Casting a Field Ant Colony with Molten Aluminum (Cast #071)
- Published: 11 February 2015
- This is the first video showing the casting of a field ant colony with molten aluminum. The resulting field ant colony cast is impressive, being more similar in size and complexity to a fire ant colony than the small and simple colonies of other species that have been posted. This is Cast #071 and it is 17.5 inches deep and weighs 10.4 lbs. (45 cm, 4.7 kg).
You can see pictures of this cast and other details at http://anthillart.com/castings/071/
The bubbling of the aluminum during the pour is the result of the air being pushed out of the colony. I initially didn't mention this in the description, just to see what people thought was the cause. A lot of people knew that was the cause. Some didn't but I didn't realize that was the cause at the time since it never happened before. The reason it doesn't happen on other casts is that the tunnels on this cast are much larger, allowing the aluminum to flow quickly to the bottom without hardening.
It's a good time to mention that I do this safely with full protection and am in no danger of being burned by flying pieces of hot aluminum. You never know what can happen when pouring molten metal into the ground so I'm always fully covered.
The colony has a single opening with a series of wide flat chambers beginning just below the ground surface. Deeper in the colony, two long tunnels extend from the wide chambers and have smaller chambers spaced along the lengths of the tunnels. The tunnels are on average around 0.5 inches (1.2 cm) diameter, which is much larger than those of a fire ant colony and more similar in size to the tunnels of a carpenter ant colony.
There are several names for ants in the Formica genus (wood ants, mound ants, thatching ants, and field ants). I prefer to call them field ants and it fits the behavior of the ones I have observed since they mostly nest in or near open areas and I have yet to see any in wooded areas. These particular ants have been identified as being in the species Formica pallidefulva.
When their colonies appear and I notice them, there is usually a single colony entrance (but can be several) with 100s of ants pouring out of the colony removing dirt and discarding it around the opening creating a mound. After a few days they stop removing dirt, having finished the colony apparently. The mound eventually washes away from rain, leaving only the colony entrance visible. These ants seem to abandon their colonies fairly often and I have seen them do that and start a new colony nearby. The ants in this colony had done just that and built a new colony approximately 15 feet away. I'm not completely sure why they do this but have read that it can happen when the original colony becomes inadequate for some reason.
So, it was logical to assume that this colony was abandoned (although there's no way to know for sure) and that was confirmed with near certainty after the casting. Anyone who has read this far please relay that information to the comments section. Thanks.
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