By John Partridge
While out with Harry Green and John Meiklejohn looking for specimens to record on some road verges, I noticed streams of these black ants going up and down a tall oak tree. John recognised it as Lasius fuliginosus, but hadn't noticed it before. WBRC had records from seven places, this was the eighth, and I then found it on a large oak in Redditch's old cemetery. Putting the photograph on the web site has produced another record from Michael Southall in Crossway Green, who reports : "A colony of these ants has been in my garden every year I have lived here, since 1988. They seem to look after the aphids which are on a variety of trees and shrubs, none of which are oak."
The distribution maps in "Ants" (M.V. Brian - Collins New Naturalist) show it as mainly southern, south of the usual Severn-Wash line. The same book reports that they nest in the roots of old trees, and that the queen is incapable of founding a colony on her own - she makes use of an existing Lasius umbratus nest, which in turn would have been founded in a Lasius niger nest, so it is not surprising that the colonies are not that common- unless you know different - so please send in records.
The ant is fairly easily recognisable from the shiny jet black colour, together with its heart-shaped head if your eye-sight or lens is good enough. I can check out tentative records if you are not sure.
Lasius fuliginosus on oak bark. Photo John Partridge
National distribution of Lasius fuliginosus as shown in Edwards R ed 1991 Provisional Atlas of the aculleate Hymenoptera in Britain and Ireland. Part 1 JNCC/ITE. Solid dots 1970-1995 records, open circles 1900-1969 records, crosses before 1900. This up-dates the map mentioned in the article above.
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