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Ant  Ants

Ant (Myrmica rubra) - Photo  Copyright 2004 Gary Bradley
Photo: G. Bradley

UK Safari Tip:
To get a good look at ants you need to pick them up. The best way to do this without harming them is with a gadget called a pooter - click here

Latin name: Myrmica rubra

Size: Approximately 6mms long.

Distribution: Found throughout the U.K.

Months seen: All year.

Habitat: Nests under walls and old tree stumps. Commonly found in gardens

Food: Some species are carnivorous, others are vegetarians. Myrmica rubra (right) is an omnivore.

Special features: Most of us are familiar with the red and black garden ants, but there are around 50 different species of ant in Britain. Many of them have strong jaws and are capable of stinging.

Unlike most other insects, ants have extra body segments between the abdomen and thorax. This 'waist' section is called the 'petiole'.

All ant species drink the 'honeydew' secretions from aphids.

Click for a better view Ants act like farmers to the aphids. They protect the aphids from predators, like ladybirds, and in exchange the aphids provide the ants with their sweet sugary droppings. Some ant species even keep aphids in their underground nests for the same purpose.

In late summer and early autumn, particularly in hot, stormy weather, swarms of flying ants can be seen.

These swarms, sometimes called 'Ant weddings', are made up of male and queen ants, and they take to the air in order to mate. After mating the males die. The queens shed their wings and go off to set up new colonies.

Because ant weddings often happen just before a storm, when the air is very still, it gave rise to the folklore that ants could foretell the coming of thunderstorms.

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UK Safari Creepy-Crawlies Section

  2006 G. Bradley. All Rights Reserved