In all the years I lived in Scotland I never once saw a flying ant. So now, when they appear in the grass and between the paving stones of our English garden, I am fascinated by them. Expect them on dry, warm days. The story goes that they won't appear if there's any risk of rain. These little orange fellas start running around first. When I saw them I took it as a sign I could safely hang out some washing. Turns out we have stupid ants who forgot to check with the Met Office. It rained.
Then when you look hard enough you can see the entrance to their burrows.
And before you know it they're everywhere...
I'm still trying to work out what the orange ants do. They seem to make sure it's all clear before the winged ants come up and then they seem to clear away any winged ants which have a wing missing. Since nature is pragmatic I presume these failed ants are taken back to the burrow and used as a food source.
The able bodied winged ants who are not mopped up (anticide?) head for the tallest thing and climb up it. They're looking for the highest launch pad they can find.
Loads of 'em!
My research (wikipedia) tells me these winged ants consist of virgin males and females who spread their wings to get as far away as possible from the parent nest and give them a greater chance of mating with other ants from other nests. Once they have mated on the wing, the males genitals explode and they die. I'm not making it up. I read it on the internet. It must be true.
Imagine, you're a young ant-about-town off on your first date. It's all going well, you've escaped the nest, avoided being chewed up by the ground crew, got up a blade of grass and made your maiden flight. Up there in the clear air you've met a nice lady ant. She's given you the wink. Turns out you both like the same things - grass, Wings, Adam and the Ants. Some soft lighting, some Barry White on spotifly (sorry) and you're making sweet, sweet ant magic. You lean back but just as you're about to blow smoke rings, BOOF! Genitals blown to bits. No "it's not you, it's me", no "I just think I need to focus on my career right now". You're history. Literally.
I feel sorry for the male ants. The females take the next generation to establish a new nest. Job done. Many comments on flying ant forums (yes really) are written by people panicking about the number of flying ants which have appeared in their gardens and homes. They wonder if bleach will get rid of them. Relax. They'll be on their way soon and for some, their fate is worse than a blast of bleach.