Scientific Name: Formica spp.
Description: Wood ants, also called mound ants or field ants (and not to be confused with carpenter ants), are known for their interesting nest structures built in fields and open woodlands. Not all members of the genus Formica assemble large aboveground nests, but those that do are fantastic builders! A colony of these tiny invertebrates can produce a dome-shaped nest that can reach nearly 10 feet in diameter and 4.5 feet in height! Nests are thatched with twigs, stems, grass blades, and conifer needles. The resulting formations soak up sunlight and keep the ants warm.
Many of these ants protect insects called aphids, because aphids produce honeydew, a sticky liquid that the ants like to eat. For the most part, though, wood ants are predators of defoliating insects and so they’re considered to be beneficial to their ecosystems.
Range and Conservation Status: Various species of wood ants are probably found throughout the United States. However, little is known about each species and their conservation status.
Fun Fact: Wood ants can be quite sneaky too! Some colonies raid the nests of other wood ant species and take away their young. The stolen ants are raised as workers in the robbers’ colonies and never know the difference!
Klotz, J. H. (2008). Urban ants of North America and Europe: identification, biology, and management. Ithaca: Comstock Pub. Associates.
Red wood ants in North America
The contribution of red wood ants to soil C and N Pools and CO2 emissions in subalpine forests