Common Ant Species

There are thousands of ant species, but here are some you are more likely to find in the UK.

Garden Ant

(Lasius niger)

Garden Ant

Appearance

  • Workers 4-5mm long.
  • Queens 15mm long.
  • Dark brown-black in colour.
  • 1 small segment at waist point (pedicel).
  • No sting present.

Life Cycle

  • Queens overwinter in soil. Eggs are laid in late spring.
  • Larvae hatch 3-4 weeks later. 
  • Larvae feed on secretions from the queen’s salivary glands until the first worker ants emerge.
  • Worker ants continue with larval care, nest building and food foraging.
  • Fertile males are produced later in the season.

Habits

  • Foraging worker ants follow well–defined trails around food sources. Sweet foods are preferred but high protein foods will also be taken.
  • Swarming characteristics – mating between queens and fertile males takes place on the wing mid to late summer. Males perish after mating.
  • Nest locations – often outdoors in soil and below paving slabs on the sunny side of buildings.
  • Nest locations can be identified by the presence of finely powdered soil around nest exit holes.

Roger’s Ant

(Hypoponera punctatissima)

Eli Sarnat, Antkey, USDA APHIS Identification Technology Program (ITP)

Appearance

  • Reddish brown in colour.
  • Workers 2mm long.
  • 1 large segment at the pedicel.
  • First two segments of the abdomen are constricted.
  • Sting present.

Life Cycle

  • Little is known about the lifecycle.

Habits

  • Workers forage randomly and lay no trails as live prey are hunted, especially springtails. Rarely seen outdoors.
  • Swarming characteristics — will swarm all year round. Winged adults are often found in electric fly killers.
  • Nest locations — damp residues and debris. Crevices around drains and behind broken wall tiles.

Pharaoh’s Ant

(Monomorium pharaonis)

Monomorium pharaonis

Appearance

  • Workers 1.5-2mm long, yellow-brown with brown abdomen.
  • Males 3mm long, black, winged.
  • Queens 3.5-6mm long, dark red in colour with wings.
  • Black eyes, 2 small segments at the pedicel.

Life Cycle

  • Multi-queen colonies.
  • Swarming can take place at any time of the year.
  • Winged adults seldom fly so rarely seen. Wings are soon lost after mating.

Habits

  • Well–defined trails are laid which are often associated with heating systems. Feeds indoors on high protein foods — meat, fats, blood, dead insects, etc.
  • Swarming characteristics — new colonies are often formed through nests that have been disturbed e.g., as a result of insecticide spray treatments.
  • Each queen produces up to 3500 eggs in its lifetime.
  • Nest locations — deep seated in cavities in heated buildings. Often found in hospitals. Associated with humid conditions. Colonies can range from a few dozen to 300,000 individuals.

Ghost Ant

(Tapinoma melanocephalum)

Appearance

  • Pale/Translucent legs and abdomen.
  • 1.6mm long.

Life Cycle

  • Continuous breeding colonies.

Habits

  • Feeding – indoors: sweet substances and grease; outdoors: insects that produce honeydew.
  • Nesting – indoors: small spaces, wall voids; outdoors: in flowerpots, under objects on the ground, under loose bark.
  • Locations - attracted to high moisture areas, can be found in kitchen and bathroom cabinets.
  • Colonies can occupy several different nesting sites.

Pavement Ant

(Tetramorium caespitum)

Tetramorium caespitum

Appearance

  • Dark brown or blackish.
  • Approx. 3mm long.
  • 6 legs.
  • 2 spines on the back.
  • 2 nodes on petiole.
  • Grooves on head and thorax.
  • Thorax uneven with 1 pair of spines.
  • 12-segmented antennae with 3-segmented club.
  • Winged ants are often mistaken for termites.

Life Cycle

  • Visible spring and summer.
  • Have been known to emerge any time of the year in heated structures.

Habits

  • Feeding - eat almost anything that humans eat, and also pet food.
  • Visibility - seen entering houses looking for food, most often at night. May move through pipes and electrical wires.
  • Nesting - in lawns or under stones, wood, or boards. Mounds built along sidewalks, baseboards, and near foundations in clusters.
  • Colonies found near water.