Species: Black Garden Ant (Lasius niger)

Family: Ants (FORMICIDAE)

Category: Insects (Other)

Location: Widespread

A. Insects (Other)

More extensive information on insects can be found in a separate blog post.


Ants, Wasps, and Bees are related, and in a huge insect group called the Hymenoptera. Ants have ‘elbowed’ antennae, and a node-like structure of one or two segments that distinguishes their slender waists. They are social, living in organised nests of many thousands. Only the queen is fertile, the female workers being sterile. Females do all the work in the nest, looking after the other ants, eggs, and larvae, tidying, and building extensions. They have a lifespan of about five years. Male ants are only born from special eggs laid by the queen in the Summer, along with new queen eggs. The males mate with new queens, after which they soon die, and the new queens leave, or are driven out by the incumbent queen, to found colonies of their own. The departing queens and the winged males are called ‘flying ants’ and are only seen in the Summer. Ants are omnivorous, eating other insects, fruit, and nectar, but probably their favourite food is the sugary secretion of sap-sucking insects, and they will herd and farm aphids to get this secretion, or ‘honeydew’.

This widespread family of nest-building ants has a profound effect on soil structure.

C. Black Garden Ant (Lasius niger)

Probably our most familiar ant, this species will nest in earth, tree stumps, walls, under paving, and anywhere else suitable. Up to 40,000 individuals may populate a colony, which has a single queen in charge.


Black Garden Ant

Probably our most familiar ant, the Black Garden Ant will nest in earth, tree stumps, walls, and under paving.

Black Garden Ant

These Black Garden Ants are females, looking after eggs in the nest, a photograph taken in May.

Black Garden Ant

Ants have a symbiotic relationship with aphids. It is often said that the former farm the latter.

Because aphids feed on sap from plants - in this photograph, the plant is Cleavers or Goosegrass - they secrete a liquid called honeydew. This sugar-rich liquid is a source of food for the ants.

There are too many different species of aphid that feed on Cleavers to establish which one might be in this photograph.