How to Build an Ant Nest | AAC Modular Formicarium

Hi guys, my name’s Jordan, and in this video,
I’m continuing on with my how to build an ant nest series, or as it’s technically
known, a formicarium. In the previous episode, we covered the tubs
and tubes method. A very fail-safe way of raising ants, especially
within the early stages of ant colonies development. However, as we learned, it wasn’t that great
appearance wise. With their cylindrical shape, test tubes often
resulted in an unclear, distorted view of the ants within. So, in this episode, I’ll be showing you
guys how to build something a little more sophisticated and ideal for observation. Utilizing a medium, known, as AAC. So, what exactly is AAC? Well, it’s essentially a very strong, and
lightweight building material, made of autoclaved aerated concrete, AAC for short. It’s comprised entirely of non-toxic, raw
materials such as sand, cement, lime and gypsum. Originally developed in Scandinavia over 70
years ago, it’s now widely used within people’s homes all over the world. And, in our case, it’s going to make for
a perfect little home, for our, ants. AAC can be found at most hardware stores. Depending on where you’re from, it may be
sold under different names, such as hebel, ytong, and aircrete. I got this this large slab from my local hardware
store for under $10. A very reasonable price considering how many
nests this could potentially make. Now, onto the build! For this guide, I wanted to keep things as
cheap and simplistic as possible. So, no heavy machinery involved. Just common household items. First, what you’ll need is your screen. What you’ll be observing the ants through. I’m going to be using a glass slide from
a spare picture frame. And an old c-d case, which I’ve carefully
cut to my desired size using a hacksaw, like so. The plastic can be quite prone to cracking
and scratching, so work your way through nice and slow. I like to give the edges a quick sand with
a filer, just so it’s nice and smooth. A bit of sand paper would work fine too. The size of your screen should depend on the
size of the colony you plan on housing. A common mistake I find beginners make, is
that, they provide their ants with far too much nesting space. Ants prefer inhabiting small spaces, in which
they feel safe and secure. And too much space, often results in the ants
piling up their garbage within empty nesting chambers, instead of their foraging area. Left within the humid confines of the nest,
this garbage could then potentially promote harmful mold and bacterial outbreaks. So only allow for a little bit of growing
room, if any. These nests aren’t hard to make. So, you can always make a second one, once
the colony looks to be outgrowing their first. For this tutorial, I’m going to making a
couple of nests. One for a young colony of Banded Sugar Ants,
Camponotus consobrinus, which have around 50 workers, and lots more on the way. And, another for a single giant bull ant queen,
Myrmecia simillima. So, once you’ve found an appropriate sized
screen, with a pencil, carefully trace its dimensions onto the brick. I’m giving mine around a 10mm margin. Which will be clear as to why, later on. Then, using a saw, carefully work your way
through. This can get a little bit messy, so you might
want to go outside first this part. And you might want to work on a nice solid
table too. You can see mine is moving all over the place
here, which made the process a little more difficult than it needed to be. Once you’ve cut out your shapes, place your
screen in the center, mark out the corners, and then, we’re going to be creating another
10mm margin, this time on the interior of your screen. This marked area is the safe zone, where we
can form tunnels and chambers, without fear of the edges chipping off, or overextending
upon the borders of our screen. Now, comes the creative part, working out
how you want your nest to look. First, work out the fundamentals. Here I’m marking out where the nest entrance
holes are going to be situated. This is where you’ll be connecting up some
vinyl tubing. Acting as tunnels to lead the ants to their
foraging areas and additional nesting space. Figure out which sized tubing you’re going
for. Then, trace it out. For this small nest, I’m going with a single
hole, and for this larger one, one on either side. Just make sure the holes are positioned at
least 10mm from the surface, so as to improve its strength. Once you’ve got the basics of the nest down, start working on the finer details You can make it as simple…or as elaborate as you like. For this nest here, I’m going for some slender tunnels and a few islands too. You’re really only limited by your imagination… So get creative! Just remember to keep the size of your ants in mind. These narrow tunnels here for example might not be best suited for larger species. Like Bull Ants. Then, we’ll need to work out a hydration system. There’s many ways to go about this. For this nest, I’m going to be drilling
out a tiny hole. Which will reach through to this chamber here. So, using an instrument like a syringe, I’ll
be able to simply inject water directly into the nest. Again, at least 10mm from the surface is ideal. Another way to go out it, is to apply the
same method, but instead of the hole connecting directly to the nesting area, it goes into
a separate section. Inaccessible for the ants. Ideal if you’re planning on housing a tiny
ant species, which could potentially crawl into the watering holes used in the first
method. For both nests, I’m putting one port on
either side, that way I can hydrate each side alternatively. Doing this will limit the chance of mold and
fungi outbreaks, as the humidity conditions won’t remain stable enough for them to thrive. Once you’re happy with the design, it’s
onto the fun part, carving out all the chambers. The material is surprisingly soft and easy
to work with. All I’m using are some flat-headed screw
drivers, combined with a hammer. I like to chisel around the outermost parts
and slowly work my way in. AAC can be quite brittle, so take your time,
