Choice No 2.
A. Your Atta display is all housed within a single unit. The nest tank, foraging walkway and feeding area are all contained within a glass fronted unit and all parts of the display are visible at the one location. Normally the walkway will be in the form of a vine or rope which will be coiled back and forth to allow for a longer walking time between the nest and the feeding compartment.
Now you have chosen Atta, a large scale exhibit, what sort of Display are you thinking about?
There are basically two ways to display Leaf Cutters. Firstly they can be housed in a single large display cabinet where all parts of the display are within the case. The visitor comes to the display case and is able to visually access all parts of the life story of the ants, the leaf cutting, transporting the leaf fragments back to the nest and the many parts of the behaviour within the colony, underground. This choice forms the basis of this step.
You have selected the single unit housing. Here we create a nest chamber at one end. This will normally show the fungal gardens of the ants. The display can be set up as if the ants are seen underground or the fungus can be housed within clear nest containers so all of the details are visible. We will then incorporate up to 20m of walkway in the space between the nest and the feeding area,. This will be suspended from the ceiling of the unit. The ants will make their way along this to the feeding ‘tree’which will normally have several platforms onto which food leaves can be placed, Lighting is incorporated into the roof and all life support requirements are catered for by various items of equipment installed throughout the unit. The ideal overall size of an exhibit such as this would be around 3000mm long, around 2100mm high and 500-600mm front to back. However larger or smaller units can be constructed and we can accommodate specific sizes in order to fit within a certain space you may have in mind at your attraction.
B. Here you will keep the nest and the feeding area separate. In this option we will run a walkway between the two. This can be up to 50m long! 50m, in an indoor environment, gives you the option of running the walkway through other exhibits or have the ants walking to different parts of your attraction. In the past we have used this technique to have the ants cutting leaves at the ticket desk of a tropical zoo in Sweden where the ants came through the floor from the nest situated on the floor above. This meant that visitors could see ants disappearing into another part of the building and would become intrigued to see more. Walkways can be at waist height through clear plastic pipes or overhead, in a butterfly flight area, on rope or vine. We will look at walkways later in this questionnaire.
By far our most popular setup. Leaf cutters are at their best when they are spread out over a large area. Some things to bear in mind though. The room temperature of the areas where the walkways are running through have to be kept at least at 19C or the ants will stay in their nest. This may not be such a problem since during the winter it is more economical to feed the ants in their nest and shut down the outlying walkways, especially in a tropical glasshouse in a country that gets cold in winter. Of course the walkway may be in an area that is heated all year round which is perfect. One of the advantages of this type of setup is that, when one walkway gets overcrowded with ants, it is easy to set up another walkway to another feeding area. In this way the display can grow and grow. In one instance we set up a display which eventually had 11 walkways radiating out from it.