideas, but sometimes one must put things into proper perspective. 

 

Hi dspdrew, 3 average human hairs would not be able to fit side by side in my example. I will use Tapinoma Sessile workers, since their measurements are available from a third party. Head length/width: HL, 0.68 ±0.06 mm; HW,0.63 ± 0.08 mm from a guy named Hamm: http://www.antwiki.o...apinoma_sessile. I don't think they actually have measurements for ant legs but if one ant's head needs to shrink to 25% of its normal size to fit in that gap... you know. 



#16 Offline cfreidsma - Posted August 9 2018 - 7:31 PM

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Thanks for all the information everyone.

I'll look for some glue/tape Friday. Believe it or not, I do not have regular glue. Also, would these sorts of tape work fine? The waterproof medical tape will probably be easier to find.
https://www.amazon.c.../dp/B000FNHOV0/
https://www.amazon.c...t/dp/B00EUGCT22

 

I ordered one of these but haven't put it together yet. What I was wondering is with the vertical nest is it just exposed whenever its in the light or is there a way to cover the nest and leave the Outworld in the light? 

 

Also was it the nest or outworld pieces that warped?

By default, the nest is exposed to light. Mine didn't come with any sort of cover or anything, but it wouldn't be that hard to cover it. Something really thin could be put in-between the nest and the outworld when putting it together. The other side could have a notecard over it, and have a piece of tape holding it up. Then you could just lift it up to view them. Or a cloth could be put over top of it. 

 

It looks like the only part that has warped any after drying is the very bottom of the small formicarium (not the vertical ones). 







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