Every summer flying ants seem to come from nowhere across the UK. The air and the ground seem to be full of them, and then they suddenly disappear. According to the Society of Biology, flying ants come out on the same day across various different countries, and the reason why still isn’t clear.
Flying ant day happens when young queens leave the nest to found their own colony – swarms are made up of queens and male flying ants.
The flying ants you encounter on flying ant day are almost certainly the black garden ant.
Their nests have a single queen and typically around 5,000 workers, although there can be as many as 15,000.
The ants you see throughout most of the year are workers, collecting food for the colony.
The flying ants you see once a year are only males and young queens.
This is when ants begin to fly, in order to mate, inflicting great annoyance across the UK.
After mating, the queens lose their wings – and those pesky larger ants you see walking around alone are in fact new queens hunting for somewhere to set up their nest.
Flying ants are mostly harmless to humans, but they do have a strange effect on seagulls who can appear drunk after eating a few due to formic acid they expel.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just one day that they come out, but there’s a whole season in which they can be seen.
Winged ants actually emerge over several weeks, although there are often several peaks in appearances, each lasting only a few days.
The precise pattern of swarming varies from year to year and is dependent on the weather.
A flying ant day usually occurs when a spell of wet weather is followed by hot humid weather.
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Although referred to as a day, the mating ritual can last for several weeks in high summer.
They will often come out in urban areas before they come out in the countryside, which is down to it usually being warmer in urban areas.
How long do flying ants live?
Males don’t do any work in the ant nest, so once flying ant day is over, their purpose on this earth is too.
They only live up to a couple of days after the event – which is why you will see hundreds of dead ants littered on pavements and car bonnets following flying ant day.
While this is good news to those who find them a considerable annoyance, the queens can live up to 15 years.
The good news is they only spend a small portion of their lives as winged or flying ants.
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