Being a conservation volunteer on the Narrow-headed Ant project...

I have always been a passionate nature lover and concerned by the damage we have done to our beautiful planet. So, last year I did some environmental recovery work abroad and when I came back I wanted to continue to volunteer in some way and give something back to all that nature has given me.

After a short search on the Devon Wildlife Trust website I came across the Back from the Brink project running locally to me: saving the endangered Narrow-headed Ant. I loved the ideas of helping insects, because I know their vital role in environmental recovery and our survival. I have a deep admiration for these incredible creatures.

I started volunteering in January as a complete novice as far as conservation or the Narrow-headed Ant was concerned – an ant that currently only has this one site left in England: heathland, which is their preferred habitat. Stephen Carroll runs this project and was welcoming and relaxed. We spent time looking around the nests and Stephen started to educate me on what was involved. It being January, the ants were sensibly warm underground.

As the months have gone on, I have met the other volunteers and learnt from them too. It doesn’t really matter if you don’t know anything (as I clearly demonstrate!).  We monitor the nests activity or inactivity and try to learn anything else we can about them.  I have learnt that just when you think you know where all the nests are, the ants decide to move, the reason not being apparent!

Last year three nests were relocated to a site nearby to see if they would be able to colonise in a new area and so far, so good - if it continues, it gives us hope to do the same elsewhere.

Now that spring is here and the sun has come out, they have appeared in their 1000’s running around busy doing what ants do. More recently, I had great fun watching them move a caterpillar nearly a metre to their nest through thick undergrowth (for them). It was an impressive feat of endurance, determination and team work.

The Narrow-headed Ant has its own individual role to play in the environment, so it has been fantastic to be involved in helping it survive. It’s a special type of volunteering: being outside, observing the miracle of nature and helping an endangered species.

What more could you want!


Maxine Bell

Narrow-headed Ant Volunteer.


Would you like to help these incredible species? There are numerous ways in which you can:

  • Why not volunteer for Back from the Brink? Check out our events page for opportunities near you.
  • Help us to spread the word of this species, and the others we will be helping over the next 3 years, by sharing our message across our Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube pages. Follow us: @naturebftb.
  • Finally - help support the work we do across England by donating. Our impact will be greater with your help.