The Narrow-headed ant (Formica exsecta) is under threat in England. Always rare, but once found across heathlands from Dorset to Cornwall and in the New Forest, it now survives at one site only in South Devon.
Help us learn more about wood ants- Join our Nest Quest survey.
Without targeted action, and as long as it remains dependent on just a single site, this ant is at high risk of being lost altogether. Meanwhile, much about the species is poorly understood, including what is most important to help generate new ant queens and to aid their dispersal across the landscape.
Since 2017 the Back from the Brink project has been working to secure a safer future for the Narrow-headed ant. In partnership with Devon Wildlife Trust and dedicated local volunteers, the population of nests has been monitored and studied at its remaining stronghold. We have also delivered practical habitat management to encourage the ants to colonise new areas. Over 200 individual nest locations have been recorded- from large structures built up over several years or decades, to small seasonal satellite nests.
Crucially, we have investigated all known sites for the ant and studied the ant’s life history and behaviour. This allowed us to take the first steps in establishing new ant colonies on two new sites through translocating nests, creating experimental queenless nests and releasing captured newly emerged queens!
This work would not be possible without the invaluable help and support of local volunteers, groups and communities who have assisted with surveys, events, and educational activities. Please participate in our Nest Quest search for wood ant sites, or make your own Narrow-headed ant model, or enough models for a whole nest colony!