There are people for everything, even to breed ants. Bruno Bernal He never thought that when he created the company Letra Express, a few days ago, for screen printing and laser cutting, with great success during the pandemic, due to the enormous demand for methacrylate partitions and others, that this would become the seed of an unusual business. build ant farms. Today, from Güímar he sells to the whole world and also, his works, in case he was missing something, reach the seventh art.
“It all started in 2018, when a good friend asked me to make an acrylic anthill for him. Well, Anthouse’s anthills, at that time, were totally transparent and light affects the proper development of the colonies of ants. I quickly made him a working prototype. He showed it to his friends and, since then, we have not stopped receiving orders for anthills, creating the company Antmaze ”.
“The key to our growth has been to listen, investigate and innovate. We know the needs of the best ant breeders and we work very hard to achieve the most innovative anthills”.
The last accolade for antmaze has been the call of Disney Spain. “The head of the Disney Spain social media team and the Disney+ content platform contacted us. They need us to make them a thematic anthill for a publicity action on the occasion of the premiere of the movie Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania by Marvel Studios, which will be released in theaters on February 17”.
“In addition to the budget, we sent them the sketch and they loved it. So, they finally approved it. Now we have two weeks to deliver it finished and thus become the first company in the world to manufacture an official Antman anthill”, says Bruno Bernal excitedly.
Antmaze anthills are manufactured in a place located in Chacaica, in Güímar. There everything is done in 3D printing, “the only thing we don’t do are the screws and the glass bottle for the queen, everything else is printed and laser engraved.”
“After making that first anthill, my friend uploaded it to a group of about 200 ant breeders, and here in the Canary Islands there was one who exhibited them in a store, although it ended up closing and I kept all those products. So I set up a website for 60 euros a year, and that’s how I started with one or two orders a month. With the pandemic they began to ask for methacrylate partitions, and we didn’t have time to make anthills, although the requests were continuous.
To that was added that we met David, the world’s largest ant breeder channel, with 1.3 million followers on YouTube, and he also began to ask us for anthills. He asked us for a huge one, almost like a fish tank, 60 × 40 centimeters, which he uploaded to the networks and went viral. That was when orders from all over the world increased, especially from Latin America and the Peninsula”.
For Bruno, “raising ants is like keeping fish, for observation and curiosity. They all start with Messor barbarus, recommended to start with, because as long as they have seeds and water you don’t have to worry. People start with this, with a capsule with a queen and this begins to lay eggs and the first workers or nurses are born, and they begin to work, because the queen never leaves the anthill”.
“The queen without workers cannot live and neither can the workers without a queen. As the colony grows, the anthill expands and it also moves on to other species, because they are very varied, going, for example, from gatherers to scavengers, or hunters or leaf-cutters from the Amazon. Although the ones we have here are all native, although they ask us for that leaf-cutter ant”, while admitting that his Antmaze also “buys ants”.
Bernal acknowledges that “it is difficult to get the queen, because you have to wait for it to rain and keep track of the species you want to find. It’s quite complicated, that’s why with the starter kit it costs about 36 euros and we give you a queen, with four species to start with (Messor barbarus, Messor minor hesperius, Crematogaster scutellaris and Camponotus feae). You have to be patient, because it can take three months to lay eggs.
For ants, one of the death factors is stress, which generates a substance called formic acid, and they can autointoxicate and die. That’s why our idea, so that you don’t have to throw away the old anthill, that everything is modular and can be expanded, connecting one with another”.
He points out that in Mexico, which is where the queens are eaten, it is one of the places from which anthills are most requested, to breed the species of leafcutter. “There are also people who call us and ask us how to get rid of the colonies in the kitchen”, because there are many who think that the anthills are to “hunt and kill ants”, when in fact they are built to breed them and to keep them as pets, yes, as pets.
They are those who are fascinated to see these tiny beings in nature, working tirelessly transporting food, taking grains of sand or seeds from here to there, hunting other insects, grazing aphids or even fighting each other, within a colony in a totally controlled environment to be able to observe their behavior calmly and whenever we want. The ants, with a queen and workers, are like life itself, one alone is unable to live, but all together are capable of overcoming any obstacle.
At Letra Express and Antmaze they work together with Bruno Bernal, his mother Silvia, a graphic designer; his brother Diego, who does the accounting and Miguel Ángel, a 3D graphic designer, whom they call ‘The Sculptor’.