Formica pratensis

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Formica pratensis
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Formicinae
Tribe: Formicini
Genus: Formica
Species: F. pratensis
Binomial name
Formica pratensis
Retzius, 1783

Formica pratensis casent0010647 profile 1.jpg

Formica pratensis casent0010647 dorsal 1.jpg

Specimen labels


Collingwood (1979) - This is the black backed meadow ant characteristic of rough alpine pastures but also common on woodland borders and scrubby heathland throughout lowland Europe and South Fennoscandia. Colonies are isolated single nests with one or very few queens. Jensen (1977) gives population estimates for this species in Denmark of up to 60,000 workers. Nests are smaller than with Formica rufa and other species of this group and nest materials are coarser. A polygynous form with many grouped nests, occurs locally in Germany and the Netherlands, often in shaded woodland, but has not been recorded from Denmark or Fennoscandia. Brood development begins later in the spring with sexuals normally appearing in July.


Bicoloured with gaster, occiput and frons matt black, not shining; gaster more or less thickly pubescent. Black patch on promesonotum variable but in typical specimens clearly demarcated. Eyes thickly haired; occiput with short to medium length fringing hairs, sometimes reduced to very few. Antennal scapes without protruding hairs. Femora and tibiae fringed with hairs on extensor surfaces. Length; 4.5-9.5mm (Collingwood 1979).

Keys including this Species


Portugal to Siberia. Central Italy to Central Sweden and the Russian Federation.

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Palaearctic Region: Albania, Andorra, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Channel Islands, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guernsey, Hungary, Iberian Peninsula, Iran, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mongolia, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Macedonia, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Distribution based on AntMaps


Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb


Nest photo provided by A. Buschinger.

Novgorodova (2105) showed that workers actively attacked adult insects that are predators of aphids, regardless of their prior experience tending trophobionts. This is an expected result of the ants use of aphids as an important source of honeydew.


Formica pratensis collect honeydew.

Novgorodova (2015b) investigated ant-aphid interactions of a dozen honeydew collecting ant species in Western Siberia pine and aspen-birch-pine forests (54°7´N, 83°06´E, 200 m, Novosibirsk) and mixed-grass-cereal steppes with aspen-birch groves (53°44´N, 78°02´E, 110 m, near Karasuk) in the Novosibirsk Region and coniferous forests in the northeastern Altai (north end of Lake Teletskoe, 51°48´N, 87°17´E, 434 m). All of the ants studied had workers that showed high fidelity to attending particular aphid colonies, i.e, individual ants tend to return to the same location, and group of aphids, every time they leave the nest. F. pratensis' honeydew collecting activities also showed some other specialization. During the summer months when the aphids and ants were most active, individual foragers tended to specialize on collecting honeydew or guarding, i.e. protecting aphids from competitors. During cooler months when aphids were still active foragers showed no specialization. F. pratensis tended: Symydobius oblongus (Heyden) and Chaitophorus populeti (Panzer) and Aphis jacobaeae Schrank.

Associations with other Organisms

Other Insects

This species is a host for the ant Formicoxenus nitidulus (a xenobiont) (Holldobler & Wilson 1990; Busch 2001; Martin et al. 2007).

This species is a host for the eulophid wasp Melittobia acasta (a parasite) (Universal Chalcidoidea Database) (primary host).

This ant has been associated with the butterfly Glaucopsyche alexis (Obregon et al. 2015).


This taxon is a host for the fungi Ophiocordyceps myrmecophila (Shrestha et al., 2017) and Aegeritella superficialis (Espadaler & Santamaria, 2012).

Life History Traits

  • Mean colony size: 60,000 (Jensen, 1977; Beckers et al., 1989) (1 nest examined)
  • Nest site: thatch mound
  • Foraging behaviour: trunk trail (Jensen, 1977; Beckers et al., 1989)





The following information is derived from Barry Bolton's New General Catalogue, a catalogue of the world's ants.

