Pound Green Common – a hot spot for ants
During two Worcestershire Recorders field meetings at Pound Green Common (situated on the north side of Wyre Forest near Buttonoak0 in 2008 and 2014 nine species of ants were recorded. Seven of these were recorded on both recording days, one, Lasius alienus in 2008 but not 2014 and one, Lasius brunneus, in 2010 (personal record by Harry Green) and 2014. These are shown in table 1.
|Formica rufa Linnaeus, 1761||05/07/2008; 26&28/04/2010; 05/07/2014|
|Lasius alienus (Foerster, 1850)||05/07/2008|
|Lasius brunneus (Latreille, 1798)||14/10/10; 05/07/2014|
|Lasius flavus (Fabricius, 1782)||05/07/2008; 05/07/2014|
|Lasius niger (Linnaeus, 1758)||05/07/2008 and 05/07/2014|
|Myrmica lobicornis Nylander, 1846||05/07/2014|
|Myrmica rubra (Linnaeus, 1758)||05/07/2014|
|Myrmica ruginodis Nylander, 1846||05/07/2008; 05/07/2014|
|Myrmica sabuleti Meinert, 1861.||05/07/2014|
Table 1. Ants recorded at Pound Green Common.
Formica rufa, the Southern Wood Ant: This species is, of course, well known from Wyre Forest and was recorded from Pound Green Common in the wooded areas.
Lasius alienus: Generally located in warm grassland and heathland sites. It was found on a roughly west-facing slope at Pound Green Common among relatively open grassland.
Lasius brunneus the Brown Tree Ant: As is usually the case, this ant was found on the bark of mature trees (particularly oak) where it tends to move about in the deeper fissures.
Lasius flavus the Yellow Meadow Ant: Being the archetypal meadow species its nest mounds are found on areas of open grassland.
Lasius niger the Black Garden Ant: A very widespread species found, at Pound Green Common, in areas of grassland and under larger rocks and stones.
Myrmica lobicornis: There have been previous records of this species in Wyre (Green, 2009) up to the late 1990’s but this is the first record since. It was found on the warm, west facing slope in a similar habitat of open grassland to L. alienus and L. psammophilus (see below).
Myrmica rubra: A common species found nesting under stones on warm, open sites.
Myrmica ruginodis: Another common species but found in more shaded and damper situations than M. rubra. It nests under stones and in tree stumps.
Myrmica sabuleti: This is the third species requiring warm, open grassland or heath and was found in the same area as L. alienus and M. lobicornis.
The future of ant recording at Pound Green Common
There are two further species which are probably present on, or around, the Common. Formicoxenus nitidulus (Nylander, 1846), the shining guest ant is well documented in Wyre (Green and Westwood, 2006) where it nests in Wood Ant nest mounds and should be sought by inspecting the wood ant nests in summer and autumn. Formica fusca Linnaeus 1858 is common in Worcestershire and there are many records from Wyre Forest. It is fairly catholic in its requirements for nest sites being found in open woodland, around more mature trees and in hedges where is will nest under stones and in old tree stumps. It is very unlikely to be absent from Pound Green Common.
There is another group of species which have been found more rarely in Wyre Forest in recent years and may be present at Pound Green Common. These are Formica sanguinea Latreille, 1798 the Blood-red Slave-making Ant, Lasius fuliginosus (Latreille, 1798), Lasius umbratus (Nylander, 1846), Leptothorax acervorum (Fabricius, 1793) and Temnothorax nylanderi (Foerster, 1850).
Formica sanguinea: This ant has been found at a few sites in Wyre and a major colony is not far from Pound Green Common, at Postenplains. Here, the nests are under large stone in a hot, sheltered situation and sites with these characteristics need to be surveyed at Pound Green. As suggested by the English name F. sanguinea often has “slaves”, to undertake tasks of nest maintenance and care of larvae, which it obtains by raiding the nests of other ants, frequently Formica fusca, and stealing pupae.
