♦ Planar observatory nests

Planar observatory nest for termites

Hello fellow termite enthusiast!

Let me introduce you to the planar observatory nests for termites, initially insipired by methodology of scientists M. Lüscher (1949) and Chouvenc et. al (2011).

Basic idea: These nests are good nesting option for primitive termites. Within our european area, we can talk about termites of Kalotermitidae and Rhinotermitidae families, described also as single-site nesting ecological group of termites. Basic idea of planar observatory nest is simple. It consists of two glass/ plexiglass plates holding termites and their nesting material in between the glass. Space left between glass/ thickness of the nesting material provides just enough space for 1 animal to move, so you can observe all your termites at once.

As sideway walls you can use glass or any solid material of proper thickness. As said, this thickness limits any posibilities of the animals to hide from your sight so it should be from 2-3 (small species) to 5mm fat. Logically, leaving inner space wide or wider than 5mm means leaving more space for termite activities. And as you know, termites as creatures of darkness, actively avoid any contact with light.

Positive thing on planar nest is the ability to change dirty top glass slices for clean ones. But 5mm space combined with small termite species (Prorhinotermes, Reticulitermes) will continue with termites hidden behind thin layer of feaces and dirt, layer placed between termites and glass. This is what happen after few months of nesting activities in planar nest with nesting space thicker than 3-5mm. Until you wont change glass slices for cleaned ones and destroy protective walls build by termites, most probably you wont be able to observe all actions ongoing within the termite nest. What I´m aiming to- breeding in thicker nest is possible, but you have to count with more frequent changing of the top slices.

Technical background: Ideal material for planar nest is glass, or acrylic plexiglass. For sticking bottom plate and sideway walls, transparent aquaristic silicone should be the option #1 or screws and nuts when it comes to plexiglass. There should be 3 sticked sideway walls and 1 (shorter, 4.th wall) side left unconnected. You can stick external sideway edge of this free wall with 5-10mm thin slice of glass/ wood/ plastic/ metal, leaving just 1mm (or less) gap between surrounding walls on the corners. 1mm or less slot between the free wall and it´s lateral walls is enough for air circulation but prevent termite workers escaping out and drafts which are naturally happening during manipulation with the nest. If you choose 3mm glass, you end with 9mm thick planar nest. All 3 layers can be binded with paper binders, modeller rubber or cable tie.

Termite inhabitants: As nesting material for termites, which serve at the same time both as nest and as source of food, you can choose from wood, wood-dust or mixture of agar+wood dust. I advice to sterilise every material used (steam pot is fine for this job) and clean glass with strong alcohol, acid or chlorine-containing disinfectant. Whole planar nest can be kept in a bit bigger plastic box with hygroscopic substrate on the bottom (perlite, macadam, keramzit or river sand). Parameters as temperature and relative humidity should be maintained according to species of the termite, but basically most Kalotermitidae and Rhinotermitidae species thrive best in 23-27°C and 70-80% RH. For better observation and less stressing your animals out, you can cover both the bottom and top surface of the glass with red transparent plastic sheet.

 Sources: M. Lüscher: Continuous Observation of Termites in Laboratory Cultures, 1949                                                                                                                                                        T. Chouvenc et. al.: Planar Arenas for use in Laboratory Bioassay Studies of Subterranean Termites (Rhinotermitidae), 2011

By using several slices of glass instead of one single plate, you can change wood and material in the arena easily and minimize stressing of your termite. Whole planar nest is simple, easy and can bring you many unforgettable moments and photos of termites 🙂 And much more, because same principle can be used for breeding miniature cryptic ants and other dark-loving soil fauna!

Filip Repta, 23.07.2017 & 17.12.2020




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