THE ANT TOWER
A new construction at the Community Woodland has been put in place especially with ants in mind. This came about when it was discovered that ants had colonised some broken paving slabs that had been buried in the soil of the new butterfly bank extension. These slabs needed to be moved, but rather than just disturb the ant colony, Phil Stone decided to build a tower especially for them.
As Phil explains: ‘After the builders tipped the soil from the new path to extend the butterfly bank, they next repaired the concrete paving, but they buried the broken slabs a few inches under the bank so when I came to cultivate the bank, the slabs had to be moved. As I dug them out, I noticed that a lot of black ants had already colonised the slabs – in just a couple of weeks. I felt a bit guilty about disturbing them and, as I didn’t know what to do with the slabs, I thought of building a small tower out of them with spaces between the layers which might be suitable for ants to colonise.
‘I needed to secure the pile of slabs with four stakes buried in the ground to avoid the risk of them being pushed over. I then added a skin of weathered pallet timbers to enclose the tower and create an environment which might be more suitable for ants, using more soil to fill inside the timber skin. Some ants came with the soil which was used to fill the structure. So I hope they stay!
‘This is an experimental construction, an approach we have used elsewhere in the wildlife area, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. The plastic protective tubes used for tree planting are occasionally colonised by ants, and they can build the nest of soil right to the top of the 1.2 metre high tubes. I have sometimes had to cut the tubes full of ants off to save the young trees and this was a way of trying to put an ant habitat back – I hope!
‘Ants are an important part of our ecosystem if it is to be healthy, and we need them. If this tower proves to be a suitable habitat for them I hope others might try this approach.’