"Arm-y" Ant Farm V1.0 - Stay in Touch With Your Colony




About: I want computers to be wilder. https://www.instagram.com/hikinghack/ https://twitter.com/HikingHack https://www.youtube.com/user/blorgggggg https://github.com/quitmeyer

Intro and Theory
In my research and design, I need to study the behaviors of insects, particularly bees and ants. There are many methods for learning about the actions and procedures of these other forms of life. You can read books and journals, analyze video footage, and even perform experiments. These are all terrific methods, and have their own particular strengths and weaknesses, but one factor that I felt was missing, was the ability to understand the creatures within their own timescale.

Often we build mental models of the interactions  whose descriptions elide certain aspects of the total process. For instance, we could say that, given a certain pheromone, a colony of ants will do X, but often these descriptions skim over the tiny interactions which add up to the gestalt behavior, and which may take really long periods of time.

Additionally, an important part of deeply understanding these actions comes from being immersed in their behaviors. More immersive methods of biological study could help humans analyze the subjects' activities consciously and subconsciously. If one could actually live directly with the ants for an extended period of time, I believe that new understandings would arrive that would not normally be accessible through even very intense short term analysis.

For this reason I have designed the very first stage of what I am dubbing the "Arm-y" Ant farm**. Basically it is an Ant-farm that you can wear DIRECTLY on your arm. The hairs on your arm give you constant feedback as to the minute actions of your colony and provide a good anti-gravity substrate for your friends to climb around in. 

Also it's fun! and weird!

(NOTE** I would not recommend actually putting army ants into the device (or any other painful ant). It's just a corny pun people!)

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Step 1: Materials

  • Bank Tube
  • Dremel
  • Ants (preferably non-biting/stinging)

Step 2: Obtain a Pneumatic Tube

This was one of those tubes that you get from a drive up bank and accidentally forget to give it back. But you don't need to steal one, even on accident! Here is a place you can buy your own http://www.banktubesdirect.com/ (yeah that's seriously the URL!)

Step 3: Chop Off the Ends

Unscrew the caps at both ends and dremel out areas that will fit your arms. Lock it in a vice to keep it from moving all over the place.

Chances are that your forearms are too uneven along their lengths that you cannot use the full tube. You will have to chop off one of the ends to fit the narrow part of your arm.

Step 4: Fit, Sand, Refit

To get it comfortably on your arm, but still secure takes a good amount of sanding, cutting, and refitting. 

Step 5: Load in Ants, Start Dual-Life

Your arm hair gives them a good substrate to crawl in and hold on to,  and prevents them from flying all over the place when you move your arms.

Try to keep it on for at least 24 hours. Granted, because your arm is a strange environment and I didn't load in the whole colony, you won't really be experiencing typical life of ants, but it is a unique, interesting experience. One thing I noticed was that I would get phantom ant-crawly feelings on my opposite arm!

Step 6: Future Designs

Some problems are that the device gets pretty sweaty, it is hard to load and unload because you need to open the entire thing, and the end pointing towards your elbow does not have a sharp cutoff, meaning that the ants love to wedge themselves in the smaller and smaller space between your arm and the lid. Anyone have good ideas to make it not soo sweaty and more secure?

I was thinking of having it attach to your arm via a breathable diaphram on both sides that would tighten around your arm for a smooth fit instead of just carving the rigid ends to fit.

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    53 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    First person to make one and post a pic of their Arm-y ant farm in action gets a 1 year pro membership!

    I noticed slight red marks on your arm maybe foam meshes at both ends could help air it out and smearing hot glue on the foam to keep it from sliding around

    I'm goning to go to school wearing a long sleeve shirt and act casual bout it and only when someone asks "What's that in your sleeve?" respond with "ANTS"

    1 reply

    7 years ago on Introduction

    wait it's like squeezing your arm and what if your wrist is like too skinny and the ants crawl all over you


    7 years ago on Step 5

    How do you keep them from biting you?


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    see step 2 "Obtain a Pneumatic Tube"

    This was one of those tubes that you get from a drive up bank and accidentally forget to give it back. But you don't need to steal one, even on accident! Here is a place you can buy your own http://www.banktubesdirect.com/ (yeah that's seriously the URL!)


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Oh. I'm in that part of Instructables again.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I agree with PaulMakesThings, some kind of foam would be great for comfort, yet still keep an ant proof seal. I was thinking just some of that weather proofing foam tape used for doors and windows would work pretty well too.

    In regards to what the ant-activists are saying, I don't think it's a big deal. It's still a fun, offbeat idea. You seem like someone that knows enough about ants to keep them safe. Plus, it's not like it's a permanent home for them. Worst case scenario, about ten ants get lost on your arm for a day, then are returned home. Well, on second thought, worst case scenario would actually be you encounter some sort of sci-fi radiation and you become an ant-human hybrid mutant. Then the government hunts you down and turns you into a super weapon of some sort and you are forced to use your superhuman ant powers (tough exoskeleton; ability to lift 50 times your own weight, etc.) to destroy entire armies against your will. But whatever, you get the idea.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Inspiriatiinal! This project is exactly why I love instructables - without it I wouldn't right now be considering the pros and cons of a beehive hair do that really is a beehive, or pondering the relative merits of wearing a work-in-progress neck tie, i.e. with a silkworm in situ at its bottom, spinning away like crazy... And it's all in the quest for knowledge of course, light years away from that 70's dude who had a goldfish swimming around inside his glass platform shoes.... Seriously, I LOVE this