3 Foot Tall Ant Nest with Foraging Area- Authentic Natural Simulation

Picture of 3 Foot Tall Ant Nest with Foraging Area- Authentic Natural Simulation
Did you enjoy catching ants a a child? Still a child? Want the ultimate setup with a complete natural simulation of a real environment? Tired of Uncle Sam's Ant farm's with limited possiblities? Want a colony in the 10's of thousands, not a couple of hundred?

Join the craze that is flooding Europe! Construct the ultimate Ant formicarium at home in just a weekend.

This instructable will guide you through the process of creating an Ant nest from Ytong and an attached foraging area.
Unlike many formicarium setups this unit is almost identical to what may be found in the wild.
The foraging area is located at the top of the ant nest, simulating a real world environment as closley as possible.

Your ants will not only move in quickly, they will also thrive due to the enclosures natural characteristics.

This formicarium comes complete with an automated irrigation system for the Ytong nest, it also has active humidity/temperature read outs via a wireless connection to a LCD screen on the reciever unit.

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

Ytong- Autoclaved aerated concrete Purchase a pre-cast slab or alternativly create one from powdered product, such as plaster or gypsum. In other countries ytong may be branded Hebel blocks. You will find these at your local hardware / home DiY style store.
Product info http://www.xella-usa.com/html/us/en/products_and_applications.php

Carving implement- Dremel, tungstun carbide tipped 'score and snap' knife, screw driver.

Sandpaper of various grades

Set square

Flat head screw driver

Water based paint- A low VOC paint or one made with limited chemicals is preferred.
Product info http://www.eartheasy.com/live_nontoxic_paints.htm

Paint brushes / foam

Plastic tubing- 3mm, 10mm approx 1m of each.
Solid plastic tubing- 3mm approx 30cm.
Assortment of connectors- To suit 3mm tubing.
Valves- To suit 3mm tubing.
Small container- For water reservoir.
Smaller container- For water trough.
Cable clips

Humidity / Temperature sensor- Wireless preferably.

Glass / Perspex- To suit front chamber face size.

Glass and masonry silicon

Cardboard- Larger than the surface of the ytong.

Foraging Area

Container with clear lid- Approx 40cm x 20cm

Sand for ground covering


Plants- Dwarf species with low water requirements are best suited

Most of these items should be available at your local hardware store.

christopherj110 months ago

Cool. You should import these to the USA!

richie_1144 years ago
Very cool project! You can also use a "snifter" to collect ants though!
Lftndbt (author)  richie_1144 years ago
Certainly can, I use one all the time.
95styles5 years ago
thats really cool, good
Lftndbt (author)  95styles4 years ago
Thanks, you should give it a go! It's easy!
spikes05775 years ago
Great idea! You are a very creative person!
Congrats, continue giving us these instructables
Lftndbt (author)  spikes05774 years ago
Thanks Spikes! Though I don't post here anymore, I do still have my email linked to comments on my I'bles and I do read everyone still coming in.

Your's among the many stood out. All are great but your's I remember well and the "continue giving us these instructables".

I am strongly considering returning to the fold. Firstly perhaps I should reply to the many comments still left.

