Friday, 31 July 2015

Black ant nuptial flight

Its that time of year when the flying ants take to the sky, new queens and males on their nuptial flight.  

The Royal Society of Biology (formerly the Society of Biology) have been running a flying ant survey in collaboration with the University of  Gloucestershire between 2012 and 2014 and I have provided my records for this survey.  This year, the survey is more informal but society is keen to receive reports, find out more at  get-involved/biologyweek/flying-ant-survey

Ants had been gathering around the entrance holes of the ant nest outside the garden under the pavement at least an hour before the nuptial flight. At 7.40pm, ants started to pour out of the ground near our front door, streaming up the wall and also the flower pot by the door. 

They took flight when they had gained enough height although some launched from the ground.

The yellow field ant’s nuptial flight, from a small nest in the front garden, also took place at the same time. 
The black ant’s nuptial flight from the nest outside our garden occurred not long after.  I set up the USB microscope to have a closer look. 

As the queens were leaving the nest several worker ants were positioned around the hole with their jaws open wide.
 As usual, the nuptial flight attracted herring gulls and smaller birds such as sparrow and starlings. Some of the flying ants were taken on the wing while others were picked up off the ground.

The largest black ant nest, which is in the back garden did not have a nuptial flight, although by this time of the day the back of the garden was in shade and the air was quite cool. Not only was the air warm, the ground had absorbed the heat from the sun all afternoon.

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