and don’t apply to much pressure. Especially when you’re creating thin tunnels
and islands like this one. You might want to also play around with elevation
changes, making some parts deeper or shallower, and creating slopes and steps in between. As this nest is going to be housing a giant
bull ant, I’m giving it a little extra depth, around about 20mm should be plenty for her. Here, I’m carving out the hydration chambers. At least 10mm in depth for these. Alright, carved out. You can see the layout on this nest is a little
different to what I originally envisioned. In part due to the brittle, unpredictable
nature of the material. And also, just me changing my mind as I went. Not everything goes to plan. So once the carving done, it’s time to create
the entrance holes. I like to first start with a small screwdriver,
and then gradually work my way up. Ideally you want the hole to be as circular
as possible. To ensure a tight, escape proof fit, you’ll
want the hole just a little bit smaller than what you’ve traced out. To test it out, submerge the tubing in some
hot water for a little while, and then screw it in like so. Alright, all fitting nicely. Next, it’s the hydration holes. For these I’m using a miniature screw driver. I want the hole only just big enough for a
syringe to fit in. Perfect. Now all the cutting and drilling is done,
I like to smooth the nest interior down with a filer, and a bit of sand paper. Really rounding out all the tunnels and chambers. Of course, this stage is just optional. If you like that more rough and jagged look,
then just leave it as is. You will want to get rid of those pencil marks,
though. So give the face a very light sanding. Just make sure you sand flat and evenly, so
your screen ends up sitting flush on top. Finally, I like to file the edges of the nest. So it’s nice and rounded. A subtle change, but I think it looks much
nicer. And then, clean up any imperfections. Like the blue paint here which rubbed off
from my saw blade. Once you’re happy with how it looks, make
sure to give it a thorough clean. A brush combined with a dust blower works
well. Better yet, I like to use a vacuum cleaner. Much easier. Alright, looking good. Now, this next part is totally optional, but,
I like to give my nests a bit of colour. The paint I’m going for is made entirely
of natural, earthy ingredients, such as chalk and clay. So, it’s completely non-toxic, perfectly
safe for the ants. I’m giving this nest a coat of green. And this one orange. Because AAC is an incredibly porous material,
it helps if you water down the paint a little. That way it’ll seep into all the cracks
and crevices nicely. You’ll notice I’m leaving the interior
of the nest unpainted. I kind of like the look of ants on a white
backdrop. Bright colours, like white, do a good job
at reflecting light. Thus, illuminating the ants within, and allowing
you to see an incredible amount of detail. I like to give it a couple of coats, for a
nice solid finish. Personally, I think a coat of paint is a must. As you can see, it instantly transforms the
nest, almost into a piece of art. Plus, it goes further than just aesthetics
too. After numerous testing on our range, now on
our shop, we discovered, a coat of paint or two greatly improves the water retentive qualities
of this material. In this experiment, both of these nests here
were injected with 4ml of water, and after 4 days sitting at room temperature, the unpainted
nest on the right, dropped in humidity much quicker than the painted model did. The ants will appreciate that consistency
in humidity. And it makes it easier on the keeper too. You won’t need to hydrate the nest nearly
as often. So, it’s definitely worth giving it a coat
or two. Speaking of hydration, once the paint has
dried, if you like, you can add some sponges into your watering chambers. Which will, again, improve the system a little. Sponges help the water disperse more slowly
and evenly upon injection, and also help retain humidity a little bit longer than otherwise. Just be careful that the sponges you use don’t
have any added, harmful chemicals. I’m using some regular kitchen sponges,
which come in some nice vibrant colours. Now, comes the final stage, securing your
screen on to the front. First, you’ll want to give
the inner side of your screen a good clean. Ideally with a micro fiber cloth. It helps if you look through it over a white
background, so all the dust stands out. Once its looking nice and clean, secure it
onto your nest using some hot glue or some silicone. Just make sure they’re non-toxic formulas. But, to keep things extra simple, I’m securing
mine with a colourful, non-toxic, putty-like adhesive, known as Blu-Tack. Carefully roll it up into a long, even strand… and then, press it down around the edges of your screen. I’m rolling mine down with my paintbrush
to get a nice smooth finish. I really like this approach, as it makes the
removal of the screen, later on, extremely quick and easy. As a finishing touch, I like to stick some
soft safety pads to the bottom. Now, everything’s pretty much done. But, there’s just one thing missing…the
ants! Now, assuming you’ve been raising up your
colony in a tubs and tubes setup, like I’ve been with these guys, all you have to do now,
is connect your new nest up to their foraging area. Just use a fairly sort section of tubing. This way, the ants won’t have to travel
very far to find their new home. Again, soften the ends in some hot water,
and screw them in. Make sure you’ve sealed off any extra
entrance holes. I’m using a bit of cotton ball for mine. Alternatively, you could attach up a water
reservoir, like a test tube, half filled with fresh water and blocked off with some cotton. This way the ants have an easily accessible
source of drinking water, and additionally, the reservoir keeps up the humidity within
the nest, too. To entice the ants to move in, what you’ll
want to do, is first, hydrate the nest. AAC acts like a sponge, water soaks in, and
gravity pulls it down, into the base of the material. The water then evaporates upwards, providing
