LOTHARIO ants who lost their libido in the unseasonably cold summer weather have been given a little love boost by volunteers.
Wardens from Harrow Nature Conservation Forum have been cutting back foliage in the grounds of the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (RNOH) in Wood Lane, Stanmore, and nearby Pear Wood, once a week to ensure that the nests are bathed in sunshine.
There were fears among wildlife experts that the low temperatures meant the formica rufa ants - a rare, locally-protected species - were becoming 'sluggish' and had no desire to mate.
It was important they multiply because Stanmore is one of only two locations in the capital where this variety of creepy-crawly, more commonly known as the southern wood ant, can be found, the other being Bromley in south east London.
Pear Wood warden Claire Abbott said: "We cut back the bracken and brambles and even felled a couple of small trees. It's a tricky business because we don't want to leave them overexposed because of the rain - they get washed away - and predatory creatures."
The brown woodland insects, which are large,at 1cm long, eat aphids and maintain one main colony and several satellite colonies.
Two of the nests were moved by hand from RNOH to Pear Wood by the wardens in April and so helping these colonies to establish and grow is of particular concern.
It is believed that the Duke of Chandos introduced the formica rufa ants to Stanmore from abroad to provide food for his pheasants.
Councillor Marilyn Ashton (Conservative), Harrow Council's portfolio holder for planning, development and enterprise, said: "The care we have taken over these ant colonies is a sign of our concern to preserve the wildlife and environment for future generations."