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Black garden ant

Lasius niger

Foto: Black garden ant
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The Black Garden Ant, scientifically known as Lasius niger, is a common species of ant native to Europe and parts of North America and Asia. These ants are highly adaptable and can thrive in a variety of environments, making them one of the most widespread ant species. The Black Garden Ant is an integral part of many ecosystems, playing critical roles in soil aeration, seed dispersion, and the decomposition of organic matter.

Adult workers of Lasius niger are easily recognizable by their dark coloration, ranging from deep brown to glossy black, and measure approximately 3 to 5 millimeters in length. The queens are larger, typically reaching up to 9 millimeters, and have a more robust body. Males are of similar size to workers but are distinguished by their more slender build and wings, which they shed after the nuptial flight.

The society of Lasius niger is highly organized and structured, characterized by a clear division of labor. The colony is founded by a single fertilized queen, who establishes a new nest underground. The queen's primary role is to lay eggs, which she can do for up to 15 years, producing thousands of offspring. The workers, all sterile females, are responsible for foraging for food, caring for the young, and defending the nest. Their diet is omnivorous, including substances like sugary secretions from aphids, small insects, and food scraps from human activity.

Communication within the colony is sophisticated, primarily relying on chemical signals known as pheromones. These chemicals are used for various purposes, including marking trails to food sources, signaling danger, and coordinating attacks on intruders. Lasius niger ants also communicate through tactile signals, using their antennae for touch and their mandibles for carrying objects or fighting.

The reproduction cycle of Lasius niger is an annual event, where virgin queens and males engage in a nuptial flight during late summer. After mating, males typically die, and fertilized queens land to search for a suitable nesting site to start their own colonies. This event is crucial for the dispersal and genetic diversity of the species.

Lasius niger ants have a significant impact on their environment. By burrowing and creating extensive underground networks, they aerate the soil, improving its quality and the health of plant roots. Their role as predators helps to control populations of other insects, and by feeding on aphids' honeydew, they indirectly aid in the pollination process. However, in some contexts, they can become pests, particularly when they invade homes in search of food or when their aphid farming disrupts horticultural practices.

In summary, the Black Garden Ant, Lasius niger, is a fascinating creature with complex social structures and behaviors. Its adaptability and ecological roles make it a vital component of many terrestrial ecosystems, despite the occasional conflicts with human interests.
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