The internets have been abuzz with this photo today:
ant nest

It’s a photo of an aluminum cast of an ant nest made by Walter Tschinkel, a Florida entomologist–but there haven’t been a lot of additional details.

The nest you are looking at is one of a Florida harvester ant, and appeared with many other photos and casts in a 2004 paper about nest architecture in the Journal of Insect Science.  They are things of great beauty, and tell us a lot about how ants build.

The uppermost portions of a medium-small Pogonomyrmex badius nest

The uppermost portions of a medium-small Pogonomyrmex badius nest

This series of photos, for example, shows how the complexity of the nest structure grows as the colony adds workers.  You can find more amazing photos of different types of ant nest casts here in a 2012 article.

There is even a video of the process of making these casts! And yes, don’t do this at home. Even if Dr. Tschinkel did publish detailed instructions on all the different ways to make an ant nest cast.  I am looking at you, Mr. Treelobster.

I would be remiss if I did not also link to this older video that uses ten tons of cement to discover the extent of a much larger African South American ant nest. (I am told it’s Atta vollenweideri, and it was dug up in South America. Thanks for the correction!)

Tschinkel W.R. (2004). The nest architecture of the Florida harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex badius., Journal of insect science (Online), PMID:

Tschinkel W.R. (2010). Methods for Casting Subterranean Ant Nests, Journal of Insect Science, 10 (88) 1-17. DOI:

Posted by Gwen Pearson

Writer. Nerd. Insect Evangelist. Have you heard the good news? BUGS!


  1. Thank you very much for that. This presents a marvelous opportunity for me to combine my day job (I’m a metallurgist) with my entomology hobby! I think I need to do some zinc casts of a lot of different kinds of insect holes that I’ve been wondering about around the yard.

  2. Oh, cool! Can’t wait to see the photos! And please don’t burn your face off, I’ll feel guilty.

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