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Flying Ant Day: When Is It And Why Does It Happen?
18 July 2019, 15:21 | Updated: 18 July 2019, 16:14
If you've come across swarms of flying ants already, that may be a sign that Flying Ant Day is upon us. But why does this insect infestation period occur every year?
What is Flying Ant Day?
Flying Ant Day is a 24-hour period when millions of flying ants come out at the same time all over the country.
On one day each year, male and female ants sprout wings and head out of their nests, with the queens looking for male ants from other colonies to mate with
A study of the insects found that ants fly somewhere in the UK on 96% of days between the start of June and the start of September.
Has Flying Ant Day 2019 happened?
The Met Office tweeted a video yesterday (Wednesday 17th July) of what seemed to be satellite view of rain in southern England, along with the caption: "The latest view from space shows that our radar is picking up something that isn't #precipitation along the south coast."
It later confirmed the "rain" was actually flying ants "based on inspection of raw reflectivity".
If you said flying ants 🐜 you were correct! ✔️— Met Office (@metoffice) July 17, 2019
We know this to be insect clutter (flying ants) based on inspection of raw reflectivity (Zdr and RhoHV) #WednesdayWisdom #FlyingAnts pic.twitter.com/8HejoLB9u5
Why do ants fly?
An ant colony can only expand so much and a new queen will need to begin a new colony.
She needs to meet and mate with a male from a different colony and find a new area in which to start building her nest. Growing wings and flying enables her to do this.
The large winged females and the smaller winged males are often seen flying joined together. This is known as the nuptial flight.
Why do ants swarm?
Ants swarm together to protect themselves from predators. Swarming also increases their chance of reproduction.
What happens after the nuptial flight?
Once ants have mated, the mated queens quickly chew off their own wings and begin looking for a suitable site in which to nest and set up a new colony.
This is why you often see large ants walking around after a 'Flying Ant Day' and may even see discarded wings scattered over pavements.
Are ants important?
Whilst many people took to social media yesterday to complain about ant infestations, insect expert Prof Adam Hart said people should be welcoming one of the "great spectacles of nature".
He said: "Ants are incredibly important in the ecosystem. They’re predators which is important for pest control and enhancing biodiversity.
He added: ‘They’re also really important for enhancing the soil because they pull material into it, and they have lots of relationships with all kinds of organisms.’