Flying ants take to the sky across Cumbria

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There are reports on social media of flying ants up and down the county this evening (30 July). The phenomenon usually occurs at the end of July/beginning of August and is commonly known as flying ant day. 

The Nuptial flight is an important phase in the reproduction of ants. It is also observed in some fly species. 

During the flight, virgin queens mate with males and then land to start a new colony, or, in the case of honey bees, continue the succession of an existing hived colony.

Typically the virgin queens and males first scatter to ensure outcrossing. The queens then release pheromones to attract males. However, the queens often try to escape the males, allowing only the fastest and the fittest males to mate. Mating takes place during flight.

One queen usually mates with several males. The sperm is stored in a special organ, known as a spermatheca, in the queen's abdomen, and lasts throughout her lifetime. This can be as long as 20 years, during which time the sperm can be used to fertilize tens of millions of eggs.

The males die very quickly after mating. The Queen will remove her wings and establish a new colony. Legend says that when flying ants swarm, a thunderstorm is approaching.

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Cleator Moor | Cumbria: Little Ireland: Flying ants take to the sky across Cumbria
Flying ants take to the sky across Cumbria
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Cleator Moor | Cumbria: Little Ireland
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