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Red-barbed ant

The Isles of Scilly is home to the rarest ant in Britain, locally known as the St Martin's ant.

Red-barbed ant with winged female, photograph by Alison PittsThe red-barbed ant, Formica rufibarbis, gets its name from red hairs seen on its thorax. It was first discovered in 1896 and has always been considered as rare, it is now a national Biodiversity Action Plan priority.

The ant's stronghold is the heathland of St Martin's and on the mainland it can be found on some of Surrey's heathland. In recent years the red-barbed ant population in Surrey has been struggling to the point where it may become extinct.

A captive rearing programme has been set up with the Zoological Society London, Surrey Wildlife Trust and ourselves. The aims of this project is to reintroduce colonies of the ant into the heathland of Surrey by collecting new queens from Scilly, captive rearing at the Zoological Society of London and releasing onto selected sites in Surrey. To find out more please download our leaflet.

Red-barbed ant, photograph by Liz Grenfell