Yellow meadow ant colonies create impressive ant hills, each consisting of an grassy mound that may rise 50cm above the ground.
These domed nests contain an intricate network of tunnels that may extend a metre below ground. The earthy mound helps to regulate the nest’s temperature and humidity and one side is usually flatter and oriented towards the south-east to make the most of the warming morning sunshine.
The ants encourage grass and other plants to grow on the mound so that their roots will provide structural support, and they also use these to farm an aphid food supply.
Ant hills at Ebernoe Common © Sam Roberts
Wood ants also create large nests and their mounds can tower up to 2m.
The nest usually extends as far underground as it does above, and contains a maze of tunnels and chambers.
The outside is thatched with pine needles, heather, dried grass, twigs or even lichen.
It is carefully arranged to act like a solar panel and capture as much heat as possible to keep the nest warm. It also serves as an umbrella to channel rainwater away from the nest and keep the inhabitants dry.