Assessments of restoration are usually made through vegetation community surveys, leaving much of the ecosystem underexamined. Invertebrates, and ants in particular, are good candidates for restoration evaluation because they are sensitive to environmental change and are particularly important in ecosystem functioning. The considerable resources currently employed in restoring calcareous grassland on ex-arable land mean that it is important to gather as much information as possible on how ecosystems change through restoration. We compared ant communities from 40 ex-arable sites where some form of restoration work had been implemented between 2 and 60 years previously, with 40 paired reference sites of good quality calcareous grassland with no history of improvement or cultivation. A total of 11 ant species were found, but only two of these were found to be significantly different in abundance between restoration and reference sites: Myrmica sabuleti was more likely to be present in reference sites, whereas Lasius niger was more likely to be found in restoration sites. Myrmica sabuleti abundance was significantly positively correlated with age of restoration sites. The potential number of ant species found in temperate grasslands is small, limiting the information their assemblages can provide about ecosystem change. However, M. sabuleti is a good indicator species for calcareous grassland restoration success and, alongside information from the plant community, could increase the confidence with which restoration success is judged. We found the survey to be quick and simple to carry out and recommend its use.