When you think of ants, you most often think of ant hills in the yard or lines of ants marching through the kitchen. These ants do not fly and do not have wings. At certain times of the year, however, it can be common to see ant-like creatures flying around in big swarms. What are these insects and where did they come from? It turns out that most species of ants have a reproductive class that has wings for at least part of their lives, and they use these wings to seek out a mate to reproduce.
The ants within a colony are born into a class system that divides the responsibilities between the classes. The largest group is the workers. All worker ants are sterile females. They are in charge of nearly all the work in the colony. Workers gather the food, take care of the larvae, clean, and defend the colony. These workers do not have wings.
The other class in an ant colony is the reproductives. The queen ant is the most important member of the colony. She lays all the eggs that will ensure the future of the colony. The queen (or queens) is essential, and if she dies, the colony will soon collapse. The majority of the eggs that the queen lays will become workers, but some will become future reproductives. These future reproductives are known as alates and consist of fertile females (future queens) and males (drones). In most species, the alates have wings so that they can fly to find a mate and start a new colony.
At some point in the year, changes in temperature or humidity will signal to the alates that it is time to swarm. This swarming most often occurs after rain in spring and/or fall and is called the “nuptial flight.” During this flight, ants will find a mate and then seek out a place to start a colony. The male will die within a few weeks after mating, but the female will twist off her wings, which she no longer needs, and start laying eggs.
Ants do not typically fly very far, so when you see a swarm, you can be fairly confident that there is a nest nearby. Swarming ants and piles of wings on window sills are signs of a possible ant infestation, so it is important to be diligent with your ant control efforts. Harris Home Pest Control is a great solution for your ant problems. It is suitable for indoor and outdoor use and controls not only ants, but also roaches, spiders, fleas, flies, scorpions, and more. Harris is the trusted name in home pest control.