Ants, ants everywhere… crawling, climbing, spilling out of pavements and most definitely flying!
Reports from locations across the UK (London, Cambridge, Poole, Cardiff, Bedford, Sheffield & Loughborough – to name a few) in recent days, suggest we are ‘under attack’ or ‘being invaded’ by swarms of flying ants.
This phenomenon, which occurs for a brief period each summer is not as bizarre as it first appears. These insects are the familiar black garden ants (Lasius niger) usually found in gardens, under patio slabs and if you’re unlucky, hiking through your kitchen cupboards.
When the weather conditions are most favourable (long, balmy summer evenings with little chance of rain) reproductive male and female black ants emerge from many underground nests (well established, mature ant colonies) en masse, to swarm and mate. Once mated the females will fall to the ground, lose their wings and look for suitable locations to start a new nest.
The ants emerge in their thousands as a survival tactic to overwhelm any potential predators. Many will be eaten by birds such as seagulls but some survive, as there are simply be too many to be eaten.
“Flant” or ‘flying ant day’ is a colloquial term for this mass of swarming insects. This may appear to be a timed event but is just a localised response to the most suitable weather conditions for mating.
The Royal Society of Biology has been collecting records of these swarms in their flying ant survey. The studies have revealed that flying ant day is a bit of a myth, it’s not just one synchronised 24 hour period. Flying ant activity can occur over several days or even weeks across the UK depending on the weather conditions. The study has also indicated that rising temperatures have led to swarms as early as June (instead of the usual end of July) and even as late as September if conditions are suitable.
Flying ants may well be a frustration whilst you try and enjoy a barbecue, picnic or a relaxing drink in the pub beer garden this summer, but they are also important to the environment – aerating soil, recycling nutrients and providing food for birds.
If however they are finding their way into your home here are some ant prevention tips:
- Block entry points by sealing cracks & crevices around doors, windows & pipework
- Sweep up food debris from under kitchen appliances and units
- Use a strong detergent to remove any pheromone trails foraging ants have laid down to direct other ants to a food source