Nest Quest

Nest Quest was an exciting community engagement project which provided opportunities for volunteers to learn about the ecology of wood ants, 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). A further species of ant the Narrow-headed ant (Formica exsecta) is very closely related although not a true species of wood ant.

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 and Badgers.

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 ran training workshops to encourage people to monitor their local wood ant nests and become a Nest Quest Community Champion. Workshops aimed at land owners and land managers provided advice in how to help conserve these ant species on their own land. This project engaged with almost 90 people during surveys and workshops and recorded 57 wood ant nests!

Formica lugubris nest (c) Roger Key

This project was funded by Scottish Natural Heritage.

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