Formica pratensis Hymenoptera:Formicidae A Wood Ant

Formica pratensis picture Habitat, La Corbière Point in Guernsey C.I. distribution

Formica pratensis

This species used to occur near Bournemouth in England but has been extinct there for many years. It is still found in Jersey and Guernsey, but not in the other Channel Islands. In Guernsey it is common on the cliffs, and is occasionally found inland on banks. In Jersey it occurs on sand dunes as well. The lack of records in Jersey on the map is probably due to under-recording.

This is one of many related species of wood ants that occur in Western Europe. The familiar wood ant of Southern Britain (Formica rufa) (which has much more red on its thorax) lives in woods and builds high domed nests of small twigs. Formica pratensis on the other hand lives in open areas, or scrubby and heathy ones. The nests are not domed but are comparatively flat, but also built of small twigs. The ants forage from these on long trails sometimes extending over a 100m from the nests. The marriage flight occurs early in the year on warm days from April to June. The large queens are then common running over the cliff paths in Guernsey. How they found nests is not certain. In captivity the queens can raise the first workers on their own, but some scientists think that the majority either take over nests of the black ants Formica fusca and cunicularia by killing their queens, or are adopted by groups of workers of their own species in satellite nests of the main colonies.

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