Swarms of flying ants stage annual mating ritual in Scotland

July 22nd, 2010 - 6:46 pm ICT by ANI  

London, July 22 (ANI): Swarms of flying ants in Scotland have been spotted staging a spectacular annual mating ritual.

Large female ants pick one day a year to mate by sensing temperature, humidity and day length.

The males then die while the females shed their wings before making a new colony.

Dr Graham Rotheray, curator of insects at the National Museums of Scotland, said the insects would not bite people.

“It may be very alarming for people to be surrounded by these large ants in the air but it is a perfectly normal and natural phenomenon, which happens annually,” Rotheray told the BBC Scotland news website.

“It is a spectacle to see the queens fly high into the air before mating with the much smaller males,” he said.

“Ants are part of the hymenoptera family, which includes bees and wasps. They can therefore look like wasps to people but the large females don’t bite so people can be calm when they see them. What is marvellous is that they all can co-ordinate leaving their nests on the same day once a year,” he further said.

The flying ants were seen pairing up in the Edinburgh area.

“The evolutionary aim of the ant is to spread to form new colonies. The queens fly into the air to mate and do not bite. It is the soldier ants guarding the colony on the ground that bite,” The BBC quoted doctor Sarah Reece, of Edinburgh University’s evolutionary biology department, as saying.

“It was very humid in Edinburgh and this is what has caused them to come out and mate. They monitor the day length, humidity and temperature to pick just one day a year to mate,” Reece said. (ANI)

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