Every summer, millions of flying ants swarm around the UK. This is a fascinating phenomenon that occurs when young queens leave the nest to start their colonies. Flying ants are simply the common ants we know but just… with wings. They’re not freakish insects that have been mutated for some reason. On that note, flying ants, or “alates”, is the name given to sexually mature ants. But in the summer, winged males and newly-emerged queens take flight in spectacular migration. Stay calm, these annoying flying creatures are harmless to humans.
Let’s take the black garden ant (Lasius niger) as an example. It is a common ant that is found in our garden and open areas. Their colonies can be as large as 40,000 workers in some cases and contain a single queen. However, a colony contains around 5000 workers on average. The ants you see throughout most of the year are mainly workers and mainly females, which gather food for the entire colony. They serve as arteries and veins for the entire colony, and their main purpose is to supply food for the rest of the “family”. In terms of appearance, worker ants look similar to flying ants with their long, narrow waist, however, the latter are slightly larger and have two wings on each side of their body.
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Flying Ant Day – a Stunning Nature Spectacle
Winged ants are an impressive sight to behold, but it’s important to acknowledge their presence and not let them intimidate you. In mating season, these ants congregate at specific landmarks. Their behaviour, called “hilltopping,” is an important part of mating rituals. Because there are so many ants in the same place at the same time, it’s called ‘flying ant day.’ But really, it’s more of a short flying ant season.
If you see a swarm of flying ants after heavy rain in the UK, most likely, they are looking for a new home. Their flight can last from a few hours to a few days. After mating, the male ant dies. The female queen ant, meanwhile, flies off to start a new colony. If she survives long enough to find a suitable location, she digs a chamber in the ground and lays eggs. Then, she sheds her wings, which are used as a source of essential nutrients to support their development.
These little insects could seem pointless to you, but the truth is that ants can be beneficial to the environment. For instance, black garden ants make their homes underground, and their activities help aerate the soil. Their work helps to improve the quality of soil for plants, making gardening easier for homeowners. In addition, they’re also a food source for birds, but you’ll probably want to get rid of them in case they storm your backyard or garden.
Do Flying Ants Bite And Are They Dangerous?
Well, you’re unlikely to be bitten or stung by ants while they’re flying. The same goes for mating swarms. These huge swarms can be a bit of a nuisance, but they don’t do any harm to humans. It’s not necessary to panic. These ants are all about mating, and they’re no more dangerous than any other ant.
What Do Flying Ants Eat?
Usually, they feed on food debris, nectar or other insects. The flying ants have taken to the skies because they are looking for mates. So, these winged insects are not really interested in eating. Their sole mission is to find a mate at that specific moment.
Ways to Prevent Ants from Entering Your House
Ants are small, fast and they can enter your home in two ways: they can fly/crawl into your home from outside through the windows, or they can crawl through cracks in walls. Do a thorough inspection of all the windows and doors in your home. Use caulk to seal up any cracks or gaps.
Like any other living creature, they need food and water to survive. Therefore, remember to always store food properly. Keep edibles in airtight containers. Refrigerate fresh fruits and vegetables as soon as you get them home.
Cleanliness Is a Crucial Part of Any Pest Prevention and Control
Keep your home as clean as you possibly can so that the ants have to leave and explore somewhere else in search of food. You see, crumbs, spilt food and pet foods are great sources for feeding a colony. So, as long as ants can munch on something in your home, they can easily settle and nest in places like dark spaces under floors and walls. Therefore, the best way to get rid of ants is to prevent them from getting these foods in the first place.
How to Get Rid Of Ants in Wall Cavity
Ants can set up residency in any space they find welcoming. If ants are making their home in walls, this could mean that the foundation is not sound. In other words, ants nesting in walls may be a symptom of a structural problem. And you can probably guess that finding entry points is essential to prevent and eliminate ants. On that note, pest professionals are trained to identify entry points and can help you find them. Repairs that involve replacing rotted wood and sealing all cracks and gaps will help to prevent ants from making their way into the house.
How Long Do Flying Ants Live?
