Wood Ants up in the air!

In New Parks there is an 8 foot high wooden post in a sunny glade. Wood Ants (Formica rufa) were observed climbing up carrying nest material, so Roger Plant devised a cunning technique to successfully obtain a photograph of the top of the post. We know that these ants often centre their nest on a dead log – but this pole is a bit ambitious! We shall have to see how the nest develops.

Wood Ants taking nesting material up the pole, 3 May 2017 ©Graham Hill

Roger Plant photographing Wood Ants on the post, 3 May 2017

Wood Ants on top of the pole with nesting material ©Roger Plant

 

Pine Sawfly (Diprion pini)

This summer a group of these sawfly larvae have defoliated the top of a small ornamental pine tree in my garden in Bliss Gate. They have been recorded here since 2014. There are still a few larvae present in the middle of September, but they will soon all have moved down into the soil where they spin overwintering cocoons in which to pupate. They will emerge as adults during next May or June.

Common Pine Sawfly (Diprion pini), Bliss Gate, 24 August 2016 ©Rosemary Winnall

Southern Wood Ant Formica rufa

Southern Wood Ants are commonly found in the Wyre Forest and in sunny places their large nests can be large and conspicuous. There may be up to 400,000 individual ants in one nest, almost all of which are worker ants. Winged males and new queens emerge between April and August and Kevin McGee has sent this excellent photograph of one of the queens he found in Wyre recently.

Formica rufa queen ant, Wimperhill, 5 June 2016 ©Kevin McGee

Wood Ants

Wendy Carter has sent these excellent photographs of Wood Ant (Formica rufa) workers carrying smaller live ants. Although this has been documented before, it is not clear why this behaviour occurs. The ant being carried is not struggling, so presumably it is not objecting to a lift back to the nest!

Wood Ant carrying another, Ribbesford Wood, 10 April 2016 ©Wendy Carter

Wood Ant carrying another live ant, Ribbesford Wood, 11 April 2016 ©Wendy Carter

Wood Ants massing in the spring sunshine

Wood Ants (Formica rufa) spend the winter months in a state of dormancy underground in their nests. Then, in the spring sunshine when the ground temperature is high enough, they can be seen massing together on top of the nest in large numbers as seen here. Their dark colour enables them to absorb the heat of the sun and when they return to the nest their radiated heat can warm the nest.

Wood Ants massing on their nest, 13 April 2016

Wood Ants massing on their nest, 13 April 2016

Black-headed Velvet Ant, Myrmosa atra

Despite its name, this is not an ant but an ant-like wasp in the family Mutillidae (Hymenoptera) in which there are 3 British species. These are parasites of halictine bees and crabronid wasps. The females have no wings, but are transported by the male whilst in cop. This female was found on bare sandy ground at Bliss Gate. This one looked like a queen ant, although had conspicuous waving antennae. They can sting if provoked and apparently stridulate when handled.

Black-headed Velvet Ant, Myrmosa atra, Bliss Gate ©Rosemary Winnall

Wyre Forest’s Wood Ants

The Wood Ants (Formica rufa) that are commonly found in most of Wyre’s woodland have begun to emerge from their winter period of dormancy and when weather conditions are suitable they are out massing on top of their nests – quite a spectacle!

Wood Ants, Ribbesford Wood, 27 March 2015 ©Nicola Winnall

Wood Ants, Ribbesford Wood, 27 March 2015, ©Nicola Winnall

December Bumble Bee

This unseasonably warm weather will have had a number of effects on wildlife. On December 17th 2014 at 13.30, when the temperature outside was 12°C, I spotted a bumble bee worker buzzing around the Mahonia flowers in my garden at Callow Hill. On closer inspection it had two full pollen baskets and as I watched it moved across to nectar on winter-flowering heather close by. Now is the nest that this worker is provisioning a continuation of the summer nest, or has a new Queen come out of hibernation early and started building a new nest already?