  • pratensis. Formica pratensis Retzius, 1783: 75 (w.) no locality given. Forel, 1874: 52 (q.m.). Subspecies of rufa: Forel, 1874: 52; Forel, 1892i: 307; Ruzsky, 1905b: 337; Emery, 1909b: 186; Wheeler, W.M. 1913f: 428; Forel, 1915d: 57; Emery, 1916b: 256; Emery, 1925b: 254; Ruzsky, 1925b: 43; Karavaiev, 1929b: 217; Stitz, 1939: 341; Gösswald, 1941: 81; Holgersen, 1942: 13. Status as species: André, 1882b: 184; Nasonov, 1889: 17; Ruzsky, 1902d: 10; Bondroit, 1912: 352; Donisthorpe, 1915d: 267; Bondroit, 1917a: 174; Müller, 1923: 142; Ruzsky, 1926: 110; Novak & Sadil, 1941: 105; Boven, 1947: 188; Yarrow, 1955a: 4; Kutter, 1965: 140; Dlussky, 1967a: 84; Dlussky & Pisarski, 1971: 177; Tarbinsky, 1976: 194; Kutter, 1977c: 272; Collingwood, 1979: 152; Gösswald, 1989: 19; Atanassov & Dlussky, 1992: 272; Seifert, 1992a: 225. Senior synonym of nigricans (and its junior synonyms cordieri, pratensoides, thyssei): Dlussky, 1967a: 84; Kutter, 1977c: 272; Seifert, 1992a: 225; of ciliata: Dlussky & Pisarski, 1971: 177; Seifert, 1992a: 225; of grouvellei: Seifert, 1996a: 200. Current subspecies: nominal plus nuda, staerckei.
  • pratensoides. Formica minor subsp. pratensoides Gösswald, 1951: 436 (w.q.m.) GERMANY. Junior synonym of nigricans: Yarrow, 1955a: 4. [Revived from synonymy: Gösswald, 1989: 20; returned to synonymy: Bolton, 1995b: 201.]
  • nigricans. Formica pratensis var. nigricans Bondroit, 1912: 352 (w.) SPAIN. [First available use of Formica rufa subsp. pratensis var. nigricans Emery, 1909b: 187; unavailable name.] Subspecies of pratensis: Novak & Sadil, 1941: 105; Boven, 1947: 189. Raised to species: Yarrow, 1955a: 4. Status as species: Betrem, 1960b: 77; Bernard, 1967: 314; Baroni Urbani, 1971c: 220; Paraschivescu, 1972: 534; Collingwood, 1979: 153. Senior synonym of pratensoides, thyssei: Yarrow, 1955a: 4; of cordieri: Betrem, 1962: 38; Kutter, 1965: 140. Junior synonym of pratensis: Dlussky, 1967a: 84; Dlussky & Pisarski, 1971: 177; Kutter, 1977c: 272; Seifert, 1992a: 225.
  • cordieri. Formica pratensis var. cordieri Bondroit, 1917a: 174 (diagnosis in key) (q.) FRANCE. Raised to species: Betrem, 1960b: 77. Junior synonym of nigricans: Betrem, 1962: 38; Kutter, 1965: 140.
  • grouvellei. Formica rufa var. grouvellei Bondroit, 1918: 60 (q.) FRANCE. Junior synonym of pratensis: Seifert, 1996a: 200.
  • ciliata. Formica pratensis var. ciliata Ruzsky, 1926: 110 (w.q.) RUSSIA. [First available use of Formica rufa subsp. pratensis var. ciliata Ruzsky, 1915b: 7; unavailable name.] [Unresolved junior primary homonym of ciliata Mayr, above.] Junior synonym of pratensis: Dlussky & Pisarski, 1971: 177.



  • n = 26, 2n = 52 (Finland; Switzerland) (Hauschteck-Jungen & Jungen, 1976; Rosengren et al., 1980).


