Saving England's most threatened species from extinction

Narrow-headed ant

Formica exsecta

Found at only
site in England
Queens average a
year lifespan
workers per nest

What is a Narrow-headed Ant?

They may be small, but these ants have an important role in the heathland where they live - affecting soils, seed banks, and the other wildlife around them.
Sadly, the narrow-headed ant is now very rare, with just one population in England, in South Devon, and without urgent action we could lose it altogether.

Why are they in trouble?

Losses of heathland to development, disturbance, scrubbing over of habitats and to commercial forestry, have all played a part. The ants cannot move very far, so populations on tiny patches of habitat become inbred. There are a number of different influences on the raising of queens, dispersal and generating new nests, which are not fully understood.

How we will help the Narrow-headed Ant

This Back from the Brink project, led by Buglife, will monitor the last known English population, create more suitable habitat for the ants, and research environmental and habitat conditions needed for nesting. The aim is to establish new populations at two more sites in South Devon. We’ll work with communities, groups and individuals in all sorts of ways; from raising awareness about these rare and precious insects, to study projects to learn more about the ants, and creating more habitats for them. There will be ant-themed creative, artistic and educational activities too.

What we’re aiming for

By the end of the project, we hope the future for the Narrow-headed Ant will be more secure, with more colonies and good habitat for them to spread into. We aim to have inspired understanding and support for this mighty minibeast.

How to get involved

Can you help us with surveys, with making and looking after places for Narrow-headed Ants to live, with creative creature crafts, or by spreading the word as an ant ambassador? Find out more at our talks, walks and events.

You can get the latest news, and find out about upcoming events, by following the links below.

Project timeline

August 2017 - September 2020

Census and mapping of nests

Spring 2018

90 year anniversary since first found on its last remaining site Chudleigh Knighton

July - November 2018

Trial next translocations

November 2018

Narrow-headed ant returns to its former site Bovey Heathfield

Spring 2019

Citizen science 'Nest Quest' launched

AUTUMN 2019 - SPRING 2020

New nest establishments on Bovey Heathfield and Teigngrace Meadow

Project contact

Stephen Carroll

Project Officer

Build Your Own Narrow-headed Ant

Download your model template & instructions here:

Narrow-headed Ant Model

Turn your Narrow-headed Ant into a Magnificent Flying Machine here:

Narrow-headed Ant Wings

You can also make your own Narrow-headed Ant mask with these very simple instructions and basic materials:

Narrow-headed Ant Face Mask

Take part in Nest Quest

Want take part in some citizen science and help map the distribution of wood ants? Then Nest Quest is for you!

Latest news

Get Involved

Narrow-headed Ant (Formica exsecta)

Long Ears and Narrow Heads

Read More

Bringing them Back From The Brink

We are working with some of the most endangered species in England. With your help we can do even more to save them.

Project lead

Delivery partner