Wood ants

Red wood ants (also known as true wood ants, thatch, mound or field ants) get their name from their red and brown-black colouring and their preference for woodland habitats.

Taxonomically, wood ants belong to Formica rufa species group or clade. There are thirteen species occurring across the Paleartic. Some members of the group are able to hybridise and form mixed colonies. The Nearctic wood ant species, which were formerly part of the rufa group, have been placed in two separate clades following new phylogenic analysis.  
There are several related species which may be confused in Britain, these include the Narrow-headed ant Formica exsecta, slave-maker ant Formica sanguinea and Red-barbed ant Formica rufibarbis.


The ecology of wood ants is fascinating:
  • What happens inside a wood ant nest?
  • What do wood ants eat and what do queens do?
  • How long do they live?
  • Why are they important?
Click on the headings on the left hand side to learn more about individual species, wood ant ecology and the roles wood ants play in the ecosystem.