lasius niger

Lasius niger

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Lasius niger

This is one of the commonest European species and is often especially evident at sites of human disturbance including towns, villages and quarries. Nests may occur in walls, pavements, tree stumps in open woodland, pasture and open heath. Occasionally earth mounts are formed and foraging tracks are frequently covered by surface tunnels of earth.

This species is aggressive and readily attacks other ants. Nests are single queened and moderately populous with several hundred up to 10,000 workers. Aphids on shrubs and herbs as well as subterranean species are tended. Mating swarms occur from July to late August and in some years huge numbers may fly over a large district on the same date.

Scientific classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Class: Insecta
  • Order: Hymenoptera
  • Family: Formicidae
  • Subfamily: Formicinae
  • Tribe: Lasiini
  • Genus: Lasius
  • Species: L. niger
  • Binomial name: Lasius niger

Diet

Fruits such as apples and pears are for most part popular. Experiment with different sorts of sugar mixtures to find out what your colony likes the best. The queen and larvae need protein. Provide this in the form of insects (fruit flies, mealworms, crickets, bees, wasps, beetles etc.) meat (free of poison or spices), eggs or something else containing protein. Be aware of what you feed your ants. Avoid poisonous things, such as the peel of sprayed fruit.

Habitat

Being a species that is spread throughout most of the northern hemisphere, Lasius niger is great at adapting. It nests in many different environments and objects such as stubs, under rocks, in crevasses, fields, pastures or lawns.

They prefer to nest under stones or by plants, where they tend to aphids. The black garden ants sometimes create mounds with the dirt excavated from the nest. And like the yellow meadow ant, Lasius flavus, they like to nest in tussocks or mounds of dirt. But for most parts, the species is found under rocks, taking advantage of the heat absorbed from the sun. It is one of our most common house ants.

Behaviour

Workers forage boldly in the open where they are often seen running around on bare surfaces. They are aggressive and will attack other ants. They sometimes cover their foraging trails and sometimes the stems of plants where aphids are feeding with surface tunnels of earth. They scavenge and predate on small invertebrates. They tend aphids and “milk” them for honeydew. Early in the season, when outdoor food sources are scarce, they often enter houses where they are attracted to sweet substances, and can become a nuisance. This usually stops when outdoor food sources become more plentiful.

Egg to ant

Lasius niger have four stages of development: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Lasius niger lay tiny, white, kidney-shaped eggs with a smooth sticky surface which helps them to be carried in a group instead of one by one. After hatching Lasius niger proceed onto the larva stage resembling tiny maggots. The larvae need to be fed by the queen if they are to mature; as they feed the larvae grow, shedding their skin, doing so usually three times in total. With each molt, the larvae grow hooked hairs which allow them to be carried in groups.

When Lasius niger larvae reach the last molt they are generally too big to be carried as part of a group and so are carried singly. Once the larva grows big enough it spins a cocoon around itself. To aid this process a queen may bury the larva so that it can spin its cocoon undisturbed, and begin a process of metamorphosis. Once the process is complete the Lasius niger worker emerges from the cocoon. At this stage Lasius niger is completely white but will darken over the course of an hour until it has turned black.

Biology

Nests can be large and are often located under stones, paving slabs, pieces of wood, plastic or metal: in fact anything that can be warmed by the suns rays. Where there are no suitable stones etc. then large soft mound nests are sometimes found. Colonies have a single queen and from several hundred up to 10,000 workers.

Lasius niger images

lasius niger

lasius niger

lasius niger

Also more: Fire ant

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