Methods for casting subterranean ant nests

Walter R. Tschinkel

Department of Biological Science, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306-4370


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.

Keywords: charcoal, dental plaster, Formicidae, melting aluminum, melting zinc, nest architecture


Received: 10 September 2008 | Accepted: 20 October 2008 | Published: 2 July 2010

ISSN: 1536-2442 | Volume 10, Number 88

Tschinkel WR. 2010. Methods for casting subterranean ant nests. Journal of Insect Science 10:88, available online:

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