Every scientific discipline loves its jargon, and entomology is no different. We’ve tried to keep the language simple in this website but there are a few terms you need to know. Ants’ bodies are substantively different from mammals and they have body parts that don’t have convenient common names. The drawing should make most of this clear. There are other parts with names but these are the most important.
Collecting ants for identification
We strongly advise users to sign up to iSpot, a great way to get your ants identified, or to help others ID their photos. You can sign up here
Although we have tried to convey the colour, shape and something of their habits in our illustrations of the various ant species below, if you’re serious about learning how to identify them there is no substitute for collection and examination. Ants are usually very, very small animals, however, and in order to examine them you’re going to need a good hand lens or, even better, a mini-microscope to be able to see their full range if identifying features.
Hand-held mini-microscopes of 60x magnification are very useful. The microscopes have powerful LED lights and use pill-batteries.
The microscopes are unfortunately no longer available from me, but you might find them in a gadget shop.
There are two other essential items you will need. One is a drinking straw [or a few straws of different diameters] with a gauze filter securely taped over one end. The other is a supply of small Ziploc® bags. When you go out collecting you might want to unzip your bags before you start, as you often have to move fast to catch your ant and the bags sometimes resist opening at the wrong moment.
With the gauze-covered end of the straw in your mouth, quickly suck up the ants and blow them gently into the bag; quickly zip it up making sure that there are no ants caught on the zip. Remember at all times that ants are small, fragile creatures and your enormous fingers – compared to an ant – will surely damage them; blowing them into the bag too hard may also injure them.
|Bothroponera pumicosa in the bag! Once trapped in the plastic you can study the animal at your leisure with your mini-microscope