Formica pratensis Retzius, 1783
Common names: Black-backed meadow ant, Red wood ant [En], Fourmi des prés [Fr], Zwartrugbosmier [Nl], Große Wiesenameise [De]
IUCN Status: NT (Near Threatened)
Durbuy, LUXEMBOURG ● Belgium
Description: Formica pratensis can reach a length of 4.5–9.5 millimetres in workers, slightly larger than in other species such as the more common southern wood ant Formica rufa or Formica polyctena. Queens reach a size of 9.5–11.3 millimetres.
The thorax is mainly reddish, while the abdomen and the top of the head are black or dark brown. Generally this large ant is much darker than other wood species of ants. The whole body is covered of fine hairs. Two large deep black patch are present on the pronotum and mesonotum. The legs, antennae and the well-developed mouthparts are reddish or dark brown.
A very similar species is Formica nigropratensis Betrem 1962.
Formica pratensis is divided into the following subspecies:
• F. p. nuda Ruzsky, 1926
• F. p. pratensis Retzius, 1783
• F. p. starkei Betrem, 1960
Biology: Nests are built from grasses, pine needles and straw. The diameter of the nests can reach a meter and have a single or just a few queens. The winged queens and the males can be present in nests from late April to September, as this species reflects the production of two separate generations. The first generation of ants develop from late April to mid-July, the second generation between mid-August to late September. This species mainly feeds of insects and other small animals and honeydew from the aphids.
Habitat: This species is characteristic of rough alpine pastures, up to a height of about 1,500 meters. It can be found in dry heathland, meadows and roadsides.
Distribution: This species can be found in Europe, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine. It is also present in the East Palearctic ecozone and in the Near East.
Protection: The species is extinct in the UK since 1988. In forests weakened by pollution and acid rain in central Europe, red wood ant populations are often endangered.
Wikipedia, Formica pratensis