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Dublin: 13 °C Thursday 21 February, 2019
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It's that time of the year again - here's why you'll be seeing flying ants all over the place

The annual season of flying ants is kicking off as the bugs get frisky in the air.

Image: Shutterstock/Lawrence Baker

THERE HAVE BEEN early reports of flying ants spotted around Ireland and the UK.

Dailyedge reports that swarms of the pesky bugs have been seen about the place as the July heat picks up.

The arrival of flying ants is a yearly tradition in Ireland and the UK. The creatures usually turn up to make a nuisance of themselves between July and August (coincidentally, just as silly season is kicking off).

But what are flying ants? Why are they flying in the first place and when will we be rid of them?

Types of ants in the colony

So, to begin, “flying ants” aren’t some separate species of ant to the ones seen crawling across the kitchen floor, but rather ants that have sprouted wings.

The ants we’re dealing with in Ireland are most likely black garden ants.

According to the UK’s Royal Society of Biology, queens lay eggs which, when hatched, become either female workers, males, or young queen ants.

Female workers are wingless and cannot reproduce. Their function is to gather food and manage the colony.

Male ants are created solely for the purpose of mating with young queens, while the role of the virgin queen is to mate with a male ant and start a colony of their own.

Nuptial flight 

So, around this time of the year, when the weather is warm and the conditions right for mating, male ants and young queens from mature colonies take to the sky for the mother of all ant orgies.

Both males and young queens have to mate with ants from other colonies, this is done while in mid-air, sometimes on or around irritated humans.

So the scores of agitated ants you see milling about the place are, in the words of one commentator “single-purpose sexual missiles”.

The large number increases the chances that a young queen will mate with a male from another colony.

After the ants mate, the queens lose their wings and look for a place to start their nest (the vast majority of them don’t make it).

The males – have fulfilled their sole purpose – usually die within a day or two.

So how long will this madness last?

There’s a common belief that ant colonies across the country coordinate their nuptial flight for one single, epic “flying ant day”.

However, according to The BBC this is a common misconception, with the season lasting generally for a few weeks in the summer.

While the mating season is going on, the ants provide a vital food resource to many species of birds – so it’s not all bad news, right?

flying-ants-3 Source: Sarah via Twitter

Read: “Single-purpose sexual missiles” – mating flying ants are taking over the country

Read: They’re back… Have you noticed the swarms of flying ants?

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About the author:

Cormac Fitzgerald

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