Early morning frost cladding reduces the gorse and grass tussocks to outlines, two-dimensional and extra spiky, in the first trickles of winter sunlight. The frozen landscape reaches up to snow-capped Haytor on the rising edge of Dartmoor nearby.
Whilst the ant queens and wintering workers are tactically bunkered deep down and dormant in their lower nest chambers, we’ve been busy...
Over autumn-winter, volunteer groups have restored some 1.5 hectares of heathland ant habitat - tearing through gorse scrub, powered by a sense of motivation to help wildlife... and biscuits and cake!
Mark and Kate collected host ant Formica fusca workers from a road verge site, enough to form five inchoate nests, the first steps towards trial establishment of nests ready for adoption by Narrow-headed Ant queens.
John has been sketching and painting ant behaviour, while investigating candidate locations suitable for new exsecta nests.
India has been scouring journals and reports, reviewing ant nest translocation examples.
Rebecca and Ziad are considering Narrow-headed Ant research projects for their university studies. And with Helen and Megan, we’ve been planning joint schools events for later in the spring.
In the meantime I’ve just completed my 32nd foam ant model, and am now experimenting with a scaled up, metre-long hardboard version, gaining in the process a homemade insight into the strength, also the size limitations, of insect exoskeletons.
It’s not been the only revelation: one realisation is the invaluable, varied and crucial contribution of volunteers, without whom very much less would be achieved; another is that all these diverse and seemingly random activities are implicitly connected - and ecology is all about connections.