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Biology

The mound-nests of this species are large, isolated and thatched (5), and a single colony can consist of more than 250,000 individual workers that aggressively defend the territory (5). Wood ants are carnivorous, and workers carry a wide variety of prey back to the nest along trails that extend throughout the territory (5). Studies of the southern wood ant have shown that around 60,000 food items are taken to the nest each day (5). The workers also tend aphids for the sugary 'honeydew' that they exude from the anus; the aphids gain protection from predators in return for this service (5). Southern wood ant workers have been observed climbing up 30-metre tall Scots pine trees (Pinus sylvestris) in order to obtain this honeydew (5), and it has been shown that every season, workers take a massive quarter of a tonne of honeydew back into the colony (5). At the beginning of spring each year, unfertilised eggs are produced, and these develop into males. Other eggs that are produced at this time and are fed more become queens, while others develop as workers. During June, usually on a warm humid day, huge numbers of winged reproductive males and queens leave the nest en masse and engage in a mating flight. After mating, the male soon dies; the queen sheds her wings, and searches for a suitable location to establish a new nest (5).

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Source: ARKive

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