Plants and Animals

Molten Aluminum Makes Casts of Ant Nest

May 6, 2014 | by Lisa Winter

Photo credit: Anthillart.com/YouTube

Ants are highly social creatures who live in colonies made up of hundreds or thousands of members. Red imported fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) are a highly aggressive species that have a painful bite, and they can destroy crops and eradicate birds, lizards, and ground-dwelling bees from an area. 

Humans often use poisons to get rid of these ants to protect their home and property, but one artist is using something different: molten aluminum. The aluminum is carefully poured into the top of the ant hill, and the metal goes throughout all of the tunnels and settles into all of the crevices. Once the aluminum has cooled and the dirt has been washed away, the cast makes a perfect representation of the nest’s internal structure. Yes, all of the ants die in the process, but given the ants’ invasive nature and the abundance of the species, it’s hardly worth losing any sleep over. 

Making models of the nests allow scientists to study differences between species, as not all ants make the same nests. For instance, carpenter ants have simple nests with only a few tunnels and these red imported fire ants have highly complex networks of rooms and tunnels. 

While these casts are put up for sale from time to time, this particular cast is not for sale as of yet. If you’d like to be updated as to if/when it is made available, you can follow the artist’s Facebook page for updates.

Check out more of the process here:

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