The tiny world of wood ants

Closeup view of a single wood ant

Sometimes it's hard not to be mesmerised by the views and forget to look at the tiny world beneath your feet. Glance down occasionally and you will see a whole other world on the ground.

Busying themselves in their hundreds, carrying twigs and egg sacks are southern wood ants. These are very special to this area and Arnside Knott and Eaves Wood are at the very north of their species range.

Their nests look like huge mounds of woodland debris made with twigs and needles and are built usually around the trunk of a tree, in places carefully chosen to be warmed by the sun’s rays on one side and protected by wind and rain on the other and can contain up to 100,000 ants.

Ants on Arnside Knott
ants nest at Arnside Knott
Ants on Arnside Knott

Wood ants are warmth-loving animals. They are not active below 10 degrees and cannot reproduce below 20 degrees so one of the most important things they need to do is keep a warm nest!

They are constantly on the move. They scurry along the paths often in one direction and if you listen carefully you can hear their shuffling noises as they climb up trees to collect the sticky honeydew which they love, which is made by aphids.