eNcHon4 years ago
wow what a nice instructable!!! congrats..:) wanna see an updated picture ants included and a working colony!!!
Lftndbt (author)  eNcHon4 years ago
The colony was released as I determined the legislation available on keeping the species was not defined enough for my liking. Possibly illegal, possibly not. I chose to go with the side of caution.
zascecs6 years ago
No, I never liked catching ants bacuase they were all fire ants. It hurts SO BAD when fire ants bite you!
zascecs zascecs6 years ago
My bad... because
Try bull ants. They make fire ants seem tame.
Where exactly did you get your valve system? I'm having trouble finding anywhere these mini irrigation systems or perhaps i'm just wording it wrong in searches.
Lftndbt (author)  Firestorm_1015 years ago
You shoudl find them at your local home depot style store. Anyone whom stocks irragation for the garden should have these for the drippers etc.
Thank you so much, you was correct in just looking at the local Lowes. I've modified the design a little though. I'm making a terrarium style ant habitat with soil and the like. And instead of the misting system, like I originally had mind for, I've stumbled upon another irrigation style. I'll be using a drip nozzle, with a measured reservoir set up above the case (It's been compared to a water tower several times by friends). So I can merely pour in an allotted amount, let gravity take its course and it will slowly drip into the soil, or perhaps even just drip down into a petri dish sized 'pond'. Its all in development, and if it gets elaborate enough I may even make an Instructable on it to compliment the other formicariums.
grundisimo6 years ago
how in theheck did you keep them in your enclosure.
Lftndbt (author)  grundisimo6 years ago
The clear lid keeps them in. ;-)
on the wood part i meant what you don't have mind reading powers either. DANGIT
Glass or acrylic plastic. That's used to hold it in.
goethes6 years ago
show some ants?
Lftndbt (author)  goethes6 years ago
Not at the moment. I am still sourcing an Australian bull ant colony. One of the largest species of ants.
myrmica pavida? there protected now so i dont think you will be getting them soon/cheap. if you do get them, THATS AWESOME. good luck
Lftndbt (author)  pyrotecnix6 years ago
Oh, by the way, I got a colony and queen, except I made an error on tunnel size, way to small for them to use this formicarium.
Lftndbt (author)  pyrotecnix6 years ago
myrmica pavida?? No, I do not believe that is the scientific name. There are several AB species. Brown, jumping, meat etc. I believe the one pictured is a brown. When you say they are protected, do you mean in a specific area? As far as I am aware, none of the Australian Bullant species come under protection laws. Do you mean in National parks etc? As I have not seen them on an endangered listing.. Could you provide more details about the protection laws? "so i dont think you will be getting them soon/cheap." I have a friend whom exports them legally, there are also hundreds of colonies in my suburb. One in my back yard infact.
the and and the yellowjacket?
Lftndbt (author)  ReCreate6 years ago
?? Sorry, I don't follow.
i meant ant not and
Lftndbt (author)  ReCreate6 years ago
no that is not my piture either.... It has been so google circulated now I can find the owner to credit it....
excuses excuses excuses...jk Just say its yours and the owner should pop soon...
Dorkfish926 years ago
If anyone wants free ants, come take the from my yard!!! You can have the entire hill! For free!! Oh, and nice instructable.
yeah and my yard you can take the whole ant pile!
you can also take the ones under my stepping stones.
why,don't you just love it when they all of the sudden swarm over the stones?XD :P
Hah Hah funny NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!especially not the soldier ants, they hurt
Ah,yes,Gotta love ants on your pants :P
Also, they can feel free to dig up the 3 from our front yard. We have one of fire ants and 2 of the common black ants.
lol also, if anyone takes my ants, take my wasps too, the ants need something to eat XD i am fed up with wasps stupid wasps...
Atomman6 years ago
Too bad, I don't have any glass or cage, or what the dirt is made of...
Spint6 years ago
I may have to try this when I move out. Great instructable!
Lftndbt (author)  Spint6 years ago
I would love to install one of these in a cavity internal wall of a house. That would be awesome.
Spint Lftndbt6 years ago
Like have an ant colony for a wall? Because I was thinking of that!
Lftndbt (author)  Spint6 years ago
Great minds. ;-)
Spint Lftndbt6 years ago
True that, true that.
ReCreate Spint6 years ago
grammar bad,grammar bad
Spint ReCreate6 years ago
avi6256 years ago
im in america i live in the suberbs how couldi get some ants and do u think i should get a queen also love the instrucible u destroy uncle miltons plastic crud
Lftndbt (author)  avi6256 years ago
You will find thousands of colonies in your local area. Check under bricks, next to downpipes, in rotten branches both on trees and on the ground. The idea is to locate ant trails and follow them back to the nest. I like to take a piece of ham, and break it into small pieces. I walk around and try to spot lone ants. Drop some meat next to them. they will return to the nest and get recruits. within an hour you should find a steady stream of ants return with food to the nest. Follow the ants back, normally you can guess the general direction they are travelling and skip ahead. Sometimes you need to follow a single ant for a bit. Ants generally lives for around 3 months, so for a colony that will survive for longer you need a queen. I must say though, maintenance of a queen and survival rate are not good. To start I would just find 40 or so ants to amuse you now, then try for a queen.
Cthulu6 years ago
Wow, Unlce Milton has got nothing on you. Just wondering though, why not use real dirt?
Hello, real dirt is dirty! YOu have to have clean ants so you can show off them Maybe they can stile tunnel through cement!
I'd think watching them make new tunnels would be half the fun.
Lftndbt (author)  musicalbee20036 years ago
Yeah but then your fun can be quartered by the tunnels colapsing on your queen/eggs. I forgot to mention in the I'ble that you CAN fill the Ytong up before putting the glass on. So in effect they tunnel there way through your path. I agree though, watching them tunnel awesome.
Cthulu Lftndbt6 years ago
Yeah, I was wondering about using real dirt so they could make their own tunnels. I never thought about the dirt having bad stuff in it. Cool Instructable.
Lftndbt (author)  Cthulu6 years ago
Ummmm, for the foraging area? Dirt like from your garden carries many many organisms / bacteria / moulds / funguses / pathogens etc. That's why I used sand. It also drains well and is less likely to start a mould problem. If I didn't understand correctly could you re-phrase slightly so I can be of more assistance. ;-)
gmjhowe6 years ago
Wow, that is one thing only.


