Ants are on the wing!

ImageAlate queen carpenter ant Camponotus pennsylvanicus. (photograph © Alex Wild 2005)

 In the last two weeks a couple of ant species have been found flying in the region, including carpenter ants and the native fire ants.  The appearance of flying ants during the summer is normal.  Mature ant colonies regularly produce winged males and females in order to disperse to new areas.  Large numbers of ants may take to the air during the summer when conditions are favorable; usually following periods of rain.  Mating takes place in flight and once a female has been fertilized she will shed her wings and attempt to found a new colony.  The male ants die soon after mating.  Most ant species in our region are small and the mating flights can easily go unobserved.  However, some of the larger species such as carpenter ants and harvester ants are typically noticed.  Harvester ants can form especially dramatic mating swarms since they have the tendency to “hilltop”, meaning that they aggregate on prominent features of the landscape (trees, buildings, statues).  Mating swarms of ants are not typically a hazard to people and the presence of winged ants around homes does not necessarily indicate an infestation.

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