I remember the very first time I encountered these large ants. It was on a school camping trip back in 1976 at the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire. I was fascinated not only by their size and colour, but by the huge anthills they had buit to house their colonies. This experience would stay with me into adulthood, and fuel my interest and fascination for the natural world.
Also called the ‘Red Wood Ant’, the ‘Southern Wood Ant’, or the ‘Horse Ant’, this is one of the UK’s largest species of ant. The workers are brownish-red and black. There are several similar species so one has to take care in identification. Length worker 8 to 10mm, queen 12mm.
They are most active during the summer months. This ant has no sting, but can shoot formic acid from its abdomen when threatened or disturbed. It can also bite fiercely. Wood Ants are omnivores, but with a preference for other insects and invertebrates, although they are mainly scavengers
Found mainly in coniferous woodland, building large nests from pine needles, grass and twigs. Widespread but localised in England and Wales, found mainly in the south and south-east of England. It is absent from Ireland and Scotland.
Photographs of Wood Ant (Formica Rufa), taken May 2013, Wyre Forest, Worcestershire. © Pete Hillman 2013. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.