What are flying ants?
The winged ants are of paramount importance for the ant colony. It is the jewel of the breeding strategy of the colony and a new generation of them leaves the nest each year to breed and found new colonies. These are the new queens and new males, and they coordinate their flight according to the weather and the season.
When the ant society has become stable, it begins the process of producing fertile offspring in the form of flying ants. Since the caste of the workers is almost completely sterile (and composed only of women), the colony must produce special ants for breeding – new queens and new males – also called winged ants. This caste requires careful care and nourishment to develop and is, for the parent colony, a mere expense. Although through the eyes of evolution itself, it is the most important task in which a colony can spend its resources. Therefore, the reward is huge and ensures the future of the ants. To be able to conquer vast expanses of land, winged ants are equipped with a large set of wings.
Normally, the queen of the colony lays fertilized eggs that must never be allowed to develop fully to become new queens. These eggs become female and sterile workers. If the queen decides not to fertilize the egg with the seeds of the nuptial flight, he will become a male. But what decides that an ant will become a worker and not a queen?
What do winged ants need to develop?
Much of the development depends on the nutrients provided to the larvae by the workers. Large portions and good food lay the foundation for the flying queens. The ant Formica rufa also feeds the larvae with a secretion provided by the head of the worker ant. This contributes to the development of queens. The quantity of these breeding ants was also correlated with the pheromones emitted by the queen of the colony (or queens). These particles serve as a signal to the workers and allow them to feed the larvae less. In this way, the queen can control the number of new queens produced.
When a colony reaches age and maturity to produce fertile offspring, it will be filled, mostly in the spring, with winged ants. The new queens and males come out of their nymphs with a set of royal wings designed to fly. From this day, they will walk in the nest while waiting for the big day. It is rare for allies to help with the tasks of the colony.
The biggest challenge of flying ants
Compared to males, the journey of young queens is just beginning. After mating, a perilous test occurs while the small female has to find a good place to found her colony. The vast majority of queens die a few hours after leaving their nest. Predators and other ants are some of the dangerous obstacles they face, but they must also pay attention to nature itself in the form of drowning or overheating. This is why ant species send thousands of thousands of winged ants – in the hope that one or two of them will succeed. (2) They just need more flying ants than any predator or accident can kill.
After finding the right place, the queen cuts her wings (she will not need them anymore) and begins the excavations of her first room. When it is ready, it closes and retires to lay and wait for them to hatch. The flying ant is no more, a queen is born.
Winged ants and Nuptial flights
When the day finally arrives, the bridal flight can begin and the winged ants can set sail. The day and time of this event depend on the species. We know that the black garden black ant Lasius niger takes flight between June and August, although it prefers hot days without rain with stormy weather in the air. They coordinate the flight in small variations of weather, wind, and temperature. When conditions are favorable, all colonies of the species present in the area will probably fly at the same time. Bridal flights usually begin on the rooftops of the nests. One by one, the winged ants jump in the air and go around the world to meet each other. They then mate and move on to the next partner. When the male has accomplished his task, his life is over. He will die shortly after mating and will leave his queens to found future colonies of his children.