In the UK, Ants Are Set to Fly

The Independent is announcing imminent mating flights of Britain’s most common formicid, the garden antย Lasius niger:

One of the British summer’s greatest spectacles is upon us โ€“ flying ant day. Enormous numbers of flying ants are expected to take advantage of the hot weather today or tomorrow to perform their yearly mating ritual, or “nuptial flight”.

In some places, the flying has already begun. In the aftermath, they will cover pavements and gardens, land on cars and passers-by, and attract swarms of seagulls eager for a free feast.

If you’re over there and inclined to help myrmecologists study the flights, you can log your observations at the Society of Biology’s Flying Ant Survey.

Also, the flights will be an easy opportunity to get yourself started with a pet ant colony. Rearing a colony from a mated queen is often easier than excavating a mature nest.

19 thoughts on “In the UK, Ants Are Set to Fly”

  1. In Holland (Amsterdam for me, but I heard reports around the country), Lasius niger flew this past Sunday afternoon. I caught about 25 queens.

    Last year though, the streets were absolutely covered in ants. This year I still found plenty, but I had to actively look for them.

    I’ve placed them in testtubes, and in some (large testubes, inch in diameter) I placed multiple queens to see if they’d still start a colony that way (I’ve read several reports online of multiple queens founding a colony). They weren’t aggressive to eachother at all, though after two days one of the queens in a testtube that housed 5 queens was dead. Guess 5 was a bit much.

    I’ll see how the rest of them will do (I expect them to attack eachother after the first workers are born) and if the surviving queens get an advantage because they have the brood of the dead queens as well.

    We’ll see.

      1. Not in the least bit to be honest, some even crouch over eachother. I have (had) a tube with 5, 4, 3 and two with 2 queens.

        In the tubes with 5,4 and 3, the queens are together on the piece of cotton that holds in the water. But! It is interesting to see that in each of those, 1 queen is sitting near the cap that closes the tube. I’m not sure if she is the dominant one or the rejected one (I’d suspect the latter, since the others have access to water and the small egg piles that have started to form are all near the water), we’ll see. I now realize that it would have been a good idea to mark them, so I could follow them more easily.

        Also, one more fatality so far. But not in the multiple queen tubes. She was alone and I see no anomilies in her tube, so I’m assuming it was a random incident.

        1. Should probably mention that the ‘crouching over eachother’ doesn’t look like dominant behaviour. Can’t be sure if it is of course, but I see no ‘holding down’ or ‘pushing down’ or any of that. It almost looks like keeping eachother warm.

        2. I collected 3 queens I chanced upon during a barbecue Sunday, in the area of Wageningen. I had originally kept them in the same tube, but separated them when one started aggressively biting at one of the others.

          The third spent two full days trying to pull at the cotton sealing the tube. Interestingly this queen was the first to lay eggs, and almost double the quantity of the others so far.

      1. Actually I left them alone this year, I have shot a queen ( and a male ( Lasius before..

        Funnily enough I found a little insect in the garden today I initially couldn’t work out what it was – first thought little orangey beetle, then I realised it had a stinger, finally worked out it’s a queen Myrmica rubra (I think), I’ll post some shots somewhere later and maybe ask you to have a look and confirm!? ๐Ÿ™‚

        1. Nice! You have such lovely focus-stacks.

          I’m a little weak on European ant IDs, but I can probably tell you if your ant *isn’t* Myrmica rubra.

        2. Here are some shots of the mystery beast, I am fairly sure now its a queen ant and as we tend to only regularly see Lasius and Myrmica in gardens round here the latter is my best guess…

          Full body shot:

          Slightly cluttered portrait:



          Sorry it’s a bit scrunched up, didn’t take the freezing too well. I will try to loosen this up at some point for some better shots!

        3. Actually could it be a male? The eye layout reminds me of the male Lasius I shot way back, however the ‘stinger’ convinced me it was a female, a male wouldn’t have that would it?

          This insect did confuse me, as I mentioned at a first look I thought it was a beetle, then after a closer examination I was thinking some kind of wasp I was unfamiliar with then when I saw it close up the textures/hairs made me think ant.

    1. Doh, apparently my first impression was right, it’s a beetle – a Tumbling Flower beetle (Mordellidae). Feel a bit silly now! (But what’s a beetle doing with what looks like a stinger/ovipositor??!) ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. A prize ? It’s good to be King, Joshua ! Even if hunting for a queen is a lot of work, with 4,000 to pick from 8>D

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