Charles Nevin: The Third Leader

Creature comforts

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This hill has all the usual features of a standard hairy wood ant home. It's detached, south facing, and thatched with spruce and pine needles. But it is also over five feet high, up to three times larger than the average ant hill, perhaps the biggest ever seen in Britain.

Experts estimate that construction of the ant hill must have consumed millions of ant hours. What has been going on? A theory. Even the most driven worker ants take breaks and lie in the sun; the explanation is that they are storing heat to release inside the hill to keep the eggs warm.

But this particular queen is clearly not falling for that one, and has called for extra effort to realise her vision: she wants to be the Mies, the Lloyd Wright, of hairy wood antdom: she wants to make Northumberland the towering Chicago of British Antery. And you know ants: it can only be weeks before there are pressing questions for both Green Belt development and air safety.

Yet another edifying example, then, of the famously fabled industry of the species. But I wonder. Why wouldn't they give the poor grasshopper anything? Who has caused more trouble in the world, the ants or the grasshoppers? Who has given more pleasure? Are ants, do you think, happy? Sorry, can't stop, got to get another needle.

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