the ants with a slow and steady release of humidity. How often, and how much you water, will depend
on the particular species you’re raising. Some ants prefer a relatively dry nest, whereas,
others, prefer a saturated one. So, if they don’t seem interested at first,
play around with the humidity. I’ve learned that this Bull Ant and Sugar
Ants here, prefer a fairly dry nest. So, I’m adding in around 4ml of fresh water,
and I’ll do the same in another 3-4 days or so. If you’ve opted for a simplistic hydration
system, one where the water injects directly into the nest. Make sure to seal off the holes with a bit
of Blu Tac when you’re done. Even if the ants you’re housing are too
big to be able to fit through them, wild ant colonies might not be. So, this will prevent foreign ants from discovering
the nest and potentially attacking, and raiding its inhabitants. Once your nest has been hydrated, cover it
up from light. A little business, or playing card works nicely. Now, it’s just a matter of waiting. Sometimes the ants will discover the nest
and move in almost straight away, and other times, they may take days, even weeks. As I often say, ant keeping requires a good
deal of patience. The key is to continually experiment with
the humidly, until you find something that they really like. As you can see, my sugar ants here are in
desperate need of a new home. They’ve outgrown two giant test tubes. Just look at all that brood! So, almost as soon as I hooked up the nest,
workers came in curiously to inspect the new space. And once the word got out to the rest of the
colony, instantly they started moving on in. It wasn’t long before all that brood, and
the most important member of the colony, the queen, was relocated. She seems very relaxed, which is a great sign
that she’s settled into to her new home. The Bull ant queen was a little apprehensive
with her new nest. It took her a few days before she was happy
with it. Now, she looks right at home. She even brought some sand in with her from
her foraging area. If you remember from my “bull ant showcase”,
we saw that their larvae often required some form of substrate in order to properly spin
their cocoons. So, now that the ants have moved out of their
old nests, unless you have a test tube attached, it’s best keep a tube or two back here. That way they always have access to water,
just in case the new nest dries out. Visually, this new setup is such a drastic
improvement upon their former homes. Now, you can see almost everything the ants
are up to in high clarity. It’s so easy to lose hours just staring
away at these little guys. So, what do you guys think of these little
creations? Not too bad, right? And all through utilizing cheap and simplistic
tools and materials, like c-d cases, screwdrivers and Blu Tack. It really is something anyone can do. And, of course, if you do have access to machinery
like powered drills and jigsaws, all the easier. I always feel a great sense of satisfaction
from building my own nests. It really allows you to get creative, fulfilling
both your personal aesthetics needs, and more importantly, allows you to design something
specialised for your ants, and their needs. Like in my case for example, where I carved
out some extra chamber depth to accommodate for my giant bull ant queen here. But, of course, I understand, not everyone
is the crafty type. So, that’s where we come in. We build our nests from this same material,
AAC, in a range of sizes, to suit virtually everyone’s ant keeping needs. If you want to know how we make these particular
models, check out our store unveiling video here. There’s definitely many ways to about using
this material. Instead of going for modular designs like
these, for example, where the foraging area connects up to the nest externally, perhaps,
you can go for an all in one design. Where the nesting area sits up vertically
within a container, and the foraging area is positioned on top. Giving you more of a 3D dimensional design. We’ll be looking at how to build all in
ones in my next video, so stay tuned for that! Now, onto our regular contest. For this video we’ll be giving away 2 of
our size 1 ytong nests. First, to the winners of last videos contest. Last time I asked you guys, what was the most
abundant ant species in your area. Sadly, in my neighborhood, mostly what I seem
to find, are these guys, the highly invasive, Argentine Ants, Linepithema humile. They’re completely taking over. A lot of the native ants I used to come across,
like Bull Ants, Furnace Ants, and even, the super abundant, Green-headed ants, are becoming
rarer and rarer to find. So the lucky winner is…Ali, all the way
from California, who took some photos of some Argentine Ants. Unfortunately, they too have taken over his
area. These ones were farming some sap sucking bugs. Consuming their honeydew, and standing guard
to defend them from predators. Some great shots Ali! And now, to winner here on YouTube. Congratulations to…Ant Noob, who answered
Aphaenogaster longiceps, commonly known as the Funnel Ant, for their habit of constructing
steep concave shaped nest entrances. Perfect for entrapping unwary prey. We’ve recently got my hands on some queens
of this species. Very unusual looking things. I’ll be sure to make a video on these guys
soon. For the next videos contest, I want to know
what you guys are housing your ants in. Whether it be in a ytong nest like these ones…acrylic
nests…or maybe you’ve gone with a naturalistic dirt setup. And let us know how your ants have settled
in to this environment. If you’re not an ant keeper yet, maybe just
let us know what your ideal setup would be. I know when I first learned about ant keeping,
my dream, was to have a huge colony living within a transparent nest, like what I’ve
now got with my Argentine Ants here. So, same deal as last time. Post your answers in the comment section below. And send us a photo of your current nesting
arrangement, or perhaps a sketch of your desired setup, over on Instagram. Just remember to tag, or include the hashtag
#antsaustralia so we can find it. As always, thanks for watching this video
and I hope you enjoyed.

