‘Mass outpourings’ of flying ants ‘invade’ Britain on hottest day of the year

Flying ant day is one of those things that happens every summer.

Potential new queen ants and fertile males swarm out of their nests in a bid to start new colonies on warm, windless days between July and September.

While it might seem like a co-ordinated national phenomenon, there’s a ‘flying ant day’ going on somewhere in the UK practically all summer.

But with soaring temperatures across the country, this looks like being a bumper month for the annoying, slow-moving critters.

Last week the Met Office recorded a swarm of flying ants over London that was dense enough to be picked up on the weather service's radar.

The University of Leeds said Brits should prepare themselves for even more sightings over the next few days.

A spokesman said: "As the days become warm and humid, and there is little to no wind, ants (will) emerge from their underground nests and take to the air for their nuptial flight.

"They aggregate into groups large enough to be seen on weather radar systems.

"Towards the end of the first week of July there were signs of flying ant activity over London.

"It is expected it will be seen over the south coast over the next couple of days before the phenomenon is seen further north later in the month."

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Environmental science expert Aidan O'Hanlon says people should simply leave the pests alone and stay indoors when the ants are swarming.

Other handy tips include cleaning up litter, closing food containers and keeping an eye out for ant nests.

"They can seem annoying but ants are ecologically essential," explained Aidan.

"They provide aeration in soil through their nesting behaviour, and serving as a bonanza food source for birds, spiders, wasps and other insects in the summer when the ants swarm in huge numbers."

Aidan added that in some rare cases flying ants have been known to sting, so there’s more to flying ant day than just minor inconvenience.

And the emergence of the ants can have a knock-on effect in other creatures too.

The RSPB’s Tony Whitehead says seagulls see flying ant day as a free buffet:.“The gulls are mad for them,” he said. “There has been a massive emergence of the ants over the last three days and they are like little treats for the gulls.

“They are like M&Ms to them. They go to wherever they are.”

But Dr Rebecca Nesbit of the Society of Biology says the ants naturally secrete formic acid, which can cause gulls to appear “drunk” and lose their inhibitions after eating them.

Some seagulls get so boozed up on the ants that they have flown straight into buildings and vehicles.

One Exeter motorist told the Daily Star:"I have seen the crushed bodies of around half a dozen gulls on main roads around the city.

“Normally they fly off before getting anywhere near a vehicle, but they just seem to getting mown down.

"The ants have been a pain in the last few days in gardens – swarming around.

"One neighbour was woken late at night by the noise of bats feeding on a swarm of them outside his house."

Have you experienced Flying Ant Day in your area yet this year? Tell other Star readers about it in the comments below.

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