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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 February, 2004, 15:19 GMT
Ants in special delivery
Digger at anthill
A digger was used to move the nest
A colony of a rare species of ant has been returned to its home in Devon six years after it was rescued by Paignton Zoo.

The colony of narrow-headed wood ants was taken from Bovey Heathfield to Paignton Zoo because its habitat was being damaged by illegal motorbike scrambling.

The Devon Wildlife Trust bought the land two years ago and cleared 30 tons of rubbish and 50 burned-out cars. Now the colony, which consists of about 1,000 ants, has returned.

The ants are extremely rare in England. The only colonies in the country are found at Bovey Heath and Chudleigh Knighton Heath.

More digging

The team wanted to prevent the colony from breaking up, because if the queen was separated, the colony would not survive.

The team also had to keep the colony cool enough to prevent the hibernating ants from waking up.

Trust wildlife officer Stephen Carroll said the transfer began with carefully digging up the nest from its site at the zoo.

He said: "We transferred the ants nest on wooden pallets.

"It was then lowered into a pre-dug hole and the pallet removed.

"There will be some more digging, but hopefully it should all go together like a jigsaw."

Dr David Stradling, an entomologist at the University of Exeter, said: "This is only the second time anyone has done anything like this.

"The first time was when we rescued the nest from Bovey."

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