We often get calls from customers at this time of year who are experiencing strange flying creatures in their yard, or even their home. A lot of people are shocked when they find out that what look like flies or wasps are actually ants.
Can ants fly?
The short answer is yes. The longer, more accurate answer is that some species can fly, at certain times of the year. Ants are members of the order of insects known as Hymenoptera, which is the same order as bees and wasps. The name Hymenoptera comes from the Greek hymen, meaning membrane, and ptera, meaning wing. And winged ants do indeed have transparent, membranous wings, just like wasps.
Why do ants fly?
Well, it’s essentially a method of dispersal. In a mature colony, the queen will begin to lay eggs without fertilising them. These eggs will develop into male ants, whereas the fertilised eggs will develop into female ants. Male ants are winged, and their only function in the colony is to reproduce. Female ants would also be winged and capable of reproduction if it were not for a chemical the queen secretes to prevent their sexual development. At the right time of year – spring, summer or fall in Vancouver, depending on the species – the queen will stop producing this chemical, and winged reproductive females will be born.
On a nice, warm, preferably windless day, the winged reproductive ants will take flight, often in very large numbers. They mate in the air, and the males die shortly afterwards. The mated females will now fly away to find a place where they can start a nest of their own.
Often, people are unaware they have an ant problem until they see one of these swarms. If the ant colony is partially inside a structure – in a wall, say, or under a slab floor – the winged ants may swarm inside. Winged ants are generally bigger than their non-reproductive sisters, and the sudden appearance of a swarm can be quite disturbing.
Here in Vancouver, the time of the swarm can provide a clue as to the species of ant. For instance, pavement ants tend to swarm in the height of summer, around July or August. Carpenter ants, on the other hand, swarm twice per year; once in spring, and again in the fall.
If you’re encountering swarms of ants, or want to make sure you don’t give Green Frog a call. We’ll be happy to meet your needs for pest control in Vancouver.