School of Ants at The Planting festival, Woodfordia

Kirsti Chris Stephen with nest casts

School of Ants teamed up with Australian ant Art at The Planting festival held at the iconic Woodfordia this long weekend. On the agenda was a presentation about the little things that run the world as well as the project itself, two children’s festival workshops and an ant walk, all to uncover ants as well inhabitants of the oft overlooked tiny world at our feet. In the excitement, creativity, great food and music at festivals like this one, it’s easy to forget there are millions upon millions of small, spineless earthlings there.

While Kirsti revealed to people the world of ants that exists above ground, Chris and Stephen from Australian Ant Art captured imaginations with a multitude of twisty, turny aluminium nest casts, mostly the subterranean homes of the common Australian meat ant, Iridomyrmex purpureus. Their curiosity piqued, fascinated festival goers had never-ending strings of questions, and were keen to help collect the first of what will become a reference collection and species list of the Ants of Woodfordia.

Woodfordia is a 500 acre property home to the Woodford Folk Festival held annually around Christmas-New Year. From humble beginnings as a dairy farm cleared of vegetation, the Qld Folk Federation and Woodfordia Tree Huggers and others have worked tirelessly creating a planted native South East Queensland rainforest.  The diversity and growth of their plantings is impressive; the function of each planting event ranging from provision of camping shade to slope stability, food plants for butterflies, and indulging a love of ancient forests, with Bunya and hoop pines a prominent feature.

The School of Ants project was so well received we couldn’t’ accommodated everyone wanting to come ant walking with us on the Sunday afternoon! But those who did participated in both the Children’s Festival and ant walk hand collections discovered what looks like upward of 15 species. Not bad for not quite an hour of collecting in a very small space!

Kids crafted antennae, completed word finds and made up ANT words. They built plasticine ant cities and sticker trails, and lined up diligently to peer down the microscope at the ants they had tactfully followed and collected for the project.  Hanging nest casts of aluminium created aboveground a 3D representation of the tunnels and chambers of the out of sight, and mostly out of mind, belowground world of ants. It was fabulous to watch people’s eyes widen as they processed exactly what ants might be doing in their secret worlds down there…

A huge THANK YOU to all who participated, listened, watched and learned about ants at The Planting. We hope to see you again next year!


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