Ytong, also known as lightweight concrete, is available at hardware stores. It’s a great material that is easy for you to mold as you wish, and it can also be re-moisturised over and over. It’s ideal for keeping ants!
You need: 1 piece of ytong, 1 piece of glass, something to carve through the concrete. Extras: an arena, a tube to connect it with.
Buy a piece of ytong. They usually come in around 40-60 centimetre bricks with a thickness of about 10 centimetres. The prices are relatively low. You’ll find it in your hardware store.
We also need a piece of glass to keep the ants inside the ytong nest. We don’t want any escapees! If you can’t get a hold of glass anywhere, sacrifice an old frame or something similar that you have at home. Why not buy one? It might be a good idea to make it a size smaller than the concrete, so that you can adapt them to fit together. You’ll probably find it easier cutting ytong than cutting glass.
Make sure you have a good glue to bind the materials together. It is important not to choose something with toxins, since it might kill the ants. Try silicone for aquariums or something similar, or ask someone in your local hardware store.
You’ll also need something to carve out the concrete with; creating tunnels and chambers for your ants.
2. Tunnels, chambers and water hole
When everything is ready, it’s time to start sketching out the layout of the nest. Use a pen to mark out how you want your tunnels and chambers to be. It takes some energy carving out concrete, so a prepared blueprint is a good idea. Use tools that fits you. Try different ones, and make sure not to break the brick in two.
Since ytong absorbs moisture, it is a very practical material for ant keepers. Make a water hole outside of the area where you’ll put the glass. Right next to it will do. You will need to refill this water hole from time to time, and the glass will not be openable. You can cut the glass in two parts if you want to, providing a separate enclosure for the water hole.
The size of the hole is up to you! Just don’t make it too small. Maybe the size of a small water glass is good?
Make a hole for a test tube
It’s a good idea making sure the nest can connect to other things. So, carve out an entrance where you can connect a tube. When the colony grows bigger, it is an easy match to connect it to a bigger formicarium or arena. And you can always plug the hole with cotton or something to keep the ants from escaping.
When you’re done with the carving, start polishing the surfaces of the ytong. If you don’t, there will be pieces coming loose later on when you’re moving the nest. We don’t want a mess, right?
We’re almost done. You might have noticed that the ytong nest sheds a lot of dust when worked upon. If you’re done with the carving and polishing, rinse the brick clean with water. Let it dry.
3. Fixate the glass
Your brick of ytong is now more than just a brick of ytong. It’s almost a formicarium! All that remains is fixating the glass to the top of the ytong. This is where your toxins-free glue or aquarium silicone comes in handy. Apply it and then put the glass on top of it. Let it dry and air out! We don’t want the ants dying from the fumes.
4. We’re done!
A few hours of work, and some time to dry, and we have a practical and good looking nest for our ants! Let them move in either by connecting an arena or their current nest. Or maybe just a tube with a test tube at the end? It’s up to you.
For more information about how to take care of your ants, see Nutrition and Care!