Formica rufa Wood Ant

Formica rufa - Wood Ant
These photos were not taken in my garden but in a local wood close to Fleet Pond in Hampshire about 7 miles away.

They are the largest ant that is native to Britain, the workers can measure upto 10mm long with Queens up to 12mm and are quite common in Southern England. They can be found in both coniferous and decidous woodlands and make quite large ant hills (mounds or nests), away from direct sunlight. Some of the older nests can reach a metre or more in height and contain a quarter of a million workers.

Wood Ants are carnivorous and they will eat most invertebrates that are found around their nest site as well as honeydew obtained from aphids. They are also very territorial and will attack any neighbouring species of ant, driving them away. Sometimes called the Southern Wood Ant it can generally be distinguished from similar wood ants by the fact that it lacks a fringe of hairs on the eyes and the rear margin of the head.

The queens and winged males usually mate and leave the nest in June on a warm humid day. The males die shortly after mating and the queens go off in search of a new nesting site.

Formica rufa is on the Red list of threatened species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and natural resources (IUCN) and is also a UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) priority species.


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