An amazing day in the life of an ant
Flying ants have made the national media in the last few weeks with disruption on the tennis courts at Wimbledon. I would like to just give a short summary of these wonderful little creatures. There are around 45 species of ants in the UK. Flying ants are the short lived winged males and the newly hatched queens which have emerged from an ant nest. This is their first and last flight and is called the nuptial flight, where the queen ant, pictured, is fertilised. She then creates a new nest/colony. The queen bites off or loses her wings and lays a few eggs and these develop into sterile female worker ants. Then her role is to lay eggs to build the ant colony and she doesn’t leave the nest. Over time the queen can lay large numbers of eggs, from sperm stored from the males. Sometimes she withholds sperm from an egg and such unfertilised eggs develop into males. On warm, muggy afternoons and evenings large swarms of flying ants can be seen. This phenomenon of a synchronised hatch or flight is suppose to maximise ant colonies to mix and stop inbreeding. It is also a chance for gulls, starlings and other birds to feast.
For more information contact Owen Leyshon, Romney Marsh Countryside Partnership, telephone 01797 367934 or log on to www.rmcp.co.uk