The Ants of Nottinghamshire
Ants are some the more easily recognised insects. Found everywhere, they are soon learned and quickly identified by children from an early age, although they are often described as just two species - either red ants or black ants.

Of course there are more than just two species and if only it was that easy to determine an identification. But ants always held an enormous interest, and many childhood hours were spent watching them tunnel down into soil-filled jam jars, or catching young queens after their nuptial flight on humid days.

Ants are easily accessible insects, as they can be found in everyone's garden and even widowboxes will hold a colony for a number of years. They are extremely fascinating, industrious insects and observing their behaviour can be absorbing.

Nottinghamshire species

Even 40 years ago, it was quite obvious on local collecting trips looking for ant nests, that there were limits to the number of species found in Nottinghamshire.

Derbyshire, Lincolnshire and Leicestershire, all seem to do better for the number of species than we do in Nottinghamshire. This may be due to a county's more diverse variety of available habitats, its geographical location within the UK, or just that there was a greater interest shown in ants within that county, than there was in Nottinghamshire?

There are currently around 70 species known from the UK. Some of these are accidental imports, which have since become established in tropical butterfly houses and horticultural greenhouses and at the moment, the actual number of native UK species is currently around fifty.

A checklist of Nottinghamshire Formicidae (Ants)
Species shown with a red asterisk, are only known from historical records only
FORMICA Linnaeus, 1758
Formica fusca (Linnaeus, 1758)
Formica lemani (Bondroit, 1917)
Formica lugubris (Zetterstedt, 1838)
Formica rufa (Linnaeus, 1761)
LASIUS Fabricius, 1804
Lasius alienus (Foerster, 1850)
Lasius flavus (Fabricius, 1782)
Lasius fuliginosus (Latreille, 1798) *
Lasius niger (Linnaeus, 1758)
Lasius umbratus (Nylander, 1846) *
Leptothorax acervorum (Fabricius, 1793)
MYRMICA Latreille, 1804
Myrmica lobicornis (Nylander, 1846)
Myrmica rubra (Linnaeus, 1758)
Myrmica ruginodis (Nylander, 1846)
Myrmica sabuleti (Meinert, 1861)
Myrmica scabrinodis (Nylander, 1846)
Myrmica sulcinodis (Nylander, 1846)
Tetramorium bicarinatum (Nylander, 1846) *
Nottinghamshire's historical Ant records

In Nottinghamshire, ants have always been little studied. Victorian and Edwardian naturalists never recorded them with any regularity and there has been a continued lack of interest in ants over the past 100 years. This has meant little change to the county list, so we again rely greatly on the species accounts and resulting lists produced when J.W. Carr published his book 'The Invertebrate Fauna of Nottinghamshire' Nottingham: J.& H. Bell Ltd. in 1916.

Present Nottinghamshire naturalists still rely a great deal on Carr's fabulous work, in which he collated the county's invertebrate records together into a single volume. He later followed this up with the supplement to his original book 'The Invertebrate Fauna of Nottinghamshire. Supplement.' Nottingham: J.& H. Bell Ltd, published in 1935. However, nothing seems to have been published on the county's ants since. The newly revamped NBN atlas helps those of us who regularly research county records and it does include most of the Formicidae records listed in Carr's book. But getting hold of any recently uploaded records for Nottinghamshire (if there are any) is still painfully slow.

Potentially (if all the species recorded and listed in Carr's book are reliable) then Nottinghamshire has 17 known species of ant. All but Lasius alienus, Myrmica lobicornis, Myrmica sabuleti and Myrmica sulcinodis are listed by Carr, as these four species appear to be recent additions to the county.

Lasius umbratus makes Nottinghamshire's list of Formicidae on the basis of W.C. Crawley's 1908 record of two (post Nuptial flight) Queens found on a road at Tollerton. W.C. Crawley also recorded Tetramorium bicarinatum for a number of years from a West Leake conservatory around 1909, before a single worker Tetramorium bicarinatum was also recorded by S. Pegler at Retford.

Presumed county status of Nottinghamshire Formicidae (Ants) and recent records

Formica fusca (Linnaeus, 1758) ... Widespread and generally very common where found. The greatest percentage of the Nottinghamshire population, is found on the sandy soils encompassing the Mansfield area, stretching from the Bestwood area of Nottingham to north of Clumber Park. There are recent records from Spalford Warren NR in the very east of the county and from a brownfield site at Langar, but these seem isolated sites among Nottinghamshire other records.

Formica lemani (Bondroit, 1917) ... Less common than F. fusca, which often occurs in the same habitat. We know of confirmed records from Oak Tree Heath in 2008, Sherwood Heath SSSI in 1989 and 1990 (Whiteley, D.), Sherwood Forest CP in 2002 and Clumber Park in 2009 (Phillips, A.).

  Formica lugubris (Zetterstedt, 1838) ... Nottinghamshire's only record is from Wollaton Hall in 1975 and the record may well be genuine, but we know nothing regarding the details of the record and it does seem questionable. Formica lugubris is common south-west of Matlock, with more isolated records of nests at sites west of both Bolsover and Staveley. Despite this Wood Ant being known to colonise new areas more readily than other species, the Nottinghamshire record still seems too isolated.

Formica rufa (Linnaeus, 1761) ... This large ant always seems to have had a restricted distribution in Nottinghamshire. J.W. Carr listed two historical records for the county, describing it as being "common in the Fir woods about Thorney and Wigsley" (Carr), with a record from Mansfield from 1912 (Staunt). Formica rufa currently remains restricted to one area of woodland in the east of the county near Girton, where nests appeared to be common when we visited the site in 2009 and 2016. The woodland is strictly private.

