Natural phenomenon as hundreds of millions of ants perform annual mating ritual

PUBLISHED: 15:44 14 July 2020 | UPDATED: 15:44 14 July 2020

A queen Lasius niger ant after losing her wings following a mating flight. Picture:

A queen Lasius niger ant after losing her wings following a mating flight. Picture:

Insect-lovers got to view hundreds of millions of ants released into the air as part of an annual natural spectacle.

Lasius niger ants with their wings on during the annual mating flight. Picture: niger ants with their wings on during the annual mating flight. Picture:

Flying ant day, the airborne mating ritual of the common black ant, known as Lasius niger, took place on the evening of Sunday, July 12.

Ant enthusiast Adam Jakson from Norwich. Picture: enthusiast Adam Jakson from Norwich. Picture:

Over a period of two hours, scores of queens and male ants which had been in garden patio crevices and walls for the past year flew several metres into the air to mate.

The short flight and recolonisation process takes place every summer, according to Norwich ant enthusiast Adam Jackson.

After the queens, which can live up to 20 years, and males fall to the ground the females wings fall off and she lays eggs to grow future queens and males - as well as the worker ants which serve the colony.

Male ants die soon after falling to the ground.

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Mr Jackson, 34, from Unthank Road, Norwich, who has done a research project on ants, said: “Ants have one big flight every year. I feel this year was late and it wasn’t a particularly heavy flight. It has been very difficult to contain my anticipation. I was expecting the flights to happen in the middle of June. This is the way new colonies are started. If this went away for a couple of years we would lose some ants.”

He added that could be due to a dry spring.

Mr Jackson, who runs the eco-building Treehouse Festival and has been interested in ants for the past 15 years, said the annual flights usually happen in areas at the same time across the same hemisphere when temperatures and weather conditions are the same.

The flights would have taken place from Norfolk all the way to Herefordshire, according to the expert.

In Norfolk there are 28 different ant species and across the UK there are 47 and the each species has its own flight.

Due to its prevalence, the Lasius niger has a larger flight than other species and is released into the air when temperatures reach around 23C with no rain expected, according to Mr Jackson.

He said: “Ants vastly outnumber everything else on the planet. They are really cool. They are key entities that interact with different things. They are really key to the life of a garden and super resilient. They are alien-like creatures but do things we do like harvesting.”

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