  • Aksoy, V., Camlitepe, Y. 2018. Effects of genetic relatedness, spatial distance, and context on intraspecific aggression in the red wood ant Formica pratensis (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Turkish Journal of Zoology 42: 297-306 (DOI 10.3906/zoo-1708-17).
  • André, E. 1882c. Les fourmis. [part]. Pp. 153-232 in: André, Edm. 1881-1886. Species des Hyménoptères d'Europe et d'Algérie. Tome Deuxième. Beaune: Edmond André, 919 + 48 pp. (page 184, status as species)
  • Atanassov, N.; Dlussky, G. M. 1992. Fauna of Bulgaria. Hymenoptera, Formicidae. Fauna Bûlg. 22: 1-310 (page 272, status as species)
  • Beckers R., Goss, S., Deneubourg, J.L., Pasteels, J.M. 1989. Colony size, communication and ant foraging Strategy. Psyche 96: 239-256 (doi:10.1155/1989/94279).
  • Bolton, B. 1995b. A new general catalogue of the ants of the world. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 504 pp. (page 201, catalogue)
  • Bondroit, J. 1912. Fourmis de Hautes-Fagnes. Ann. Soc. Entomol. Belg. 56: 351-352 (page 352, status as species)
  • Bondroit, J. 1917a. Notes sur quelques Formicidae de France (Hym.). Bull. Soc. Entomol. Fr. 1917: 174-177 (page 174, status as species)
  • Boven, J. K. A. van. 1947b. Liste de détermination des principales espèces de fourmis belges (Hymenoptera Formicidae). Bull. Ann. Soc. Entomol. Belg. 83: 163-190 (page 188, status as species)
  • Collingwood, C. A. 1979. The Formicidae (Hymenoptera) of Fennoscandia and Denmark. Fauna Entomol. Scand. 8: 1-174 (page 152, status as species)
  • Dlussky, G. M. 1967a. Ants of the genus Formica (Hymenoptera, Formicidae, g. Formica). Moskva: Nauka Publishing House, 236 pp. (page 84, status as species, senior synonym of nigricans (and its junior synonyms cordieri, pratensoides and thyssei))
  • Dlussky, G. M.; Pisarski, B. 1971. Rewizja polskich gatunków mrówek (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) z rodzaju Formica L. Fragm. Faun. (Warsaw) 16: 145-224 (page 177, status as species, senior synonym of ciliata)
  • Donisthorpe, H. 1915f. British ants, their life-history and classification. Plymouth: Brendon & Son Ltd., xv + 379 pp. (page 267, status as species)
  • Emery, C. 1909b. Beiträge zur Monographie der Formiciden des paläarktischen Faunengebietes. (Hym.) Teil VII. Dtsch. Entomol. Z. 1909: 179-204 (page 186, subspecies of rufa)
  • Emery, C. 1916a [1915]. Fauna entomologica italiana. I. Hymenoptera.-Formicidae. Bull. Soc. Entomol. Ital. 47: 79-275 (page 256, subspecies of rufa)
  • Emery, C. 1925d. Hymenoptera. Fam. Formicidae. Subfam. Formicinae. Genera Insectorum 183: 1-302 (page 254, subspecies of rufa)
  • Espadaler, X., Santamaria, S. 2012. Ecto- and Endoparasitic Fungi on Ants from the Holarctic Region. Psyche Article ID 168478, 10 pages (doi:10.1155/2012/168478).
  • Forel, A. 1874. Les fourmis de la Suisse. Systématique, notices anatomiques et physiologiques, architecture, distribution géographique, nouvelles expériences et observations de moeurs. Neue Denkschr. Allg. Schweiz. Ges. Gesammten Naturwiss. 26: 1-452 (page 52, queen, male described, subspecies of rufa)
  • Forel, A. 1892j. Die Ameisenfauna Bulgariens. (Nebst biologischen Beobachtungen.). Verh. K-K. Zool.-Bot. Ges. Wien 42: 305-318 (page 307, subspecies of rufa)
  • Forel, A. 1915d. Fauna insectorum helvetiae. Hymenoptera. Formicidae. Die Ameisen der Schweiz. Mitt. Schweiz. Entomol. Ges. 12(B Beilage: 1-77 (page 57, subspecies of rufa)
  • Goropashnaya, Anna V.; Fedorov, Vadim B.; Pamilo, Pekka 2004. Recent speciation in the Formica rufa group ants (Hymenoptera, Formicidae): inference from mitochondrial DNA phylogeny. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 32(1): 198-206 (mtDNA sequence data)
  • Gösswald, K. 1941. Rassenstudien an der roten Waldameise Formica rufa L. auf systematischer, ökologischer, physiologischer und biologischer Grundlage. Z. Angew. Entomol. 28: 62-124 (page 81, subspecies of rufa)
  • Gösswald, K. 1989. Die Waldameise. Band 1. Biologische Grundlagen, Ökologie und Verhalten. Wiesbaden: AULA-Verlag, xi + 660 pp. (page 19, status as species)
  • Holgersen, H. 1942b. Ants of northern Norway (Hym., Form.). Tromso Mus. Årsh. 63(2 2: 1-34 (page 13, subspecies of rufa)
  • Jensen, T. 1977. Annual foraging activity of a colony of Formica pratensis Retz. Proceedings VIII International Congress IUSSI, Wageningen, pp. 217-218.
  • Karavaiev, V. 1929d. Myrmekologische Fragmente. II. Zb. Prats Zool. Muz. 7:205-220 [= Tr. Vseukr. Akad. Nauk Fiz.-Mat. Vidd. 13:203-218]. (page 217, subspecies of rufa)
