Sunday, 25 November 2012

Antzzzzzzz …

Chiddingfold Forest, 14 March 2012

After a rather cold and overcast morning the sun finally emerged through the clouds at around 1.30pm. This was just the excuse I needed. By 2pm I was walking through Oaken Wood and heading deeper into the Chiddingfold Forest complex. Despite my best efforts, the blue sky and warming sun failed to arouse any butterflies. However, all was not lost, as there is always something to observe and today I was drawn, as often before, to the multitudes of ants going about their business.

Formica rufa is one of four British species of wood ant and is confined to England and Wales. There is some indication that there has been a contraction of its range in recent years especially in northern, central and eastern England and also in areas of Wales. In many parts of its southern range the species is still locally common and even expanding in some regions. The apparent indication of a contraction of the range may be due, in part, to a lack of recording effort in certain areas. There is also a possibility that some historical records for this species in northern and central Britain have arisen through confusion with Formica lugubris, due to an overlap of the two species range in northern England. The large nest mounds of F. rufa will no doubt be familiar to many people. They are composed of numerous tiny fragments of vegetation collected by the worker caste. There may be up to 400,000 individuals in a single nest. Occasionally, several nests may be interconnected, forming one large mega-colony. Where F. rufa is present in any numbers it can have a significant influence on the ecology of its woodland habitat. The ants are major predators and scavengers of woodland insects and feed extensively on aphid honeydew. Their colonies also support a wide range of myrmecophilous arthropods.

It should be pointed out that it can be a risky business getting too close to their nest. Some may even say foolhardy. It is most certainly not an act for the fainthearted as the ants react extremely quickly and aggressively to any intruder in their midst.  

They do bite …

I can vouch for that …



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