Ant Identification

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

Important - an ant stuck in a queue at Dover
(From the Uxbridge English Dictionary)

Ant Identification Workshops Currently all cancelled.

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 (uses some poorly-defined features, and 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.

Ants of Britain and Europe
Claude Lebas, Christophe Galkowski, Rumsaïs Blatrix, Philippe Wegnez.
Bloomsbury Wildlife, 2019.
An English translation of:
Fourmis d'Europe Occidentale.
Delachaux et Nestlé, 2016.

Billed in the English version as 'the first accessible field guide to the ants of Britain and Europe', this is a bit mis-leading as the species photographs provide little help in identification. The identification keys are good, but as always with ants, require specimens under a microscope. There is an excellent section on ant ecology and studying ants, and each species or species group has a detailed description.
However be warned the 2019 English version suffers from some poor translations ("spine" instead of sting, "gizzard" rather than crop, and a number of other oddities that don't really make sense. Google Translate perhaps?).


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 Formicaria on eBay, they seem to be the best available.