Brace yourself Ireland, the flying ants are coming! The recent grey skies and close weather have created ideal conditions for flying ants and pest control companies have seen a huge increase in callouts.
Although the Irish are used to the annual flight of ants, known as the “nuptial flight,” this summer’s weather conditions – warm and humid – have provided perfect conditions for our flying pals.
The annual movement sees the colony leave together in one coordinated flight, also synchronized with the flight of ants from neighboring colonies. This has been nicknamed as “Flying Ant Day” but the day of the event varies from area to area.
The Black Garden ants nuptial flight season peaks in July. After the flight, where mating takes place, the female ants discard their winds and burrow a tunnel to lay their eggs in. Then they hibernate for the winter. The male ants die after the mating is complete.
Generally what the Irish people witness looks a little like this:
Many Irish home owners are struggling to cope with the colonies of flying ants as the number of people calling pest control has doubled in recent weeks, with swarms entering homes. According to Orkin, a Dublin-based pest control agency, while the flying ants do not pose a physical threat they can carry harmful bacteria, which could be dangerous if they come into contact with food and surfaces.
Call outs for “flying ants has just about doubled. The weather this summer has a lot to do with it, last in the last two or three weeks, call outs to handle numbers of summer wasn’t as bad, but in 2014, we had similar conditions and callouts. The weather has a major impact,” David Sheridan, Sales and Service Manager at Orkin told the Irish Independent.
The ants thrive in moderate temperatures and where there is a food and water source.
“They seem to build their nests beneath paving areas and pathways. They like temperatures to me not too warm, but not too cold either. If they have easy access to a food and water source, colonies will thrive,” Sheridan said.
Orkin says they use a gel base to combat the creatures. The ants eat the gel and then return to the ant hill and regurgitate it, killing the swarms.
This video was not taken in Ireland but give an idea of how bad the swarms can be:
While many find the swarms disturbing and annoying there are some reasons to appreciate the flying ants, such as:
- They're predators and scavengers who will eat insects, spiders and other small invertebrates
- Flying ants provide a vital food resource for many species of birds, particularly swifts and gulls.
- When a female finds an ant to mate with, she'll play kiss-chase by flying away from the male. But rather than being a tease, she's simply ensuring her suitor is fit and fast enough to catch her.
- Their flying swarms disappear within a day.
- Ants have the largest brains of all insects, and are strong enough to carry up to seven times their own body weight.
Richard Faulkner, Advanced Technical Field Consultant at Rentokil, released a statement on preventing infestations. He said “The majority of black garden ants come in to your home to forage for food, in particular sweet and sticky substances. To reduce the likelihood of an ant invasion in your home, you should take the following precautions:
- Clear away food and liquid spillages immediately
- Clean food debris from the floor under kitchen appliances
- Make sure all rubbish bins have tightly sealed lids
- Clear away your pet’s food after eating
- Seal access points such as cracks and crevices in door and window frames
- Always cover food, you don’t know where the ant has been before it crawls across your food!”