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Scientists at the Royal Society of Biology discredit the claim that there is one annual day where flying ants emerge and highlight the surprising benefits they provide to the environment.



Every summer, flying ants take to the skies – and inadvertently, our gardens, parks, and homes. Previously this has thought to occur on one particular day in the year. However, through studies carried out by the Royal Society of Biology (RSB) led by ecologist and flying ant specialist Professor Adam Hart from the University of Gloucestershire, the RSB disproves this claim.

It has often been said that there is one annual summer’s day where flying ants emerge, but in reality the citizen science studies have shown that any time from mid-July through to the end of August could be a “flying ant day”, and often they will appear on multiple different days in subsequent weeks. Whilst there isn’t nation-wide coordination for when the emergences happen, some coordination does occur across the country which is linked to weather conditions. Days on which the temperature surpasses 25°C with low wind and the chance of rain in the coming days will elicit flying ants to emerge.

Professor Hart said: “Flying ants appear every summer and they always seem to attract attention – which is not surprising because sometimes their emergences can be quite spectacular! Most of the time we don’t notice ants, but flying ants remind us that insects like ants are everywhere and they are incredibly important to the wider ecosystem.”

Flying ants appear in large numbers, but unlike honeybees, they do not form swarms or a big collective mass. Whilst regular, wingless ants that people can observe walking around are a more common sight, winged ants emerge to mate. Flying ant days are mating days and are crucial to their life cycle. Upon landing, the females will dig a hole and try to start a new colony.

Flying ants are completely harmless and are an excellent source of food for birds. Ants in general are incredibly important, doing things like aerating soil, recycling nutrients and acting as natural pest controllers.

Susie Rabin, Associate Director of Communications and Public Affairs at the Royal Society of Biology said: “It’s amazing that our understanding of flying ants is due to the power of citizen science and the thousands of ant sightings reported to the Royal Society of Biology.”

The RSB and Professor Hart’s advice this summer is to enjoy one of nature’s spectacles as it is only temporary. Flying ants typically emerge in the late afternoon for merely a couple of hours after which they will be gone, perhaps for a few weeks or – if the weather is not favourable – until next year.

Find out more about flying ant day.