Wood ants by the tens of thousand

I was in Fingle Woods yesterday (which is owned and managed jointly by the National Trust and the Woodland Trust) and they must have one of the best populations of wood ants in the south west. There are dozens of nests per hectare and one nest can contain up to 250,000 individuals. Wood ants are social insects rather like honey bees and each colony normally consists of a queen and a host of worker ants. Wood ants are predatory catching other insects and caterpillars but surprisingly get most of their food from ‘milking’ aphids for their honey dew. Wood ants have been found 90′ up trees searching for honey dew. If you want to know more about wood ants see here. The species in Fingle Woods is Formica rufa. They are most common in coniferous woodlands but they do also occur in quite large numbers in broadleaved woodlands such as Dunsford Woods. It is hard to believe that although they are so common (but local)  in Fingle Woods and elsewhere in the west and north of Britain that they are rare in the rest of Europe.

Wood ant 2A small wood ant nest beside a ride at Wooston Castle

Wood ant 1A wood ant – note the jaws – they can nip!

Wood ant 3Colonies are busy places

Wood ant 5Colonies can be quite dense and close together

Wood ant 4And some are huge – this one is nearly 3′ tall


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