The midwest anting season is imminent

Central Illinois is still a frozen tundra- we’re below normal temps this week, alas- but we myrmecophiles are starting to perk up. In particular, we’re waiting for this:

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Prenolepis imparis mating, March 12, 2012 in Urbana, Illinois

No event marks the beginning of North American ant season better than the mating flights of winter ants, Prenolepis imparis. Winged queens and males have overwintered deep underground, and on warm days around this time of year they issue forth in great numbers. Males and queens from different nests hook up for a few moments, after which the males perish and the females fly off to look for promising sites to start a new colony.

On a March or April day with temperatures above 60º, look for a fluttering of gauzy wings in the grass and plump reddish females about a centimeter or so long being pestered by smaller, darker, waspy-looking males. This natural history drama plays out even in urban yards and parks, an easily-observed spring ritual. For those thinking about keeping a pet ant colony, the Prenolepis flight offer the first opportunity of the year to capture newly mated queens.

6 thoughts on “The midwest anting season is imminent”

  1. You guys are lucky. As far as I know, in Europe we’re nog going to be able to collect mated queens until late spring.

  2. L?rinczi Gábor

    Levent: The mating flight of Prenolepis nitens (the European sister species of the above mentioned P. imparis) is also at the turn of March-April, at least here in Hungary.

  3. We had the first Solenopsis invicta mating flight of the year January 23rd (!). Oh, Texas.

    These past two winters have been ridiculously warm, but that is still TOO EARLY. They were the teeniest queens I’ve ever seen, and 95% of the ones I collected died without successfully producing any adult workers.

    They’re flying today as well.

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  5. @L?rinczi Gábor: Thanks for letting me know. I’m not familiar with this genus, so I didn’t know that. I don’t believe this species is common in the Netherlands though.

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