It's that time of year -- you walk outside only to run into a swarm of flying insects. Not flies, not gnats, but ... ants? Ants have wings?
Yep, this time of year, and into summer for some species, male drone and female queen ants have wings and are flying voraciously in pursuit of a mate. They won't last long however, as they have a very short lifespan -- few of these winged ants will make it beyond a week or two, and an extremely low percentage actually make it all the way to mate -- most are eaten by birds or other predators who love this annual snack. And it's even worse for the males, because once they finally find a female with which to mate, they die.
For the females, it's their one chance to mate then breed to start a new colony and become its queen. In some species, they will share the rule, but whether a colonies lone or multiple queen, once she breeds, she will be waited on hand and foot, and fed by the ant workers.
Not all ant species fly to mate however. Some simply mate within the nest then walk with their brood to a new location to start a new colony.
So next time you walk - or run - into a swarm of flying ants, you'll know ... the rest of the story.
Photo by Luís Flávio Loureiro dos Santos
The presence of stink bugs has increased dramatically since the Asian brown marmorated stink bug was first brought into the U.S. in the 1990s on imported goods.
And now, according to the Washington Examiner, not only have these stinky bugs established a presence in 39 states, but also, a new species, the Italian stink bug, has been discovered by U.S. U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents.
The article cites USDA Research Entomologist Tracy Leskey, as stating that the numbers of adult stink bugs overwintering increased 60% in 2012 - and many of those are now starting to emerge to lay their eggs and begin the cycle anew.
But stink bugs aren't the only foul-smelling insects to increase their presence in the spring. While stink bugs emit an odor similar to that of smelly feet when disturbed or crushed, the odor emitted by the odorous house ant is more like that of rotten coconuts.
Either way, both stink bugs and odorous house ants are common across much of the U.S. and can become a smelly annoyance to get rid of if they get into your home!
Have you seen -- or heard -- the 17-year cicadas in your neighborhood?
Let us know
This spring, the 17-year cicada is expected to cover areas from Connecticut to Georgia, and a number of organizations are working to track and trace their emergence.
Two of these, to which you can provide input to help with the projects are:
- National Public Radio. NPR's Radiolab developed a citizen-science project, for which it is inviting the public to plant a homemade temperature sensor in the ground and report your findings. Because the cicadas emerge when temperatures exceed 64 degrees F, the project is also using temperature tracking from the National Climate Data Center's U.S. Climate Reference Network. Learn more about this project and what you can do at WNYC.org.
- College of Mount St. Joseph. Researchers are working to develop an accurate map of the extent of the 2013 cicada emergence. If you have witnessed an emergence, you can report it at MSJ.edu. The form requests information on where and when the cicadas were seen (providing precise GPS location if possible), and a selection of photos to depict the type seen, and notation of the number seen. Any additional comments, unusual sightings, weather conditions, etc., can also be added in a comment box. The researchers will use the information to better understand the biology of periodical cicada broods.