On warm humid days flying ants suddenly appear around the UK. This happens when young queens leave the nest to found their own colony.
The flying ants you encounter in your town or garden are almost certainly the black garden ant (scientific name: Lasius niger). Their nests have a single queen and typically around 5,000 workers, although there can be as many as 15,000.
The ants you see throughout most of the year are workers, collecting food for the colony. Workers are all female and will be alive as adults for about a month. The flying ants you see once a year are males and young queens.
Each year, normally in July or August, huge numbers of flying ants suddenly appear. Queens can live for over 10 years and spend most of their lives in their nest. New queens, however, will leave to mate and found a colony of their own. This ‘nuptial flight’ is why ants fly. We call this an “ants wedding”.
Ants mate during flight, so males and young queens both have wings. If you look carefully at flying ants you will see some are much larger; these are the queens. The large numbers of flying ants which appear in a short space of time increase the chance of reproduction: there is a very high chance a queen will encounter a male from another nest.
Once the males and immature queens have mated, the queens then try to start a new nest. The queens lose their wings, and after a ‘flying ant day’ you can sometimes see large ants walking around on their own. These are new queens looking for somewhere to set up their nest.
The activity disappears as fast as it appears. These flying ants may be a nuisance but they are harmless. Insecticidal treatments will only have a knock down effect.
Effective control can only be achieved by destroying the nest and therefore the Queen. However, ants nests are often difficult to locate and may be inaccessible.Read more