Return of the flying ants!


Ants leaving their nest (Video: Collie Ennis) 

By Mary Dennehy

IT’S that time of the year again when flying ants invade airstreams – a wonder to some, terrifying to others.

In recent weeks, reports of flying ants have been swarming social media and news outlets, as people document their ‘terrifying’ accounts with the flighty insects.

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However, according to Tallaght conservationist Collie Ennis, this natural phenomenon should be appreciated and not feared, as the ants are only searching for a new home.

According to Collie, it’s breeding season for ants so, after the worker ants clear a runway out of the nest, the flying ants take off in search of a new home.

“It’s a numbers game for them, so many of them are going to get eaten by birds”, Collie said.

“Each nest sends out a high number in the hope of one or two surviving.

“Birds, frogs, foxes, badgers… everything will munch on them.

“They provide food to all types of wildlife from insects up to mammals.

“Flying ants are an important part of the food cycle, an important part of wildlife in our country.”

When ants leave the nest is down to temperature and humidity within a locality, the climate within their area has to be just right for them to spread their wings and fly.

“Flying ants leaving their nests is usually very localised”, Collie said.

“In all areas there are little microclimates.

“The temperature may not be right where I am in Tallaght but it may be right in say Crumlin [which results in different areas reporting flying ants on different days]."

According to Collie, the flying ants phenomena should be seen as something wonderful, not something to be afraid of – stressing that in any area, the swarm is over as quick as it begins.

“They can’t bite, can’t sting”, Collie said.

“They can get in your hair and annoy you but they’ll crawl out.

“This wonder is a natural part of the chain.

“Even though people may not like flying ants, they are a really important part of our eco-system.

“Ants are hugely important, we need them around.

“It’s a wonderful, wonder of nature… bring your kids and your grandkids out and take a look at them, it’s cool.

“I think we’ve lost a connection to nature and are afraid of things now that we wouldn’t have been afraid of in the past.”

“Flying ants are nothing to be worried about, it’s something to appreciate.

“I find it fascinating.”

Flying ant season lasts for a few weeks in Ireland every summer.

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