Compared to much of the rest of Europe, the UK is not a 'hot spot' for ants. The size and diversity of ant species in any area is largely determined for the highest summer soil temperature, and this being so, it is not surprising that the greatest concentration of different species is centred in the warmer parts of the country - Dorset, Hampshire, Surrey, the Isle of Wight and Kent being the 5 richest counties, with 33, 31, 29, 27 and 26 different species present respectively.
A few species, best exemplified by Lasius niger, and Myrmica rubra, are truly cosmopolitan, colonising a great variety of different habitats (often including those directly resultant from human activities). These species are very common in most places, and have ranges that cover most of the nation.
The greater part of Britain's ant species are, however, considerably more specialised in their requirements. Most independent species are found on undisturbed heathland in the south - probably as a direct result of its superior summer soil temperatures - and 6 are entirely dependent on other species during their mature life (i.e. not simply to found colonies, a requirement of many further species). Many of the lesser seen species are at the northern extent of their range in Britain, and for this reason are confined to the south. The variously differing biotopes afforded by parkland / partially wooded heath and larger traditional style gardens are also inhabited by a number of other wise more heathland-pigeonholed species, such as Formica fusca/lemani, Lasius mixtus/umbratus and L. fuliginosus.
The remaining species are mostly sylvan. These include the well known wood ants, typified by the southerly inclined Formica rufa, and the more northerly F. lugubris and F. aquilonia. These large noticeable species abide in mounds constructed from leaf litter, which are fortunately still a common site in many older forests and broken woodland up and down the country. A few other smaller, less easily spotted species also make their livings in conjunction with more arborised loci. Stenamma species, Leptothorax acervorum and Temnothorax nylanderi can be found, locality permitting, under stones/logs and beneath loose bark respectively, in established woods. The former habitat is also shared by the rather locally distributed Ponera coarctata, which constitutes Britain's only unambiguously native representative of the subfamily Ponerinae.
The Channel Islands also play host to 4 more generally continental species not found on the mainland, in addition to a reasonable number that are.
Also see List of the common names of British ant species for common names applied to species native to Britain.
See also List non-endemic ant species introduced to Great Britain and Ireland for introduced species recorded in Great Britain and Ireland.
See List of localities in Britain where rare ant species had previously been recorded but are no longer considered to be present for a conspectus on the decline of some British ant species.
See List of ant genera (alphabetical) for a listing of worldwide ant genera.
Present conservation status of red wood ants in north-western Belgium: Worse than previously, but not a lost cause
Mar 15, 2010; Abstract. The number of colonies of red wood ants (Formica rufa group) in the north western part of Belgium has declined by more...
Genetic polymorphism in "mixed" colonies of wood ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in southern Finland and its possible origin
Mar 15, 2010; Abstract. Wood ant colonies that appear to consist of individuals representing different species are described in several...