Highland Atlas of Ants

As you all may know, this is planned as the last year of fieldwork for the Highland  Ant Atlas, and we need as many records as possible from the unrecorded areas of Highland.

The current maps are available on this website.

While all reports of ants are welcome, especially from the unrecorded areas, a few things are priorities.  First, if you know of any wood ant nests away from the hotspots of Strathspey, Culbin, and the Ft Augustus/Glen Moriston areas, please check to see if the maps for Formica aquilonia and F. lugubris have a blue dot there.  If not, please let me know , with a grid reference and/or description of how to find them.

Even if there is a dot, it would be good to have the information, in case we don’t know of the site you have found.

Arguably our most interesting ant is the Slave-making Ant F. sanguinea.

We have found this to be quite common over the E of the area, but as it is of some conservation concern in England it would be good to have as complete a picture of its distribution.

We are still finding new sites (four just in the past month), and Highland is its great stronghold in Britain.  If you find large red-and-black ants in open S-facing clearings where you do not see wood ant mounds, consider that they might be Slavers and check the map to see if we know of them.

The website shows how it is very easy to identify the Slaver from wood ants with a lens.

The biggest puzzle the scheme has thrown up is the distribution of the Yellow Meadow Ant Lasius flavus.

They are well distributed and often common to the west of the Great Glen, but we have no records in Highland to the S and E of the Glen.

Although it will live under stones and in moss like other ants, the Yellow Meadow Ant often builds soil mounds if the conditions are right (fine, dry sandy soil is best), and these are easily seen as they may be 2 feet or more high, thinly vegetated with Thyme and other dwarf plants.

Anyone who knows Strathfarrar will be familiar with the splendid examples there.  Its cousin the Black Garden Ant L. niger sometimes does the same, but a slight disturbance of the surface will tell whether the workers are yellow or black.

If anyone knows of Yellow Meadow Ants in the area to the SE of the Great Glen, again please send the details.

If anyone has a theory on why it should have this strange distribution, I would be interested to hear it.

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