Ant Mating Flight

2017 December 2

August 28, 2017. The day the Earth Burst Open, and Ants Vomited Forth!


Of course, this happens every year in late August/early September. Back in 2013, they came out on September 6. I think these are in the genus Lasius, which are well-known for being fairly nondescript and spending most of their time underground until mating season rolls around.

In this next picture, the reddish-brown ones are the workers, and the black ones with the wings are the males that they are escorting to the surface (I didn’t get very good pictures of the males last time I photographed these ants).


I think the reason for the color difference is that the worker ants spend almost all of their time underground, so they don’t encounter the ultraviolet light in sunlight very often or for very long. So, they don’t need protective pigments. The males are going to spend many hours on their mating flight, though, and so they need UV protection to make sure they don’t die right away of sunburn.

The males come out first, and then once they are up and patrolling the area, the females come out:


The females are much bigger than the workers or males, because they have to have the body reserves to start a new nest from basically nothing.


As per BugGuide, there are about 40 species of ants in the Lasius genus, and I’m not quite sure which one these might be. In any case, they mostly stay underground all the time, and we really only see them during the mating flights. Most of these species live off of honeydew that they collect from root-feeding aphids. Which means that their nests must be big enough that they can get out from under the driveway and into the lawn, where there are some roots for their aphids to feed on. Since they keep coming out of the same hole every year, I kind of suspect that there is a great big nest under there, possibly with multiple queens.

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