The time is near where we all get bombarded and annoyed by the summer flying ants. But why oh why do they do it? I am here to answer all the queries and questions you may have now or never. 🙂
So here in the UK there are more than 20 species in the UK so think yourself lucky they do not all fly at once. And the main culprit of our problems is the most common, the black garden ant also known as lasius niger to us nerds. At its most there are 33 species of ant found in Dorset alone, these flights are known as nuptial flights mating flights which allow virgin queens known as alates or gynes again to us nerds. The main function of the wings on ants is so that male and female yes males are the smaller ones with wings commonly found attached to a queen, of different colonies can breed which then prevents interbreeding and the sheer size of the swarms are simply an evolutionary trait. Which if there are 1000 queen ants within a street it is less likely that I will be eaten by the birds or the family dog. But often the females try to escape the incoming males which then, in turn, makes the fastest and strongest catch up with her which allows the offspring in the future to acquire the strongest genes at that given time.
Why do ants fly in summer which can now almost be known to the day it is when the weather condition are right such as hot and humid, but clear for flying insects as rain is disruptive. Also known to weaken pheromones which are a chemical signal created, species specific and in turn, the males pick up the scent and also begin the flight.
So after the nupital flight the females and males depart ways and shortly after the males die, so yes the sole purpose of males in the ant society simply breeds and die. But the females have a lot of work to do which is common in the animal kingdom 🙂 they loose their wings shortly after they find a suitable location preferably dry for the lasius niger ant in question here. And will not eat until the first worker has appeared and heads out foraging normally something sweet such as aphid farming, which is a sweet secretion excreted from an aphid which is a bi-product of its diet transported back to the queen in the ants crop, this is the most delicate time of a founding queen it has stored sperm from the mating previously so if the queens workers were to die or get lost the colony will be gone, which is again hoping for the fittest and strongest ants. The ants from this point are all females until the winged species come in the summer months. But the process does not happen until as late as March, April the following year the first ants appear. How this species of ant survives is from the large muscles of which their wings was attached to during the previous years flights. As this ant is known to be fully claustral which means it does not move ideally from its chosen spot. and wholly depends on its offspring for this period.
The diversity of ants there is possibly 12000+ species known and much more to be discovered ants are as diverse as organisms can get within a family of organisms from hypogeic and epigeic below and above ground living. Ants are most diverse in the tropics of the new world and old world where ants actually form caste systems, from queen to major and minor with some species having diversity within the castes. And job build specific roles within the colony such as major operating as soldiers although not all species have flying queens some much more primitive ant species and by primitive I mean some of the oldest known species of ants have what they call gamergates as gamergates is a lot more technical in the understanding that is for anther day and another post.
So I hope to have answered as many questions as with a nonscientific jargon post possible any question see contact me page.
Ants have the most complicated social organization on earth next to humans.