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Common Ant Species

There are thousands of ant species worldwide, but in the UK the most common is the Garden or Black Ant which is resilient enough to live outdoors in nutrient-rich, moist environments - often beneath warm, damp paving slabs. Other tropical ant species such as Roger's, Ghost and Pharaoh's Ants can only survive with the warmth provided inside heated buildings .

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 and habits of the Garden Ant

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.

Ghost Ant

(Tapinoma melanocephalum)

Appearance

  • Pale/Translucent legs and abdomen.
  • 1.6mm long.
Life cycle and habits of the Ghost Ant

Life Cycle

  • Continuous breeding colonies.
  • Tropical species that only live indoors in UK.

Habits

  • Feeding – indoors: sweet substances and grease.
  • Nesting – indoors: small spaces, wall voids.
  • 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 can mistaken for termites.
Life cycle and habits of the Pavement Ant

Life Cycle

  • Known to emerge any time of the year in heated structures.
  • Tropical species - can only survive indoors in UK.

Habits

  • Feeding - eat almost anything that humans eat, and also pet food.
  • Visibility - may move through pipes and electrical wires.
  • Nesting - mounds built near foundations in clusters.
  • Colonies found near water.

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 and habits of the Pharaoh’s Ant

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.
  • Tropical species - can only survive indoors in UK.

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.

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 and habits of the Roger’s Ant

Life Cycle

  • Little is known about the lifecycle.
  • Tropical species - can only survive indoors in UK.

Habits

  • Workers forage randomly and lay no trails as live prey are hunted, especially springtails.
  • 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 tiles.