Thursday, March 8, 2012

Parkhurst Forest

On the way to a meeting at Parkhurst Prison this morning I stopped off for the first time this year at Parkhurst Forest. In the woodland edge close to a cleared area I came across this:

Salt & vinegar-flavoured crisps are my favourite flavour, but I wouldn’t want to get a sniff of salt ‘n vinegar here, because it would mean that I had my nose too close to this Wood Ants’ nest and was being squirted by the formic acid that the occupants use to repel invaders! I find it compelling to watch those thousands of ants swarming over and around the old tree stump that has become the focus of the nest. These are Southern Wood Ants (Formica rufa) or Horse Ants.

This nest may well become a metre or so high over the next few months, and it extends well below ground level, too. All of these ants must mean that it gets pretty warm in there, which is why there is a system of ventilation holes that can be opened and closed to keep the interior environment stable.

There were also plenty of these chewed cones…evidence of the healthy Red Squirrel population in this forest, though I didn’t see any!

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