Sunday 19 May
Small black ant (Lasius niger)
What’s the World’s Favourite Species?Find out here.
Small black ant fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Small black ant description
This is the commonest ant seen in Britain. Workers (non-reproductive females) are blackish-brown in colour and covered in small hairs (2). Winged reproductive females (queens) are almost twice as big as the workers (3), are darker in colour and have a large pair of clear wings, which are shed after mating (2). Males also possess wings and are much smaller than queens (2). The larvae are legless grubs, and the pupae are protected inside a white silk cocoon(3).
- Also known as
- Common black ant. Top
- A sheath of silk, which is spun around the pupae of some insects (a pupa is a stage in an insect's development, when huge changes occur that reorganise the larval form into the adult form. In butterflies the pupa is also called a chrysalis).
- A group of organisms living together, individuals in the group are not physiologically connected and may not be related, such as a colony of birds. Another meaning refers to organisms, such as bryozoans, which are composed of numerous genetically identical modules (also referred to as zooids or 'individuals'), which are produced by budding and remain physiologically connected.
- Stage in an animal's lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
- Stage in an insect's development when huge changes occur, which reorganise the larval form into the adult form. In butterflies the pupa is also called a chrysalis.
- National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary (Jan 2003): http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nbn/
- Domisthorpe, H. (1927) British ants. George Routledge and Sons, Ltd., London.
- Skinner, G. J. (1987) Ants of the British Isles. Shire Natural History. Shire publications Ltd., Aylesbury.
- Sterry, P. (1997) Complete British Wildlife photo guide. Harper Collins Publishers, London.
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
Small black ant biology
This ant often builds its nest in soil, in tree stumps or under stones or logs, and it frequently nests beneath paving stones in gardens (4). It may occasionally invade the nests of other species of ants (1). Colonies number around 5, 500 individuals (1). A wide range of food is eaten, including seeds, flower nectar, flies and other small insects, which are killed and taken back to the nest. Small black ants also 'milk' aphids, collecting drops of sweet honeydew exuded by the aphids. Aphids may even be taken into the nest (2).
Winged reproductive males and females engage in a mass mating flight in hot, humid weather during July and August (2). Males die after mating, and females establish new colonies. A queen mates only once, storing sufficient sperm inside her body to last her lifetime. The mating flight ensures that the species disperses well, and also increases the chance that males and females from different nests will mate, avoiding inbreeding, as the winged reproductive adults of different colonies in one area fly at the same time (3). After finding a suitable location, the queen begins to produce eggs. The resulting 'workers' are non-reproductive females, who take over the care of the colony. After hatching, the larvae initially feed on unhatched eggs; they are then fed by the workers on a regurgitated fluid (3).Top
Small black ant range
The small black ant is found throughout Europe, and also occurs in Japan and North Africa. In the UK, this species has a broad distribution, but is absent from certain areas of Scotland (1).Top
Small black ant habitat
Although found in a wide range of habitats, this ant is perhaps most familiar as a garden species (4). It also occurs in scrubland and wet areas. It can only survive in grasslands providing that there are either stones or mounds of the yellow meadow ant (Lasius flavus) present (1).Top
Small black ant status
Widespread and very common (1).Top
Small black ant threats
This ant is not currently threatened.Top
Small black ant conservation
No conservation action has been targeted at this species.Top
Find out more
For more on invertebrates and their conservation see Buglife, the Invertebrate Conservation Trust at:
AuthenticationThis information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: email@example.comTop
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.