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Using wood ants nets to find south - reposted article

Using wood ants nests to find your direction

The shape and direction of a wood ants nest can be used in natural navigation to find out roughly where south is!

Using a nest to find your direction

Stand with your back to the nest as if you have just walked down the shallow slope and you will be facing in a southerly direction...

How does this work? Wood ants favour a south facing, well drained location for nests. Not convinced, then read on...


Wood ants in the New Forest appear to build there nests with a southerly bias. The nests themselves are mounds of thatch constructed of pine needles, leaves and debris. In the New Forest the nests were only seen where there was a clump of coniferous trees but were often sited in nearby broadleaf woodland. Many were constructed on an existing raised (dry) boundary, mound or a tree stump.

Each nest had a steeper rear slope and a shallow front slope which appeared to face towards the south....



Each nest was photographed from the shallow front slope and each slope was measured with a phone compass screen shot which pointing in the direction of the shallow slope direction (Each screen shot is shown upright but was taken in actual direction of the slope).

example measure

Example nests



Link to complete album of nests


12 nests were measured and the average direction was...180 degrees - South The furthest East was 128 (South East) and the furthest west was 224 (South West)


Further reading

Wood ants have there own page on the internet

Test last location
Test - April courses and Nigel's walks

New Forest Navigation map reading courses start from car parks and villages within the New Forest National Park. The New Forest is located in south Hampshire, South East England. It is easily accessible from the surrounding counties of Dorset, Wiltshire, Surrey, Sussex and London. No need to travel to Snowdnia or Peak District with the New Forest on your door step!
Course start locations are reached easily from all New Forest villages and towns, which all have a huge range of accommodation options; Brockenhurst, Lyndhurst, Lymington, Christchurch, Fordingbridge, Ringwood, Burley, Sway and further afield at Bournemouth, Southampton and Salisbury.

New Forest Navigation

Learn Map Reading and how to use a Compass courses in the New Forest.
New Forest National Park, Hampshire, UK