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Q: Ant Mound Tunnel Sculpture ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   2 Comments )
Subject: Ant Mound Tunnel Sculpture
Category: Arts and Entertainment
Asked by: ensor-ga
List Price: $8.00
Posted: 30 Mar 2003 15:59 PST
Expires: 29 Apr 2003 16:59 PDT
Question ID: 183383
A friend told me about once seeing a facinating type of sculpture made
from ant mounds and molten lead.  You pour the lead into the ant mound
and are left with an image of all the tunnels.  The only reference 
I've been able to find through googling is in an article from 1995 
about Burnet, TX, where someone sold them on the roadside 
as "Fire Ant Art."

I would like to know if this man still exists; if not, where else I
can buy this type of art today.  Also, how much it will cost.  Thank
you for your help.
Subject: Re: Ant Mound Tunnel Sculpture
Answered By: robertskelton-ga on 30 Mar 2003 16:53 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi there,

I only found one other reference to this type of activity, in the
right-hand column of a religious newsletter:

"If you see a group of youngsters searching for fireant mounds while
equipped with a blow torch, ladle and a supply of lead, you can be
sure that Ben Mauldin of Heidenheimer, Texas, has been making
disciples again.  At a recent weekend campout at Inks Lake, Ben could
often be found surrounded by kids, while he huddled over the ant
mounds, pouring molten lead down the holes.

After the liquid lead had filled the passages in the mound and
hardened, Ben turned the young-sters loose to dig up the mass, wash
the dirt away with water, and reveal an intricate lacework of lead
outlining the subterranean passages.  The result was dubbed to be
"fireant sculpture."

One parent commented, "Ben does a good job of teaching the
is just what he teaches that is sometimes puzzling!"

He is a plumber who also creates jewelry, so it is reasonable to
assume he would be willing to make fire ant art to order:

Ben's business details are here:

Search strategy: ant "molten lead"

Best wishes,

Request for Answer Clarification by ensor-ga on 31 Mar 2003 11:52 PST

Thank you for your quick work, but it does not completely answer my
question.  The religious newsletter article looks promising, but the
second link of your answer, to Ben Mauldin the jeweler, references
someone currently living in Connecticut, not Ben Mauldin living in
Heidenheimer, Texas as is indicated in
the first link.  This leads me to believe the plumber and jeweler are
separate people, and not someone that "would be willing to make fire
ant art to order."  I am wary of calling his plumbing business number
and asking for a custom-made sculpture without some guarantee that
this is more than just a passing hobby to him.

What I am looking for is someone who sells this art say at a gem show
or trade show and how I can make a purchase.  Also, I still have no
idea as to a possible cost for this type of art, as I requested in my
initial question.

Clarification of Answer by robertskelton-ga on 31 Mar 2003 15:22 PST
I've sent off email enquiries to Mr Mauldin (the plumber, not the
jeweler, sorry about that...) and the man who wrote the piece located
by denco-ga.

I'll keep you informed.

Request for Answer Clarification by ensor-ga on 04 Apr 2003 14:50 PST
I found a few other leads that turned out to be dead ends.  Maybe
they'll be of more use to you.

First, I found this reference on a Country Life Discussion forum by a
Mike Taylor:

"I still think pouring molten lead down their tunnel is the most fun
way to eliminate the buggers. Plus, you can mount and sell the

I tracked down his email address and his reply was:

"Don't know anyone that sells them.  I saw a guy selling them at a
market once up north of Austin.  That was several years ago."

Another reference was found at a site listing methods for fire ant

"Method #28 - Hot liquid metal.

I understand it is an interesting art to pour hot molten iron or other
metal substance into a colony of ants. Usually only with larger ants
like red ants. It will go down the holes and turn solid. Of course, it
kills all the ants too. Then you can dig it out and you have a
tree-shaped piece of solid metal which gives you an idea of how they
design their ant pile and where the rooms with the little eggs and
such are.. "

The owner of the site replied he read about it on a website years ago
and could no longer remember the address.  He suggested searching on
Google... ;).

One last thing I tried was to contact the Fireant Festival in
Marshall, TX, through the Convention and Visitors Bureau:

I am still waiting to hear back from the festival coordinator.

Please let me know if you've had any more success; I'd be tempted to
pour my own with the information in the article found by denco-ga, but
I live too far in the Northern US to find fire ants.

Clarification of Answer by robertskelton-ga on 04 Apr 2003 15:39 PST
Hi again,

I sent out three emails, including one to Doug Petty (thanks to
denco-ga) and one to Walter Tschinkel. Neither have replied yet, which
is unfortunate because Walter appears to be a top expert on the
subject - he is a leading ant biologist who also makes casts of ant
nests, using dental plaster:

However, the good news is that Ben wrote back today and says:

"I have made several "Fire Ant Sculptures" but have never sold any. I
just made them to entertain the kids. They can be three or four pounds
up to ten or more and take the shape of the mound. Since they are
lead, shipping would be considerable. I would send one for $10 per
pound post paid."

I think his point about the shipping cost being high is worth taking
note of. Plus they'll be an awkward shape.

Clarification of Answer by robertskelton-ga on 06 Apr 2003 14:19 PDT
Walter replied:

"As far as I know, no one else makes such casts.  How interested is
your client?  Is he/she an art collector, natural history type, etc? 
Depending on conditions, I might be interested in delivering a cast or

His professional contact details can be found at:

Considering that he is an expert in the field, and is quite likely to
have heard if others were doing it as well, it sounds like cast making
is quite a rare activity.

Request for Answer Clarification by ensor-ga on 07 Apr 2003 13:00 PDT
That's great news!  Thanks for the information.  Where can I find Ben
Mauldin's email address; I'd like to contact him further.  I'll be
taking a trip through Texas soon and can hopefully save on shipping
costs if I can pick one up in person.  The pictures from Walter
Tschinkel's dental plaster casts look amazingly huge; maybe those are
something I can afford in a few years.

Clarification of Answer by robertskelton-ga on 07 Apr 2003 14:36 PDT
If you search for his first and last name at
his is the first result returned.
ensor-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $2.00
Good answer to a hard question; took some time to get the question and
answer clarified, but definately worth it.  Thanks for your help.

Subject: Re: Ant Mound Tunnel Sculpture
From: denco-ga on 30 Mar 2003 19:28 PST
Howdy enso-ga!

According to the a web page presented by:

University of Arkansas, Division of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service

Making a Fire Ant Mound Cast by Doug Petty, Miller County Staff Chairman

"A cast of a red imported fire ant mound is an excellent demonstration
tool to show the complex tunnel designs of the fire ant mound."

The page tells how to make the casting with lead or wax.

Here is the same article in PDF format.

Looking Forward, denco

Search terms:

ant tunnel "molten lead"
Subject: Re: Ant Mound Tunnel Sculpture
From: denco-ga on 21 Apr 2003 12:04 PDT
Beautiful job robertskelton!

Looking Forward, denco-ga

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