Wood Ant

Formica rufa


There are around 200 different types of wood ant. This group of ants has other common names such as mound ants, field ants, horse ants and piss ants!

Formica rufa, also known as the southern wood ant, is an aggressive, active, and large ant. It is capable of spraying formic acid at enemies up to a few feet away.

Their nests are made from a mass of pine needles, which are typically placed on top of old tree stumps. Nests can a few meters in height.

Larger workers can be found foraging up to 50 meters from their nest.

They collect an natural resin found dripping from trees, individual ants will walk over the resin to disinfect themselves from bacteria and fungi.

Over one year a single colony of these ants may consumer over 10 million insects. They are very efficient predators, and play a crucial role in protecting a forests natural eco system.

These ants sometimes nest in other wood ants species (particularly Formica fusca) nests by becoming temporary social parasites.

They are categorised as ‘near threatened’ under the IUCN Red list of Threatened Species


Scientific names
Formica rufa (featured), Formica sp.


Found across southern Britain, North to Mid Europe, Pyrenees and Siberia.


Formica rufa nests are typically found in deciduous woodlands and the edges of dense conifer plantations.


A large range and large amount of insects, even other ant species. They aggressively protect and farm honeydew from aphids.


Colony size
Established colonies normally have around 100,000 workers with about 100 queens. However some nests have been reported to have up to half a million individuals.



12-15mm, dark reds and blacks, mostly polygyn (multiple queens per colony).

They are known to have live for up to 15 years.


8-10mm, dark reds and blacks.

Take a look at the Gigapan link below, here you can really zoom in on one of these ants.


Risk level 2
Large mandibles allow for mid level bite. Wood ants are legally protected in many countries.


Pet level 3
Formica rufa is a protected species and so is not suitable as a pet. They are also very hard to look after due to their requirements of fresh pine needles, fresh resin and large space. Other wood ant species make much more suitable pets i.e Formica fusca.


Wood Ant videos