100 thoughts on “How to Build an Ant Nest | AAC Modular Formicarium

  1. were did you get that paint from? I've looked online I've looked in every store in Melbourne. The non toxic paint that I'm using at the moment doesn't go onto the ytong very well even if I do 5 thick coats. Thanks 😀

  2. I absolutely love your video's I find them very fascinating. I am curious about the paint you use – is water based acrylic paint ok? I am confused why the ingredients would matter if the ants aren't touching it anyway? Thanks again! Love your work!

  3. Question. What would the AAC be called in the US? We don't really have a clue and nobody seems to understand what we are looking for. What block could we use? Maybe a link from a home depot or something would be appreciated. Thank you. My son is stoked to start build an antfarm.

  4. I got a slab of AAC like yours for less than a Dollar…
    I also used a stood drill to get nice vertical walls an an even depth!
    greetings from germany!

  5. Hi, in about 20 days time I'm going to start raising an any colony and this is really helpful, im actually addicted to your vidios so thank you

  6. Wow, I c y Mikey said we should check out ur channel :-D…. 2 questions tho: r ants visually blind? As in no eyes specifically…. 2nd question: does each egg always only hold 1 ant in each 1?

  7. Oh I know of a little tool that carves into ACC like a dream!
    It's some little metal Ball with spikes, that is put in a drill. can't remember what they a for nor named.
    but you can just draw the ants nest into the ACC all at the same depth. the use a normal drill bit to make tunnels to the next room here and there.
    i'll look for a way to send some pics to Ants Au.

  8. Unfortunately, it seems not everywhere has caught onto AAC yet (especially North America). However, there are some similar alternatives which may be more easily accessible. I've heard of people having success with "perlite brick" and "firebrick".
    Hope this helps!

  9. Ant australia and ant canada is country+ant so i think there is ant usa ant amerika ant england ant india ant china ant thai land😎😎

  10. Do you know that i have alot of ant in my house i feed him with just one rice and all of the ant is still strong do you know why WRITE THE AWNSER AT THE REPLY!!!!!😎😎😎 (i know the awnser)

  11. Hi man! I am so greatfull for that video! I spent last weekend building nest by your design – now it is full of ants and look so great and cool! All you recommendation were extremely helpful. Thank you so much!

  12. wanting ot have a ant colony but i cant aford to get a set up maybe one day we have black ant here

  13. Thank you for the tutorial, mate! I spent several extremly hardworking hours making my own formicarium by your guide – it was fun, simple and made me experience simple joy of making something usefull by my own hands. I even put effort to make paint on my own, used clay and flour – but it was a fail in the end. Paint got cracks all over and eventually because of watering it was covered by mold. As a workaround I dried formicarium, removed all handmade paint and used acrylic paint instead. It works fine for me.

  14. I live in Australia. last year I was riding home from school before I got into keeping ants. I saw a a sugar bandit queen ant with its wings of and very thing. I stoped to look at it for about ten seconds then moved on. I regret this now because I really want a colony of sugar bandit ants…rip

  15. Hi, thank you for making this video. My eight-year-old son has been following it to make his own formicarium. We have purchased kitchen sponges from Coles, but we noticed on the back of the packet it says do not use in aquariums. Every sponge in the shop said the same. Do you know if the sponges are safe for the ants?

    Also, we tried to order the same paint as you but they are out of stock. It looks like they have been out of stock for awhile. I have looked for other options but not found any other paints that look the same. Is there any chance you know of another brand?


  16. I got a lot of money so i bought a aquarium and some dirt for my carpenter ant colony and it's not doing great because the queen is not laying eggs my dream ant setup was the AAC one but there's no markets are selling AACs

  17. Does chalk paint work well on ytong? When I use it on other things it always peels off and afterr a few weeks it loses saturation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *