After hearing about the 'Flying Ant Invasion' at Wimbledon, we asked our twitter and facebook followers if they had seen any flying ants in Sussex. The response was an overwhelming YES!
People were spotting this natural spectacle in Hastings, Hove and Henfield, Brighton, Billingshurst and Bexhill, Cowfold, Crawley and Chichester. It was officially Flying Ant Day in Sussex.
But why do they all emerge at the same time?
The black garden ant (Lasius niger) produces large, winged queens at this time of year, which incredibly synchronise their mating flights with thousands of other colonies all on the same afternoon. The sudden abundance of insects also provides a feeding bonanza for many species of birds, including starlings, gulls and sparrows.
The smaller winged males join the queens and mate with them in mid-air, then the queens return to earth, lose their wings and seek a new site to set up a new colony of ants. Most queens are not successful, but those that are may live 10-15 years laying eggs for the new colony.