Thursday, June 18, 2009

Flying Ants














Recent rains that have hit Northwest Missouri seem to have prompted the ants to take wing. Flying ants are a common sight throughout Missouri as well as all of North America. Typically a period of rain will encourage this phenomena. Since we've had 7 inches of rain in less than a week and then these ants appeared by the hundreds I assume it was those rains that encouraged them to take flight. While walking around my yard looking at the flowers and doing some weeding I noticed one winged ant on top of the yarrow. Approximately 30 minutes later another inspection showed many more had joined the first. After about an hour there were not only many more of the red winged variety, but now smaller black ones appeared on the scene. I moved the clump of flowers aside and noticed hundreds of ants on the ground near a hole. I figured this hole led to their underground colony. Many unwinged ants were "pushing" these winged ants out of the hole and away from the colony. Before nightfall there were hundreds of these winged ants present on the yarrow and nearby plants.
After awhile an established colony will turn their energies and resources to creating individuals that are capable of reproducing. These reproductive ants will have wings and be forced out of the colony to try their hand (or feet) at establishing their own colonies. The winged ants consist predominantly of males. These males are seeking the few females present among the winged frenzy. Mating will occur and shortly thereafter the males will perish. The females go on to look for suitable sites to start a colony. This is a perilous time for them, and many will die before they can find a suitable location and still others perish while trying to start up the colony. Once she sets down roots her wings will fall off and she will use the nutrients from the no longer needed wing muscles to help sustain her during egg production and caring for her offspring. Once new sterile workers have been created they will continue to care for the offspring of the Queen Ant and to clean the colony of dead bodies and debris. Several years later when the colony is fully established with large numbers, it is then that energies turn to creating winged ants which will leave the colony and start the cycle all over again. Usually speaking these winged ants look for a high vantage point in which to congregate. In the case of my ants it was nothing more than a tall plant. It can be anything from buildings, statuary's, towers, etc. These large populations of ants appearing all at once can be alarming, but rest assured you aren't being inundated with new ants. These ants were already present in your yard, they are merely leaving crowded conditions to seek out areas in which to expand their populations. They will often times fly far away from their original colony to set up a homestead. Occasionally these ants will find themselves in your homes. This could mean that you have a population of ants possibly
unbeknownst to you residing in your home. An exterminator may need to be called. Pharaoh ants and Carpenter ants are famous for taking up residence in our homes. These new winged ants will mate and repeat the process of creating a new colony. The next day all of these winged ants were gone, with exception to a few unfortunate individuals that became a meal to a resident spider.

4 comments:

  1. I've notice a high population of flying ants attracted to our porch light recently and have collected quite a few (in my beard, down my shirt collar, etc.) while photographing moths.

    ReplyDelete
  2. LOL, they do tend to make a nuisance out of themselves don't they. I actually had one fly up my nose once. Now that was an experience, not sure who was more shocked the ant or myself!

    ReplyDelete
  3. they are invading my house!!!!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Belatedly, here's your friendly ant guy's input. The ants are Lasius interjectus. They have an interesting twist on colony founding, in that these queens are not "wired" to raise their own first workers, so have to invade a nest of a related species (L. neoniger), kill the resident queen, get the workers to accept her, then have them rear the usurper's brood.

    ReplyDelete