There are four true wood ant species in the UK and several related species. Our true wood ant species are Formica rufa and also F. aquilonia, F. lugubris and F. pratensis. For identification guides see the the Links section.
Three related species are considered by the Steering Group due to their woodland habitat, similar appearance and rarity. These species are F. exsecta which belongs to the subgenus Coptoformica, F. sanguinea belonging to the subgenus Raptiformica, and F. rufibarbis which belongs to the subgenus Serviformica. There is also the shining guest ant Formicoxenus nitidulus which nests only in wood ant nests.
Nesting differences between wood ants and other species
The true UK wood ants are all large mound building species. F. exsecta also builds mounds but these are considerably smaller than wood ant mounds and use different materials. Our largest UK ant, F. sanguinea, nests in rotting tree stumps while F. rufibarbis nests completely within the ground.
Click the links on the left hand side to view more information for each species.