Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Flying Ants

Now that the rains have started the flying ants will be making their annual mating flights called swarming. Thousands of Alates, male and female reproductives, will leave the nest in order to create new nests as they pair off, drop their wings and mate. Males die fairly quickly after mating, while females focus on getting in the ground before being eaten by a predator. There she will lay her eggs and care for the young by herself until the first brood can give her a hand.

Flying ants are often mistaken for Termites. It's easy to tell the difference. Ants have a needle like waste and termites do not. Ants antennae are bent (elbowed) and termites are straight. The wings on Termites are all the same length, whereas ants have two pair of different lengths.

Many species of ants swarm in this fashion, but not all. Some create new colonies by a technique called budding. Harvester Ants, the really large ones we have in the Southwest, are among the most common to swarm. They will sting, so be careful to avoid being "attacked" by them. I once was in a truck with an emergency flashing light on it and the whole truck was mobbed. One of the workers got out of the cab to take a picture and took dozens of stings before he could get back inside. They seem to be attracted to lights (flashing maybe more than non), tall objects such as power poles and large white structures. They land in open gravel areas which probably appear to be a good site for future colonies.

If you find this happening at your home, stay inside. They usually don't present a problem and things will subside in a day or so. You will probable notice some new small mounds the size of a quarter appearing and if you watch closely, you will see the new Queen when she brings out a load of dirt.  You can stop that new colony from forming by killing her. These little mounds often appear along edges of a sidewalk or between a walk and pavement. Left alone, some of these new colonies will survive and are capable of growing to the large gravel mounds up to several feet in diameter.