Nature on our doorsteps: Flying Ants
When the weather in late July and early August is humid and still, swarms of flying ants can occur. While these annual flying events are impressive to watch, ants in a colony are generally ground-based, by Rosaleen Dwyer.
The ants we normally see searching for food in the garden, or sometimes in our houses, are sterile female workers and soldier ants. The nest has one fertile queen. She can live between four to five years while the workers live for only a few weeks.
When weather conditions are right, new males and young fertile queens take to the air. This event is referred to as a ‘nuptial flight’ and this is when mating occurs. Once they have mated, the new queens fly away to search for a new nesting site. Males will live for only a few days more before they die off.
On finding a new nest site, the queen has no further need of her wings. She bites these off and goes underground to begin laying her eggs and establishing a new colony.
Flying ants attract predators like birds. For this reason, there are often hundreds of flying ants in a swarm. This gives at least some of the mated queens a better chance of avoiding being eaten before they establish their new colony.