Sunday 26 July 2009

Emergence of Winged ants

For a couple of weeks now, sunny spells after showers bring out a nervous anticipation in ant colonies. The workers come out en masse and run frantically around the colony entrance holes, often in cracks on street pavements. I have stopped a couple of times to watch this but so far no sign of winged queens and males. Yesterday though, we got the first glimpse of emergence of winged ants (Black Garden Ant, Lasius niger). Emergence happens during July and August and sometimes is very synchronic around the country. Workers seem to keep them in, while they stand high on their front legs, as if sniffing the air with their antennae, appearing to check that everything will be fine for their reproductive brothers and sisters. They have to sort out predators - sparrows and many other insect eating birds love them - during their mating flight. Queens will mate and then find a suitable hole where to dig their first colony. They might live for over a decade, sheltered in their nest taken care of by their daughters. Males will die shortly after mating.

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