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, throughout the spring, summer, and even into the fall 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