Saving the small things that run the planet

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Nest Quest

Nest Quest is an exciting community engagement project which aims to raise awareness of the importance of wood ants in Scotland. We are providing opportunities for volunteers to get involved to learn about wood ant ecology, species identification and how to help protect their local wood ant populations.    

In Scotland, we have two species of wood ant, the Hairy wood ant (Formica lugubris) and the Scottish wood ant (Formica aquilonia) and the closely related Narrow headed ant (Formica exsecta).

Wood ants are incredible insects! They have amazing defensive acid spray, architectural prowess and agricultural talents. Wood ants are an essential part of the woodland ecosystem, performing important jobs such as dispersing seeds, stimulating the roots and shoots of trees, distributing nutrients around the woodland and as a food source for other wildlife including the Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) and Badgers(Meles meles).

A typical wood ant nest looks like a large pile of pine needles sat next to a tree or a tussock of grass and they can be found in coniferous, mixed and broadleaved forests. They love, and need the sun to keep their nest warm so will choose somewhere that isn’t too shaded.

This project will run training workshops to encourage people to monitor their local wood ant nests and become a Nest Quest Community Champion. There will also be workshops for land owners and land managers to help conserve these ant species on their own land.

If you find a wood ant nest please let us know about it by inputting your records on our survey page here. You can see the results of the survey here. If you find a nest please do not disturb the ants by touching the nest or picking up any of the ants. We need your help to conserve these amazing creatures so take photos but don’t touch! Please also bear in mind that they do spray acid when disturbed and this may cause some skin irritation if you get too close.

We are seeking volunteers and community groups who are interested in getting involved with protecting their local wood ant populations. If you would like to get involved in Nest Quest and become a Community Champion, please contact Gabrielle Flinn at and 01786 447504

This project is funded by Scottish Natural Heritage.


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