Above left:- Worker Formica fusca, photographed at Clipstone Old Quarter (Sherwood Forest NNR) January 2018. Below right:- Worker Myrmica rubra, photographed at Oxton Churchyard, September 2015.
Lasius alienus (Foerster, 1850) ... In Nottinghamshire, this is an uncommon ant of open, dry and sandy sites, which rather restricts its range within the county. There are recent records from Spalford Warren NR and Besthorpe NR north of Newark, Budby South Forest (Pendleton, T.A. and Pendleton, D.T.) and from Oak Tree Heath at Mansfield. Seifert (1992) discovered that Lasius alienus consisted of two species, consisting of the true Lasius alienus sensu stricto (Foerster 1850) and also Lasius psammophilus (Seifert, 1992). There appear to be no confirmed records of Lasius psammophilus from Nottinghamshire.

Lasius flavus (Fabricius, 1782) ... Fairly widespread across many parts of the county, Lasius flavus is presently the only yellow ant proven to occur in Nottinghamshire. Nests are built entirely underground, often within garden lawns where they may be disturbed by regular mowing. On undisturbed grassland, characteristic grassy mounds build up over many years.

Lasius fuliginosus (Latreille, 1798) ... There is a single 1907 record from Sherwood Forest, but without any doubt, this distinctive ant has long since died out there and is believed to be absent from Nottinghamshire.

Lasius niger (Linnaeus, 1758) ... This is the ubiquitous Black Garden Ant, which is the species everyone is familiar with. Widespread across the county, there is probably nowhere it doesn't occur. In 1991, Seifert found that Lasius niger actually consisted of two separate species, the true Lasius niger sensu strico (Linnaeus, 1758) and Lasius platythorax (Seifert, 1991). There appear to be no Nottinghamshire records of Lasius platythorax.

Lasius umbratus (Nylander, 1846) ... Carr's book lists just a single record of Lasius umbratus, when two (post Nuptial flight) Queens were found on a road at Tollerton in 1908 (Crawley, W.C.). There are recent records from neighbouring Leicestershire, even reaching as close as Loughborough (Leicestershire and Rutland Environmental Records Centre), so this ant may well be in the very south of Nottinghamshire.

Leptothorax acervorum (Fabricius, 1793) ... A small red ant which nests under bark, quite often within a small branch. Colonies are small in comparison to most other species and nests can sometimes be located within close proximity to those of other (larger) species. Leptothorax acervorum is probably reasonably common in Nottinghamshire, but is very easily overlooked and may well be under-recorded.

Myrmica lobicornis (Nylander, 1846) ... Known from just two sites, although possibly an under-recorded species. Nottinghamshire's first record was from Clumber Park in 2011 (Brash, P.), which was not followed up until found on Sherwood Heath SSSI in 2016 (Pendleton, T.A. and Pendleton, D.T.).

Myrmica rubra (Linnaeus, 1758) ... Common and widespread throughout the county and present in most habitat types. This is the red ant most commonly found in gardens.

Myrmica ruginodis (Nylander, 1846) ... This is another common ant over most of the county, although in our experience Myrmica ruginodis is slightly less widespread than Myrmica rubra. The two are often found together at many sites.

Myrmica sabuleti (Meinert, 1861) ... Myrmica sabuleti appears to be relatively new to Nottinghamshire and has a restricted range. It is an ant of dry, sandy soils and in the Sherwood Forest area, has been recorded from heathland sites at Budby South Forest, Sherwood Forest CP and Sherwood Heath SSSI (Godfrey, A.). There is a single record from Spalford Warren NR, in the very east of the county.

Myrmica scabrinodis (Nylander, 1846) ... Possibly recorded as being new to Nottinghamshire in 2006, when found during an invertebrate survey of Sherwood Heath SSSI (Godfrey, A.). Myrmica scabrinodis was also found from several sites in Clumber Park (Godfrey, A. and Phillips, A.) during surveys there in 2009 and has also been recorded from Budby South Forest, Walesby Forest, near Farnsfield and Ravenshead.

Myrmica sulcinodis (Nylander, 1846) ... This seems to be a rare ant in Nottinghamshire and as the recorders name is not available, the record could be doubtful. Nottinghamshire's only record is from Oak Tree Heath in 2008 (recorder unknown).

Tetramorium bicarinatum (Nylander, 1846) ... J.W. Carr lists two records of this non-native species. It was apparently recorded for a number of years from a West Leake conservatory around 1909 (W.C. Crawley) and a single worker was found at Retford (Pegler, S.).

Species distribution maps

The following distribution maps are sourced from the records of the following list of individuals and organisations/survey results and are as accurate as can be (as of January 2018) with the records and data we have at our disposal.

We have refrained from using historical records listed in J.W. Carr's book in any of the maps, and maps are only provided for those species with post-1970 (modern) records. This is in line with all other distribution maps we produce, done in an attempt to keep the maps consistant with current knowledge.

Formica fusca (Linnaeus, 1758)   Formica lemani (Bondroit, 1917)
Formica lugubris (Zetterstedt, 1838)   Formica rufa (Linnaeus, 1761)
Lasius alienus (Foerster, 1850)   Lasius flavus (Fabricius, 1782)
Lasius niger (Linnaeus, 1758)   Leptothorax acervorum (Fabricius, 1793)
Myrmica lobicornis (Nylander, 1846)   Myrmica rubra (Linnaeus, 1758)
Myrmica ruginodis (Nylander, 1846)   Myrmica sabuleti (Meinert, 1861)
Myrmica scabrinodis (Nylander, 1846)   Myrmica sulcinodis (Nylander, 1846)