David Bellamy opens new exhibit at St Albans attraction

Ant exhibit launched at Butterfly World

HE enthralled with tales of surviving spider bites, being snapped at by a crocodile and entertained curious youngsters who quizzed him about the insect world.

Famous botanist David Bellamy inspired yet another generation of nature enthusiasts at the weekend when he visited St Albans to open a new ant exhibit at Butterfly World.

He harked back to his own childhood, when as a youngster of about three or four, well before he became world renowned, he visited his aunt in St Albans and marvelled at the city’s then thriving butterfly population.

Speaking to Herts Advertiser on Sunday, David, resplendent in a blue Butterfly World “volunteer” t-shirt, urged people to plant more wildflowers to provide the nectar relied upon by the local butterfly population.

David, who is a celebrity patron of Butterfly World, said the Noke Lane, Chiswell Green based project, was a “brilliant idea.”

He told visitors that being bitten by a bird eating spider was like “putting your hand in an electric socket”. The veteran of hundreds of television programmes also recalled meeting a girl living in the rainforest who “knew more about botany then I did, and I was a professional.”

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After chatting with visitors the lively environmental campaigner then made his way to officially open the new Ant World, which displays about 10,000 leafcutter ants from North and South America.

A visibly impressed David said, “Oh my goodness” upon entering the exhibit which also features tarantulas.

Butterfly World’s managing director, Angela Harkness, said the exhibit had taken four months to come to fruition and that the ant colony had been specially delivered from Trinidad.

She added: “The queen will grow to the size of a small mouse, and lays about one million eggs a year.”

Assistant entomologist Louise Hawkins said the leafcutter ants were very fussy about what leaves they would chew. On Sunday they were “going mad for black elder” but on Monday they would reject the plant, “so we will leave it off the menu for a week.”

David told those at the exhibit launch that ants are the most amazing insects and far cleverer than we give them credit for.

Two of his fans, Lauren Mills, a keen gardener, and nature-lover Ina Price-James, both of Abbots Langley, said it was exciting seeing David in St Albans as he “is famous and on T.V.”

David judged a competition for the best paper leaf cut-out brought by children and gave talks on our food chain and the part that insects play in it.