William the Woodant

  • Good day to you, Quantock watchers. Today you find your reporter perched on one of his favourite branches. Here I sit, statue-like, on the look out for my next interview. Or maybe my next snack! Aha! I spy movement! There, on the edge of the wood! By that mound of earth. I’ll just fly down and have a closer look. Ugh, something’s irritating my legs.

  • Sorry, bird, you’re in the way.

  • Who on earth are you?

  • William Woodant. Too busy to chat.

  • Wait a minute! Don’t skitter off! Drat, where’s he gone. William!

  • I’m not William, I’m Wilma, and I’m very busy
    I’m not William, I’m Warren, and I’m very busy
    I’m not William, I’m Wendy, and I’m very busy
    I’m not William, I’m Wilfred, and I’m very busy
    I’m not William, I’m Walter, and I’m very busy

  • Well, ruffle my feathers, there are dozens of you!

  • more like thousands, you ignorant fowl, and all ve…-

  • -…all very busy. Yes, I’ve got the message. Busy doing what?

  • Fetching and carrying
    twigs and leaves
    to make the nest.

  • Stop, stop! Tell me about the nest. I know about nests. Where is it?

  • You’re standing on it, you stupid great budgie!

  • What, this mound? It’s bigger that my nest! You couldn’t have made that! Tiny insects like you!

  • We did it together
    We worked as one
    Many ants, one mind!

  • What’s it like inside?

  • Well, we built it over an old tree stump
    out of dead wood and bracken.
    It’s full of underground tunnels and chambers
    and well protected from the weather
    and in the heart of our nest is ...

  • Her Majesty, the Queen! Great Layer of Eggs! May she live for ever! Hurrah!

  • Hurrah! So just one ant lays all the eggs?

  • That’s right. Thousands
    and thousands.
    A lifetime of dedicated service.
    While we look after everything else.

  • Many ants, one mind,
    We move those thousands of eggs around
    to warm places in the nest
    where they hatch into thousands of larvae,
    which we have to feed.

  • till they make their cocoons
    which we guard;
    thousands of cocoons
    protecting the larvae,
    while they gradually change,
    from grubs into ants.

  • Then we cut open the cocoons
    and out they all come
    thousands of new woodants.

  • Whew! I’m breathless just listening. What else do you busy, busy woodants do?

  • Milk the aphids

  • Explain, please!

  • Stroke the sides of the little aphids,
    so they let out their sweet honeydew
    which is delicious
    and nutritious.

  • And we go hunting.

  • Hunting! Don’t make me laugh. You’re much too tiny to kill anything. Me, I’m a hunter! I should know!

  • We don’t hunt by ourselves
    We work as a team
    Many ants, One mind
    We surround a fat juicy caterpillar
    spray it with formic acid..

  • Formic acid. Nasty. That must be what made my legs sting.

  • ..formic acid, which paralyses it,
    and we carry it back
    to our nest
    where we eat it;
    or we chew it up
    and regurgitate it
    and feed it to the larvae.

  • Yuk. Give me rabbit any time! And since I’m hardly getting a word in edgeways, I declare this interview over.

  • No more time. Lots to do. Many ants, one mind. Busy busy….