Making a DIY sandwich-style nest
Offline - Posted June 7 2023 - 4:32 AM
I've always loved the idea of the sandwich-style nests that allow ants to tunnel while still remaining visible. I'm making one now for a new Pheidole colony I have coming in the mail.
Picked up a handful of €2 photo frames (A4 paper size) and broke out my glass cutter. After many, many failed attempts at cutting the super thin side pieces, I gave up and cut some thick strips of plastic. I used the trusty method of "silicone the living heck out of it" to make it water-and-Pheidole-proof.
For my first attempt, it certainly could have been worse. It holds water in a little reservoir at the bottom, and my existing Pheidole colony have already started making their tunnels.
But there's a handful of flaws.
First off, the side pieces are bigger than I'd like, giving the nest a width of 1.5cm - for a tiny species, this is too big IMO.
Second, how the heck are you supposed to properly silicone the inside when it's SO thin? I placed the silicone, then set the glass. But it needs to be smoothed down to be water/Pheidole-tight. I ended up using a metal chopstick dipped in soapy water to smooth the silicone against the glass. But it seemed impossible to avoid smearing silicone up the inside when I needed to add more, and when removing the chopstick. I was not able to clean all the smeared silcione off the inside, so there are some blurry areas.
I'm starting my second attempt now. I did some research, and finally found a way to cut super thin strips of glass. These are just under 1cm, so when the nest is put together it should be about 1cm wide. That solves problem 1.
But problem 2, I have no idea how to fix. How can you silicone the inside without smearing/making a mess of it? There must be a way, because some companies make these nests from glass...any ideas?
Offline - Posted June 7 2023 - 5:02 AM
If you construct it out of acylic, you could use acrylic cement. This would negate the issue of siliconing the inside and even the outside. If you want to use glass, for the narrow sides it would be easier and more simplistic to use a piece of wood or other material that has two slots running the length that the glass panes slide into - you can put silicone or epoxy in these slots. Optionally, you can 3D-print ends that have slots and ports for tubing. In some labs, they put a thin piece of wood in between the panes and simply use binder clips to keep it together.
This is a Pogonomyrmex formicarium from ASU.
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Offline - Posted June 7 2023 - 11:49 AM
First, I must congratulate you on your ability to cut those thin strips of glass! It's difficult to cut glass at the best of times. Cut yourself some slack, for a first attempt you've done an admirable job.
As for your problem #2, I hope these suggestions will help.
Silicone your strips to the ends of the larger pieces of glass, not inside them. That way you can minimize the opportunities to get silicone on the inside of the large panes. Use pieces of wood between the large panes to hold the glass the right distance apart for the siliconing process. Make sure the glass is absolutely sparkling clean and apply the silicone thinly and evenly by using a popsicle (craft) stick to apply it. The best tool for smoothing silicone is a wet finger. Keep cleaning and wetting your finger and get a nice smooth application before you put the pieces together and do the same with the squeeze-out on the outside once the pieces are clamped. Don't overwork it, one clean swipe should do the trick. Practice makes perfect. If you want to put the glass strips on the inside, you could do something that worked for me, I put a thin coat of Vaseline on the parts I didn't want the silicone to stick to, like the pieces of wood. I can't guarantee anything, but if the greased pieces of wood are put right up against the pieces of glass, they should stop any stray silicone from going any further, and the wood should pull out, fingers crossed. Thinly coated pieces of plastic instead of wood should pull out even better. Make sure you let the silicone cure for 24 hours before you remove the pieces of wood from between the glass.
Or you could put the pieces of wood right at the edge, against the strips of glass and silicone them there permanently. This, I think is your best option as it will give you a much more stable construction in the long run and if the ants chew through the wood, the glass will ultimately stop them. The strips don't need to be very wide to be effective and you can paint them first if you want them to look pretty. You could alternatively put the glass on the inside and the wood on the outside. Silicone the glass strips to the wood first and let them cure overnight for either of these options. This will make assembly the next day very easy.
Some final tips. Rubbing alcohol will help lift silicone from glass for cleaning. Use a bigger piece of wood on the bottom to act as a solid base. Don't forget to make holes somewhere in the setup for connection to outworlds, feeders etc. Silicone isn't glue, it doesn't necessarily stick to everything forever. It does come away from glass in damp conditions, especially if the glass wasn't absolutely clean when the silicone was applied. I would use clips on the edges for secure, worry-free attachment. When you fill between the panes with substrate, leave room at the top for the material the ants will excavate unless you want to remove it when it starts to get too high.
One last tip- Saliva on your finger works much better than water for smoothing silicone.
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Ants - All for one and one for all.
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