10 Oct 2013

Ants – and glowworms?

Ardd Fotaneg · Botanic Garden

Another Tuesday and, although there were a few showers to start with, by the end of the walk it was really quite warm. As a result of the recent sightings of a GreenWoodpecker it had been decide that it would be a good idea to search for it, and also for its food source – Ants.  So off to the Wild Garden, just below the Bull where, along the sides of the mown paths there were quite a few waxcaps – it really has been a good season for them.

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Michael spotted the first of Ant hills and Jan showed how to encourage them out – stick a flower stalk in the middle and out they swarm.  These were the common black Garden Ants that infest our lawns and sometimes our houses. When colonies are first created the ants are very small – they become bigger, stronger and more aggressive as the colonies becomes more established, depending on the food resources and eventually the queen will lay the  eggs that will become queens and males for future colonies. They farm aphids for the honeydew they excrete by bringing them in and out of the nest as necessary. They  also eat ripe fruits, especially fruits like strawberries that lack a thick protective skin and, according to Wiki, can often they can be found on discarded chewing gum – hopefully we don’t have too much of that in the Garden!

Further on a couple more of the Black Garden Anthills were found, then a much bigger hill which turned out to be that of the Yellow Meadow Ant.  These Ants are bigger than the Black ones and also sting – not sure if that affects the Green Woodpecker. The live in grasslands and are good for the grass as their underground colonies open up the soil and keep it porous and their droppings fertilize the roots of the grass. They also eat insects, some of which may damage the grass and are also known for allowing the caterpillars of the Chalk Hill Blue butterfly into their nest – unfortunately not a likely occurrence here in the Garden.

Further on four more of the Black Garden Anthills were found and illustrates just how much one can find when one starts looking as we hadn’t really even registered the presence of any Anthills prior to this walk.  Michael informed us that as the hills grow bigger so the acidity of the different layers changes leading to different flowers and fauna growing on them.  And, as well as Ants there were Toads, as this lovely picture of a Toad on a Toadstool shows .

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Later on Michael turned over a stone and found a lot of empty snail shells and also a couple of mating Garden Snails.  These are hermaphrodite and fire love darts at each other during the mating session.  This can take several hours! Of even more interest were about six empty shells, still in perfect condition, not crushed in any way. Could these indicate the presence of Glowworms? Possibly, but the only way we will find out is on a night-time search.

Still in search of the now elusive Green Woodpecker, Jan and Susan wandered off up beyond the biomass and by the Growing the Future plot, which is where the bird had been sighted the previous week – but still no luck. But back at the ponds near the Stable Block Michael turned over some of the leaves and discovered the eggs and caterpillars of the China Moth and some Flatworms.

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If you find an injured bird, hedgehog or other wild animal and want help and advice then phone the Gower Bird hospital. on 01792 371630.

Thanks  to John for the photos and if any volunteer or member is interested in joining us please  send an email to Colin Miles  – you DON’T have to be an expert in anything, just interested.   If you click on any of the images in these blogs, or anywhere else you will see a larger picture. And if you click on the Wildlife Walks heading on the left-hand side under News you will see a list of the last 10 Wildlife Walk blogs