Black Garden Ant

Lasius niger

A uniformly dark brown ant which has a single, scale-like waist segment. Length worker 3 to 5mm, queen 7 to 9mm.

The Black Garden Ant goes through four stages of development, from egg to larva, cocoon, and finally adult. They have a complex social order, with a worker caste and a queen. A mature ant colony may contain the queen and between 4,000 to 7,000 female workers. Black Garden Ants do not sting or spray formic acid like some other species of ant do.

Mating swarms occur in August  during hot, humid weather. The winged females and males maybe seen in large numbers. Soon after mating the males die, where the females shed their wings and establish new colonies.

They harvest aphids for their sweet honeydew by stroking them with their antennae. They also protect aphids from predation, which does not go down well with gardeners in general. They will also feed on ripe fruits such a strawberries and raspberries, and will eat other invertebrates.

Almost anywhere, in tree stumps and under logs, and found under stones and paving in gardens where they build their nests in the soil. They also make their way into houses on food raiding expeditions where they may become a pest. Abundant and widespread throughout, and is the most seen ant in the UK.

Photograph taken July 2016, rear garden, Staffordshire.

The Ant And The Aphids

No, not the name of a new band, but the relationship between these two insect species is pretty interesting. Ants love aphid excrement, it is apparently rich in sugar which the ants love. In return for this sweet treat, the ants act as bodyguards, protecting the aphids from predators. The aphids must love the young, fresh shoots of my crab apple tree for they all congregate at the tips, and the ants are there with them dining out and protecting them.

Photograph taken June 2016, rear garden, Staffordshire.