THEY are the “tigers” of the minibeast world that engage in “chemical warfare” against attackers.
But yesterday it emerged that Scotland’s population of rare fighting ants are under threat from growing development plans in the Highlands.
Conservationists have warned that proposals to develop parts of the Cairngorms could put the future of the hairy wood ants – which have near-threatened conservation status around the world – in peril.
The latest development plan is a caravan park at Granish near Aviemore which is home to some of the last parts of Scotland’s ancient woodland as well as the ants which rely on the trees to survive.
The insects, which are ferocious predators and emit acid when fighting, are among key species on Scotland’s nationwide biodiversity list believed to be at risk from several other planned developments in the Cairngorm National Park.
Gus Jones, convener of the Badenoch and Strathspey Conservation Group and a member of the UK Wood Ant Steering Group, said: “This is an important area for wood ants and the Caledonian and Scots pines where they live.
“These ants are keystone, indicator species of the health of the whole eco system because they are a top predator.
“They’re like the tigers of the minibeast world. They go in for chemical warfare and can spray a cocktail of acids during horrendous fights to take over each other’s nests.
“We are already challenging developments at several other sites in the Cairngorms, and a high number of these challenge sites are home to these wood ants, as well as other key species. If you destroy the woodlands, we will lose the ants.”