So, last Saturday we were at a picnic in Round Hill celebrating the nuptials of two dear friends. As we stood in the field sipping lemonade at about 5pm, a number of us noticed all these flying insects. They weren’t biting and were high enough over our heads that no one was bothered by them. So, we continued with our chats, hoped for some bats to come through and put on a show, and soon forgot about the insects.
The next day, I received an email through our Loudoun Widlife Conservancy yahoo group from Jim W asking if anyone knew about some insects that emerged around 4pm also in Round Hill. He wrote:
“we noticed hundreds of flying insects all throughout our yard, flying near the ground or as high as 10-20 feet above the ground. As we walked into our grass, we noticed lots (hundreds if not thousands) of mounds of ants (we think they were ants), as well as larger insects with wings among the ants. These clusters of ants and insects were everywhere it seemed. The winged insects among the ants were the ones that were flying around. We needed to leave, and when we got back home about 6:30, everything was gone.”
Then, we heard that another member, Beth A., had the same experience in Lovettsville, also on Saturday afternoon.
Curious, we called in the experts (Cliff Fairweather, Phil Daley, Joe Coleman) and inquired.
Cliff responded back with the answer to our mystery of what insects they were:
“I’m sure Phil has already answered the question, but the phenomenon Jim reported was the emergence of reproductive forms of ants. During most of the year, a queen ant produces sterile, flightless workers, but from time-to-time she produces a generation of flighted males and females that disperse in swarms and, if they survive, mate. The males die soon after mating and the females lose their wings. Like other social hymenoptera, fertilized females go on to found new colonies, assuming they survive and find a suitable colony site.”
Jim posted a photo on our yahoo group page for anyone interested: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/loudounwildlife/
Did anyone else notice this occurrance?