Belongs to: insects

Wood ant Formica rufa

Also known as: southern wood ant

range is contracting and globally threatened


Best time to see: May to end Sep

Key facts

The largest british ant species, creating prominent nest mounds mainly in woods throughout Essex and southern England

They feed mainly on insects found near to the nest, and especially on aphids and the honeydew that they produce

Often introduced into commercial woodlands as a means of pest management

Recognition

Workers have a reddish thorax and head with a darker abdomen; 8–10mm in length and with large mandibles

Young queens and males are winged and have a heavier thorax; the wings are shed after mating

The workers are voracious hunters, driving prominent trails through their teritories

Lifecycle

Nests are usually built along woodland rides or in woodland clearings, and sometimes on open heaths

Huge numbers of winged males and females leave the nest on a warm day in June to mate

The male dies after mating, while the queen searches for a good place to start a new nest

  • Main photo
  • nest

Photo © Chris Gibson/English Nature

Photo © Pat Allen