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British ants

Compared to much of the rest of Europe, the UK is not a 'hot spot' for ants. The size and diversity of ant species in any area is largely determined for the highest summer soil temperature, and this being so, it is not surprising that the greatest concentration of different species is centred in the warmer parts of the country - Dorset, Hampshire, Surrey, the Isle of Wight and Kent being the 5 richest counties, with 33, 31, 29, 27 and 26 different species present respectively.

A few species, best exemplified by Lasius niger, and Myrmica rubra, are truly cosmopolitan, colonising are great variety of different habitats (often including those directly resultant from human activities). These species are very common in most places, and have ranges that cover most of the nation (indeed, M. rubra is the only species known on the Orkney isles, which is no mean feat with regard to survival capabilities!).

The greater part of Britain's ant species are, however, considerably more specialised in their requirements. Most independent species are found on undisturbed heathland in the south - probably as a direct result of its superior summer soil temperatures - and 6 are entirely dependent on other species during their mature life (i.e. not simply to found colonies, a requirement of many further species). Many of the lesser seen species are at the northern extent of their range in Britain, and for this reason are confined to the south. The variously differing biotopes afforded by parkland / partially wooded heath and larger traditional style gardens are also inhabited by a number of other wise more heathland-pigeonholed species, such as Formica fusca/lemani, Lasius mixtus/umbratus and L. fuliginosus.

The remaining species are mostly silvestral. These include the well known wood ants, typified by the southerly inclined Formica rufa, and the more northerly F. lugubris and F. aquilonia. These large noticeable species abide in mounds constructed from leaf litter, which are fortunately still a common site in many older forests and broken woodland up and down the country. A few other smaller, less easily spotted species also make their livings in conjunction with more arborised loci. Stenamma species and Leptothorax acervorium & Nylanderi can be found, locality permitting, under stones/logs and beneath loose bark respectively, in established woods. The former habitat is also shared by the rather locally distributed Ponera coarctata, which constitutes Britain's only unambiguously native representative of the subfamily Ponerinae.

The Channel Islands also play host to 4 more generally continental species not found on the mainland, in addition to a reasonable number that are.

Below are listed a comprehensive compilation of species native to the United Kingdom, Eire and the Channel Islands.

Also see List of the common names of British ant species for common names applied to species native to Britain.

Standard abbreviations are used: L. : Linnaeus F. : Fabricus Latr. : Latreille

See also List_of_established_non-endemic_ant_species_of_the_British_Isles and List_non-endemic_ant_species_introduced_to_the_British_Isles for introduced species recorded in Britain.

See List_of_ant_genera_(alphabetical) for a listing of wordwide ant genera.