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A photograph of the ant (_Formica sanguina_).

Ants are some of the most familiar insects. Much of their complex social behaviour is regulated by pheromones.
Photograph by Garinger licensed under Creative Commons.

Formicidae are our familiar ants. There are approximately 50 British species and 10,000 worldwide. The two common British subfamilies are Myrmicinae and Formicinae. These two subfamilies can be distinguished on close inspection: Myrmicinae have a two-segmented waist, while Formicinae have a single waist segment.

All British species form long-lasting colonies which are built in living or dead plant crevices, or in the soil. Typically the nest contains one or more reproductive females (queens) and a large number of workers and brood. Recruitment of workers, trail-laying, alarm transmission, and many other aspects of the ant social behaviour are regulated by pheromones (chemical secretions).

Seasonally, males are produced which fertilise new virgin queens. Males and queens usually form large swarms as all the nests in a wide area will produce winged ants on the same warm day. The females of primitive wingless species release pheromones to attract the winged males, while other species form male aggregations, which females from various colonies fly into to reproduce.

Other members of the Vespoidea superfamily

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