Common Elbowed Red Ant Myrmica scabrinodis
On first sight the Common Elbowed Red Ant is the spitting image of the two previous species. One difference is the lack of the spines so important to tell the other two apart. This species is just as common as the other two, even though it does prefer more moist conditions. It often appears side by side with the Yellow Meadow Ant. According to some it even feeds on the larvae of this species. The nests of the Common Elbowed Red Ant are small, usually the size of a fist. In moorlands and peat they are built on grass tussocks, in drier conditions under a stone, in rotting wood or into the soil. Each nest houses one or more queens and may contain up to 2500 workers, but usually there are less. Nuptial flights take place in late July and August. The swarms of the Common Elbowed Red Ant are quite small and often don't travel far. They may however be part of the nuptial flights of other species, which may lead to large, mixed swarms.
A number of butterflies depend on the Common Elbowed Red Ant. After hatching the caterpillars first feed on the host plant. After 3 to 4 weeks they drop to the ground and produce a sweet substance, to which the ants are attracted. Just like they are attracted by the honey dew of some plant lice. They pick up the half grown larva and transport it to the nest. Once inside the nest the caterpillar continues to produce its honey dew, while eating the larvae and pupa of the ants! The Scarce Large Blue (Phengaris teleius) is almost exclusively found in the nests of the Common Elbowed Red Ant. The slightly more common Alcon Blue (Phengaris alcon) is found in the nests of both: the Common Elbowed Red Ant and the Red Ant (Myrmica ruginodis). The Dusky Large Blue is usually found in the nests of the Red Ant (Myrmica rubra), but uses the nest of the Common Elbowed Red Ant from time to time.