  • Kutter, H. 1965b. Formica nigricans Em. (=cordieri Bondr.) bona species? Mitt. Schweiz. Entomol. Ges. 37: 138-150 (page 140, status as species)
  • Kutter, H. 1977c. Hymenoptera, Formicidae. Insecta Helv. Fauna 6: 1-298 (page 272, status as species, senior synonym of nigricans (and its junior synonyms cordieri, pratensoides and thyssei))
  • Müller, G. 1923b. Le formiche della Venezia Guilia e della Dalmazia. Boll. Soc. Adriat. Sci. Nat. Trieste 28: 11-180 (page 142, status as species)
  • Nasonov, N. V. 1889. Contribution to the natural history of the ants primarily of Russia. 1. Contribution to the ant fauna of Russia. Izv. Imp. Obshch. Lyubit. Estestvozn. Antropol. Etnogr. Imp. Mosk. Univ. 58: 1-78 (page 17, status as species)
  • Novák, V.; Sadil, J. 1941. Klíc k urcování mravencu strední Evropy se zvlástním zretelem k mravencí zvírene Cech a Moravy. Entomol. Listy 4: 65-115 (page 105, status as species)
  • Novgorodova, T. A. 2015a. Interaction of ants with aphid enemies: Do inexperienced ants specializing in honeydew collection recognize aphidophages at their first contact? Entomological Review. 95:1182-1190. doi:10.1134/s0013873815090055
  • Novgorodova, T. A. 2015b. Organization of honeydew collection by foragers of different species of ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae): Effect of colony size and species specificity. European Journal of Entomology. 112:688-697. doi:10.14411/eje.2015.077
  • Obregon, R., M. R. Shaw, J. Fernandez-Haeger, and D. Jordano. 2015. Parasitoid and ant interactions of some Iberian butterflies (Insecta: Lepidoptera). Shilap-Revista De Lepidopterologia. 43:439-454.
  • Punttila, P., Kilpeläinen, J. 2009. Distribution of mound-building ant species (Formica spp., Hymenoptera) in Finland: preliminary results of a national survey. Annales Zoologici Fennici 46: 1–15.
  • Retzius, A. J. 1783. Caroli de Geer. Genera et species insectorum e generosissimi auctoris scriptis extraxit, digessit, Latine quoad partem reddidit, et terminologiam insectorum Linneanam addidit. Lipsiae [= Leipzig]: Cruse, 220 pp. (page 75, worker described)
  • Ruzsky, M. 1902d. Material on the ant fauna of the Caucasus and the Crimea. Protok. Obshch. Estestvoispyt. Imp. Kazan. Univ. 206(su suppl: 1-33 (page 10, status as species)
  • Ruzsky, M. 1905b. The ants of Russia. (Formicariae Imperii Rossici). Systematics, geography and data on the biology of Russian ants. Part I. Tr. Obshch. Estestvoispyt. Imp. Kazan. Univ. 38(4-6 6: 1-800 (page 337, subspecies of rufa)
  • Ruzsky, M. 1925b. New data on the ant fauna of Siberia. Rus. Entomol. Obozr. 19: 41-46 (page 43, subspecies of rufa)
  • Ruzsky, M. 1926. A systematic list of the ants found in Siberia. I. Review of the species of the genera Camponotus (s. ext.) and Formica (s. str.). Izv. Tomsk. Gos. Univ. 77: 107-111 (page 110, status as species)
  • Seifert, B. 1992a. Formica nigricans Emery, 1909 - an ecomorph of Formica pratensis Retzius, 1783 (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Entomol. Fenn. 2: 217-226 (page 225, status as species)
  • Seifert, B. 1992a. Formica nigricans Emery, 1909 - an ecomorph of Formica pratensis Retzius, 1783 (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Entomol. Fenn. 2: 217-226 (page 225, senior synonym of nigricans (and its junior synonyms cordieri, pratensoides and thyssei))
  • Seifert, B. 1992a. Formica nigricans Emery, 1909 - an ecomorph of Formica pratensis Retzius, 1783 (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Entomol. Fenn. 2: 217-226 (page 225, senior synonym of ciliata)
  • Shrestha B, Tanaka E, Hyun MW, Han JG, Kim CS, Jo JW, Han SK, Oh J, Sung JM, Sung GH. 2017. Mycosphere Essay 19. Cordyceps species parasitizing hymenopteran and hemipteran insects. Mycosphere 8(9): 1424–1442 (DOI 10.5943/mycosphere/8/9/8).
  • Stitz, H. 1939. Die Tierwelt Deutschlands und der angrenzenden Meersteile nach ihren Merkmalen und nach ihrer Lebensweise. 37. Theil. Hautflüger oder Hymenoptera. I: Ameisen oder Formicidae. Jena: G. Fischer, 428 pp. (page 341, subspecies of rufa)
  • Tarbinsky, Y. S. 1976. The ants of Kirghizia. Frunze: Ilim, 217 pp. (page 194, status as species)
  • Wheeler, W. M. 1913i. A revision of the ants of the genus Formica (Linné) Mayr. Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. 53: 379-565 (page 428, subspecies of rufa)
  • Yarrow, I. H. H. 1955a. The British ants allied to Formica rufa L. (Hym., Formicidae). Trans. Soc. Br. Entomol. 12: 1-48 (page 4, status as species)