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Red Wood Ant (Formica rufa)

Taxonomy
Kingdom:Phylum:Class:Order:Family:Genus:Species:
AnimaliaArthropodaInsectaHymenopteraFormicidaeFormicaF. rufa

The Red Wood Ant is a very big species of ants. The biggest workers can reach a length of 12 mm, but usually they are about a centimeter long. From the name you may conclude these animals are red, but actually the workers are red and black. The jaws are red, the head is black, the thorax is red and the abdomen is black. Queens and males are blackish, like the one in the picture. Males appear only when it is time to fly. The winged males and queens fly about, the queens are impgregnated and the males die. The queens are looking for a place to start a new colony. During flight males and queen may get far from the original nesting site and that is why they do pop up in gardens or elsewhere.

The Red Wood Ant is the one building the big ant hills in the forests. In some places these hills are over three meters high! In such an anthill hundred of thousands of ants may be present. The workers collect everything edible. This species also milks aphid colonies for honey dew. The nest is heavily protected. And if you are attacked by thousands of ants, you make a run for it, no matter how big you are. The ants belonging to the genus Formica do not sting, they don't even have a stinger. Their powerful jaws can penetrate the skin of most mammals (including human skin) and this is a slight tingling sensation. But after biting the ants curl their abdomen towards the attacker and they spray formic acid over the wound. And that is something you do feel!



Of all bigger animals only one is really eating ants in great numbers: the Green Woodpecker. In some countries the Red Wood Ants are a protected species and disturbing their nests is forbidden. In Britain there is only one species, Formica rufa. On the continent however there are two similar species. Formica rufa, often referred to as the Hairy Red Wood Ant and Formica polyctena, also known as the Bald Red Wood Ant. It is not easy to tell the species apart in the field. Besides the two species may interbreed.
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