On this day in history….7th August 1935

On this day in history : 7th August 1935 : A plague of flying ants descends on London – authorities claim it to be the worst attack of pestilence in a quarter of a century….

Image credit : Ozzy Delaney via Flickr

The insects got into houses, crawled into pantries, heaped up on doorsteps and even stopped a tennis tournament….

‘Flying Ant Day’ is the day when the queen ants emerge from the nest to embark on their nuptial flight…. As the queen flies she emits pheromones to attract males…. They follow her and she flies away forcing them to chase her – meaning only the strongest get to mate with her…. She mates with several during the flight, storing the sperm in her abdomen, enough to last her lifetime and uses it to fertilise millions of eggs…. Once landed she will form a new colony….

This usually happens during July or August…. The weather is a key factor to determine when – heat and high humidity is needed…. Species and habitat are also factors….

The ants are mostly harmless, some have been known to bite but this is a rarity in the UK…. It may be unpleasant but it only lasts for a few hours – and is good for the environment…. The ants help to aerate the ground – and provide food for the birds….