Lasius fuliginosus: This is not a common species but it should be searched for at the base of mature trees. It is unusual in that it cannot found its own nest from scratch but takes over the nests of Lasius umbratus.
Lasius umbratus: This ant forms underground nests below stones or at the base of mature trees or in hedges, taking over the nests of some other Lasius species. Clearly it would need to be present at Pound Green Common if L. fuliginosus is to be found.
Leptothorax acervorum: This is a small species which nests in dead wood, under bark or under stones, usually in light shade.
Temnothorax nylanderi: Generally found in woodland nesting under bark or in dead wood.
There are two further species which need consideration, Lasius platythorax Seifert, 1991 and L. psammophilus Seifert, 1992 which were separated from L. niger and L. alienus respectively. They are not easily identified, requiring careful microscopic examination and their distribution in Worcestershire and Wyre Forest remains uncertain. L. platythorax will generally be found in damper situations than L. niger where it nests in dead wood and under turf and stones. L. psammophilus prefers the dry, sandy areas which may also be frequented by L. alienus and great care is needed when identifying specimens from such sites. However, I came across information that suggested L.alienus prefers short, warm, chalk grassland and tends to be replaced by L. psammophilus on sandy substrates. It is possible, therefore, that Worcestershire records of L. alienus may have been mis-identifications and should have been L. psammophilus. A lot more work is needed on these species and I would be glad to receive specimens from any sandy sites.
|Formica fusca||Common in southern, lowland areas of Britain.|
|Formica rufa||Remains abundant in suitable habitat in the southern half of England and Wales. It is replaced in northern Britain by the northern wood ant F. lugubris|
|Formica sanguinea||In England, restricted mainly to the sandy soils in Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire but there scattered records along the Welsh borders, including Wyre Forest.|
|Formicoxenus nitidulus||Widely distributed in association with the wood ants in England. Scotland and Wales. Its status is uncertain due to probable under recording.|
|Lasius alienus||Appears widely distributed in southern England and Wales though its distribution remains uncertain because of confusion with L. psammophilus.|
|Lasius brunneus||Mainly confined to the Thames and Severn catchments where it is not uncommon.|
|Lasius flavus||Common in suitable meadows and pastures in England and Wales but scarcer in Scotland.|
|Lasius fuliginosus||Widely distributed in southern England but nowhere common.|
|Lasius niger||Very common in all parts of the British Isles.|
|Lasius platythorax||Widely distributed in southern England but almost certainly under recorded due to confusion with L. niger.|
|Lasius psammophilus||There is little information about its distribution but it seems to be seriously under recorded on sandy substrates due to confusion with L.alienus.|
|Lasius umbratus||Widely distributed through central and southern England.|
|Leptothorax acervorum||Abundant in most areas of England, Scotland and Wales. Clearly under recorded in Wyre and Worcestershire generally.|
|Myrmica lobicornis||Widely distributed throughout England, Scotland and Wales though not common. Its scattered distribution may well be due to under recording.|
|Myrmica rubra||Locally common over much of the British Isles.|
|Myrmica ruginodis||Common throughout England, Scotland and Wales.|
|Myrmica sabuleti||Widely distributed and common in south-east England but becoming scarcer to the north and west.|
|Temnothorax nylanderi||Locally distributed in the southern half of England, especially the south-east.|
Table 2. National status of species referred to in text.
Pound Green Common provides the range of habitats required by this wide selection of ants and undoubtedly the list will be extended beyond the nine already identified. I hope that recorders visiting the site will observe and, if possible, collect ants and I will be happy to receive specimens for identification.
For a more comprehensive review of the ants of Wyre Forest see Green, 2009.
Green, G.H. Ants of Wyre Forest – a review. Wyre Forest Study Group Review 2009, pages 28–39
Green, G.H. and Westwood B. The Shining Guest Ant (Formicoxenus nitidulus) in Wyre Forest. Wyre Forest Study Group Review 2006, pages 9–11.