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Invasion of Flying Ants Is at Hand

Britain prepares to welcome their new flying ant overlords.

Flying ants emerge from the grass. Image: mediadeo

Hide your hairdo’s, the flying ants are coming. Well, they’re coming if you live in Britain.

Each summer thousands of colonies of ants take flight in search of new homes after their yearly mating ritual. The ants mate, and then the males and new queens fly away from their homes, seeking nesting places of their own.

But why all at the same time? Mark Downs, the Chief Executive of the Society of Biology, explained to the Daily Mail.

It is important that the flights are synchronised between nests, because the flying ants won’t survive very long and need to maximise the chances of meeting ants from other colonies to mate with. It is fascinating to study how they manage to do this.

If this doesn’t sound like all that much fun to you, don’t worry, the ants are harmless and quite short lived. The Independent explains:

Although some people consider flying ants a pest, there is no need to kill them, as the males die of their own accord and thus represent a very short-lived problem, not least as the swarm takes place only once a year.

In fact, rather than kill them, the Royal Society of Biology wants you to count them. They’re hoping to get citizen scientists involved in data collection this year, and gather information about how many flies emerged where.

Here’s what last years swarms looked like.

More from Smithsonian.com

Berry or Ant?

The Hidden Life of Ants in 3-D

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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