Great work, and a well written instructable.
What i like, is that it is not that hard to create. You obviously spent alot of time planning/building, and it was worth it!

Have you got some ants in there yet?
Lftndbt (author)  gmjhowe6 years ago
Yes many an ant info forum was read. No ants in the unit so far, I am waiting to recieve a queen Australian Bull ant. They can grow up to 4cm in length. Alternativley I may go the Sugar ant colony but the aggresive bull ant would be more entertaining. I have a Sugar ant queen and several workers, yet I do not want to contaminate the formacarium till I recieve news on the Bull ants. Thanks for your comment
gmjhowe Lftndbt6 years ago
Good luck with it.
Lftndbt (author)  gmjhowe6 years ago
Oh... Just checked..... Thanks on the Feature too.
gmjhowe Lftndbt6 years ago
Your welcome, but you did enough work to deserve it.
Lftndbt (author)  gmjhowe6 years ago
LOL @ your addition tag.
gmjhowe Lftndbt6 years ago
WoW There are so far away they look like ants. Well maybe they are ants. \ / :_:
Lftndbt (author)  Pyrotechnic-Robot6 years ago
LoL, yes maybe there are. ;-)
SoapyHollow6 years ago
Wow, dude! Go you. Igor saw this as I was looking at it, and now wants to build one. It'll have to go outside because of all the critters...as I see disaster looming on my horizon with goofy 80 pound puppies and 1000 ants in the house. But an outside project, this is something I think we'll do this spring.
Lftndbt (author)  SoapyHollow6 years ago
That is great to hear, sounds like fun indeed!! Outside sounds like a good option. Thankyou for your comment, I hope he and you have fun!!
emopants926 years ago
Great instructable, love it one question on step 6 all the tubing is to get water to the ytong, but confused? Is the water going to soak through the ytong into the chambers?(along with having the trough on the top), and you said it was gravity feed, how are you putting the water in the tubes / where is the water source coming from ( because I don't see any water source in your pictures) -thanks
Lftndbt (author)  emopants926 years ago
Yes the water saturates the ytong block from inside out. The trough on top is just an easy way of pouring in sucrose water. The water source for the ytong is a container located to the rear of the foraging area. This container has a 3mm tubing glued into it. The tube is then connected to the two on the rear of the block. The two tubes then connect to the valves and then to their respective set of ports drilled in the surface. It is a basic gravity flow sys, that splits off in two lines to the the top and bottom of the block.
Matt4_166 years ago
wow that is intense
Lftndbt (author)  Matt4_166 years ago
Mattrox6 years ago
Finally an instructables on ants that is not about how to kill'em. whoop whoop *eheheh*
Lftndbt (author)  Mattrox6 years ago
yes, I noticed there are many on destroying them.
BeanGolem6 years ago
Reminds me of the episode of The Tick where ants coagulate into people shapes and steal all the glass from the city and make a gigantic magnifying glass to burn on the humans in a giant ant-farm style human farm. Oh. and now the mustache episode. Man, what a great show. Great I'ble too.
Lftndbt (author)  BeanGolem6 years ago
lemonie6 years ago
Ants will be our masters...

Lftndbt (author)  lemonie6 years ago
LoL, I shall remember to close the vents then when unattended
capricorn6 years ago
Wonderful, I will never have the courage to build it but it is a remarkable piece of work. Bravo :)
Lftndbt (author)  capricorn6 years ago
Really it is not that hard. You can make smaller versions also. Thank you