People living in parts of the UK may already have noticed swarms of flying ants in their homes, their cars and outside.
This is because the summer months bring along with them the ‘nuptial flight’ phase of ant reproduction – more specifically the phase when winged ants fly away from their colony and start a new one elsewhere.
This helps prevent cross-breeding, and spread their population to new territories.
The day when the majority of these ants are seen has been called ‘flying ant day’, though not all ants will fly on the same day. When they fly depends on their location and the local weather, the species, and a number of other factors.
The ‘flying ant’ period can last up to a few weeks, though ants usually begin their flight within a few days of each other to maximise chances of meeting a mate. Around 24 hours after the ants set off on their nuptial flight, they will lose their wings.
Not all ants are able to fly, but most colonies will produce some winged queens and males.
The winged ants will stay in their colonies until the perfect conditions for flight and reproduction arrive – this is dry, hot weather.
When the weather permits, a queen ant will set off, surrounded by male workers, to find a suitable mate and start a new colony.
She will emit pheromones to attract the males, but when they try to go after her she will deliberately try to escape them in order to weed out the weak, leaving only the fastest and fittest ant to mate with.
After mating, a queen ant can store sperm in her abdomen for a lifetime, and can use it to fertilise millions of eggs. She will likely mate with several males during the nuptial flight period.
‘Flying ant day’, or the days when the most sightings takes place, usually happens at the end of July and/or the beginning of August.
However the hot, dry weather forecast for the week ahead means there is a chance the ants could set off earlier than usual.
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