Walter R. Tschinkel
Journal of Insect Science 10 (88), 1-17, (1 July 2010) https://doi.org/10.1673/031.010.8801
KEYWORDS: charcoal, dental plaster, Formicidae, melting aluminum, melting zinc, nest architecture
The study of subterranean ant nests has been impeded by the difficulty of rendering their structures in visible form. Here, several different casting materials are shown to make perfect casts of the underground nests of ants. Each material (dental plaster, paraffin wax, aluminum, zinc) has advantages and limitations, which are discussed. Some of the materials allow the recovery of the ants entombed in the casts, allowing a census of the ants to be connected with features of their nest architecture. The necessary equipment and procedures are described in the hope that more researchers will study this very important aspect of ant natural history.