The flying phase of an ant’s life cycle lasts only a few days for males, but the female may continue to fly and seek mates. Some queens live as long as 30 years. Adult queen ants spend most of their time in their nest. As mentioned above, only for a small portion of their lives they are winged or flying ants.
How to Get Rid Of Ants in the House
As we already mentioned, ants can be extremely beneficial for the soil, however, an ants infestation in your kitchen is not a pleasant thing. Once you notice you have an ant problem, it is important to know how to get rid of ants and ways to keep them away. Ants will become a more serious issue if you don’t have an effective plan for getting rid of them.
It sounds like a lot to deal with, but it’s not that difficult because these creatures aren’t dangerous and can be controlled.
There are a few ways to stop them from overtaking your home: to use insecticides or homemade natural solutions against ants.
For instance, bug spray is a great way to keep ants out. Using a pesticide both indoors and outdoors will kill both crawling and flying ants. However, the hidden colony will not be eliminated until it is dealt with on a long-term basis. Start with tracking down the nest first, as only attacking the colony itself will get rid your home of flying ants for good. And, of course, you can always resort to fumigation or professional fogging services when needed.
If you want to avoid using chemicals when treating an ant infestation, try an alternative to commercial pest control products. Mix one part dish soap and two parts water in a spray bottle, and add one to two drops of peppermint oil. Spray the area near your home where the ants are present. You could also mix vinegar and water and clean the cupboards and countertops.
You could also spread some diatomaceous earth – another proven ant control technique. It is a natural substance that is used to control insects. Diatomaceous earth can be used as a perimeter around food sources to keep unwanted guests away.
Furthermore, flypaper or sticky tape is another easy way to do so. It is easy to make one yourself. You’ll need just a few items:
- A brown paper bag;
- Baking sheet and drying racks;
- A saucepan;
- A large spoon;
- ¼ cup of water;
- ¼ cup honey or sweet syrup;
- ¼ cup of water;
- Cut a brown paper bag into strips.
- Mix equal parts of honey or syrup, sugar, and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves.
- Remove from heat and place the strips in the mixture until completely saturated.
- Take the strips out and place them on drying racks over baking sheets.
- Allow the strips to dry completely until they are no longer damp. This can take a few hours, but it shouldn’t be too long.
- Simply place the tape near areas where you’ve noticed ants flying around. Flypaper is an incredibly sticky device that makes it hard for flies and other flying insects to come off once their little legs touch the gluey surface.
Another method of getting rid of these insects is to set ant baits. Ant bait is a sweet substance mixed with borax that disturbs the ants’ breeding cycle. The ants pick up the bait and return it to the colony, where it kills the entire ant population.
You can also apply insecticide dust to kill the ants. While it can be applied by any homeowner, it is best handled by a professional exterminator to ensure that the pesticide won’t harm non-target insects.
Ants are attracted to artificial sweeteners. Mixing different types of sweeteners with apple juice would be very harmful to ants. It will form a paste, and ants will take it to their nest. Once consumed by the rest of the colony, it will reduce their population.
How to Get Rid Of Flying Ants in the Garden
You can grow herbs like rosemary, peppermint, lavender, and lemon balm around your house to keep ants away. These herbs are great for repelling ants and other pests around your home. However, you need to be careful with plants like mint since they can become invasive if not contained and overtake your garden.
“Know When You’ve Been Beaten”
If you’re desperate for help, don’t struggle on your own but call an exterminator. Ants often appear in outbreaks, so ant pest control companies can quickly address this insect nightmare. Sometimes, this may be the only solution if your infestation is extensive, as proper pest control methods can resolve the issue in the event of a severe ant invasion. The only way to rid your house of all the ants is to attack the colony where they are nesting.
Did You Know:
- Most ants you come across are female
- After mating, queens don’t eat for weeks
- Ants have the ability to carry up to 50 times their own weight
- Ants don’t have ears and use vibration to orient themselves
- Ants can swim and hold their breath underwater
Image source: Charles Andrew Palmer / Shutterstock