Dealing with Flying Ants

Clouds of flying ants are a summer feature that leave most people feeling a sense of unease. Here's what you need to know.

Flying Ants and Flying Ant Day

Every summer, the UK deals with large swarms of flying ants. Although these swarms don't happen on exactly the same day across the whole country, they happen at the same time in significant enough numbers in widespread locations that people informally refer to "flying ant day".

What are flying ants?

Flying ants aren't a separate species from common garden ants, they're winged queens and males from an existing ant colony who will go off to form new colonies of their own.

Being able to fly means that they can travel some distance from their original colony, to reduce the chances of inbreeding and spread their population to new territories.

What is flying ant day?

Each summer, the flying ants undertake what's known as the "nuptial flight" - where the queens fly off in search of a mate and the males fly off to find a queen to fertilise.

The winged ants stay in the colony until weather conditions are perfect for flying and reproduction - dry, warm, not windy. When those conditions are met, the ants take flight. The perfect weather doesn't come along often, so when it does we have millions of flying ants taking advantage all at once - hence, flying ant day.

It usually happens in July or August and can be surprisingly disruptive, depending on the size of the swarm. Golf and cricket matches have actually been suspended due to flying ants making it impossible to pay, not to mention unpleasant.

How to deal with flying ant day

If staying indoors and just waiting for it to pass isn't an option, then avoiding being outside as much as possible is still your best bet. To prevent flying ants taking over your property during their nuptial flight, you need to tackle the ant nests that are present before it gets to summer.

Ant nest removal can be simple or complicated, depending on the size and location of the colony. You may need professional pest control if the nest is inside the building so that you can be sure the queen has been eradicated - if the queen remains alive, she can rebuild the colony.

Keep doors, windows, and other access points closed as much as possible, to avoid the ants flying into your home or office. If they do get in, there is a possibility that they might start a new nest within the walls, so a topical ant killer might be of use. The queens are larger than the flying males, so target those if you see them.

Is there anything good about flying ants?

On the positive side, flying ant day tends to only last for a day in each location, so it's not an ongoing situation. The ants will eat small insects and spiders during their flights, but they also provide a food source for many species of birds.

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