Foresters are set to log the ancient Holystone Forest, in Northumberland, England. But first they need to locate and save a few homes located in the forest. Are these structures human dwellings? No, they are giant ant mounds.
The northern, or hairy wood ants (Formica lugubris) build towering mounds out of pine needles, from three to seven feet tall. The nests act as solar collectors and heaters, allowing wood ants to live in places too cold for most other ants. In addition, the large black and red workers sometimes bask in the sun to warm up and then move underground to act as living heat radiators.
The hairy wood ants that build the mounds are now endangered, and every effort is being to made to protect them. Naturalists located of 69 mounds, which they mapped and gave GPS coordinates. Hopefully, the maps will help the loggers avoid getting too close.
For photographs and more information, see:
Guardian.co.uk has a story: Giant ants’ nests given special building protection
York Dales Country News story: GPS used to protect ant ‘skyscrapers’
For photos and more information, see BBC – Potter ponders giant anthill
Edit: And for children, see The Ant’s Nest book review at Simply Science.