Ant Identification

Links and other resources for identification of ants in the UK.

Cormorant - an ant that likes a mild curry.
(From the Uxbridge English Dictionary)

2019 Identification Workshops.

In 2019 I am leading a couple of identification workshops for the FSC BioLinks Project.

A "Learn to Love Ants" day workshop in the Wyre Forest, Worcestershire. Wednesday 29th May. Looking at ants in the field (or more accurately woods), finding ants, looking and watching ants, and making the first steps towards species identification with hand lenses. No microscopes involved.

21st - 23rd June 2019. Ant Identification Weekend.
Preston Montford, Shropshire.
Following on from the above but working towards species identification. Microscopes and keys involved, but also getting outside to look for ants.
(As of 1st March 2019 this course is fully booked, but it is possible to add your name to a waiting list for a space if one becomes available.)

Details on the BioLinks Courses Page

I have put together a Quick ID Guide to ants for beginners courses, but have decided to make it available as a download as well. It is intended to get people looking at ants more closely, and making the first steps towards identifying the species. If anyone does download and use it I would appreciate feedback for future updates.


Anybody interested in ants, insects, or wildlife in general should not miss the online comic 'Ant Wars'. Currently the French language version is online at La Guerre des Fourmis, an English version is promised soon.

Below are some of the resources I find useful for identifying ant specimens from Britain especially, but also Europe.


The Ants of Central and Northern Europe.
Bernhard Seifert.
Lutra, 2018.
The most up to date work covering British ants. Technical and difficult keys (to be honest parts are unuseable for the general naturalist like me), but otherwise streets ahead of anything else. An essential reference book.

Volume 24 of Naturalists' handbooks, ISSN 0962-6360.
Gary J. Skinner, Geoffrey W. Allen
Company of Biologists, 1996.
Out-dated, new species have been added and names changed since 1996, but still the most recently published book on the identification of British ants. The keys to workers and queens are over-simplified and can be misleading (many of the drawings are inaccurate or difficult to interpret), the male ant key is probably best avoided altogether.

The RES Handbook for the identification of British insects;
Vol 6 Part 3c. Hymenoptera - Formicidae.
Barry Bolton & Cedric A. Collingwood.
Is available as a download from the RES website on the out of print handbooks page. Again needs updating, but the keys are still useful if the changes to taxonomy since publication are taken into account. Especially useful for males.

The Formicidae (Hymenoptera) of Fennoscandia and Denmark.
C. A. Collingwood.
Fauna Entomologica Scandinavica, vol. 8, 1979.
Published a few years after the RES key so similar comments apply, covers all the British species and not too many others. Useful keys and line-drawings. Still in print, and also available as a PDF from AntBase.

Fourmis d'Europe Occidentale.
Claude Lebas, Christophe Galkowski, Rumsaïs Blatrix, Philippe Wegnez.
Delachaux et Nestlé, 2016.
Keys to, and descriptions of, all the ant genera and many of the species/species groups of Western Europe. English version expected June 2019.


Identification and information resources.

There is lots of useful information and links for British Hymenoptera in general on the BWARS website.
Especially useful for ants are the Stenamma and Myrmica sabuleti/scabrinodis/speciodes guides on the download page.

Key to Identifying Common French Ants.
Has a dichotomous key to the majority of French species, so covers all native British species and many others.

AntWeb Huge online database of high resolution photos of ants for identification, and more.

Myrmecological News
publishes scientific papers on Ants, including many on new species & species identification, and also has a news blog

AntWiki With lots of useful stuff. A glossary of morphological terms is here.



General interest

Entomologist and photographer Alex Wild writes about entomology, photography, and especially ants at Myrmecos, with links to his photography website.

The Daily Ant provides 'premier ant content for general consumption'. (Motto "Ants, Ants, Ants.")

UK Wood Ants

Myrm's Ant Nest

The acrylic ant nest chambers I use for observation nests are sold by ALLABOUTANTS on eBay, they seem to be the best available, but you do need to source a feeding chamber elsewhere, or make your own.