During the recent hot spell, our evening meal was interrupted when my wife Sylvia observed “things” flying up from the edge of our garden near the patio. I rushed out, seeing many wingless ants hurrying around on the patio with lots of winged ones taking off, all flying northwards. They were using the flowers at the top of marjoram plants as launching platforms, with lots on each flower head. I had grabbed my camera and hastily took some shots, which you see here. There are 6 ants in the flower head picture by the way. Apologies for their quality but they were taken in quite a hurry, as the ants were moving very fast.
Knowing very little about flying ants, I consulted the Natural History Museum’s website which tells me that when a colony reaches a certain size, the queen lays eggs from which winged ants known as ‘alates’ are produced. These are virgin queens (princesses) and winged males (drones), which emerge in hot and humid conditions and go off to establish a new colony. The overall objective it seems, is to maximise the chance of mating between different colonies and thereby reduce inbreeding. You may have heard too, that recently a swarm of flying ants in the east of England made the national news, as it was so large on the weather radar it was at first identified as a rain cloud!
Barrie Lewis 4th Aug