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291 illustration

Red ant

Formica rufa

The worker red ant grows to a length of 9 millimetres, while the queen reaches 11 millimetres. The red ant has a brown-black head, red thorax and black abdomen. New queens and males have wings and are able to fly.

The red ant lives in forests — mostly coniferous — in Europe, northern Asia and North America.

Living in sophisticated social organisations, red ants communicate through pheromones, perceived via their long, thin antennae. Each colony contains one or more egg-laying queens and hundreds or even thousands of wingless workers. The latter collect food, rear the grubs and do all the other work. They are the only ants normally seen outside the nest, except during the mating flights. Red ants build enormous constructions, up to 1 metre high, out of small branches and pine needles on the surface and with lots of galleries under ground. The queen can produce up to 300 eggs per day. For protection, it emits formic acid from the top of its abdomen. This omnivorous ant hibernates during the winter.

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