Why flying ants are swarming across Merseyside today

Hordes of flying ants descended on Merseyside today forcing people out of their gardens and leaving some people "running for cover".

Every summer, swarms of the insects come out of their nests on what has come to be known as Flying Ant Day.

But the term is slightly misleading as the UK's flying ant period can last a few weeks, usually building up to a specific day when millions of flying ants come out at the same time all over the country.

When is flying ant day?

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There's no set day – it changes each year – but it usually occurs in July, reports Mirror Online.

When Flying Ant Day does arrive, swarms of insects can be seen flying through the air, landing on trees, grass, homes and cars.

They can be incredibly irritating, with flying ants from multiple colonies coming together to breed mid-air.

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Why are there so many flying ants?

The reason they emerge in such big swarms is that fertile male and female ants collectively leave the nest to reproduce and start a new colony.

This is known as 'nuptial flight' and the Society of Biology say it's an important phase in the reproduction of the ant species.

The flying ants you encounter in your town or garden are almost certainly the black garden variety, the Lasius niger. Their nests have a single queen and typically around 5,000 workers, although there can be as many as 15,000.

The ants you see throughout most of the year are workers, collecting food for the colony. Workers are all female and will be alive as adults for about a month. The flying ants you see once a year are males and young queens.

Queens can live for over 10 years and spend most of their lives in their nest. New queens, however, will leave to mate and found a colony of their own.

The ‘nuptial flight’ is why ants fly. Ants mate during flight, so males and young queens both have wings. If you look carefully at flying ants you will see that some are much larger – these are the queens.

How to get rid of flying ants

Flying ants don't pose much danger to people in the UK – other than being very annoying. If you leave them alone, they should disappear within a few days.

Keep in mind when killing flying ants that they are actually good for outdoor environments. They aerate soil, help to cycle nutrients, improve garden fertility and control pests.

Flying ants also provide a vital food resource for many species of birds, particularly swifts and gulls.

However, if you do have an infestation in your house and want to get rid of them, here are six top tips to help you tackle the little creatures head-on.

1. Spray the ants with dishwashing soap

Dishwashing soap is an effective agent against flying ants, as it attaches to their bodies and dehydrates them. Get yourself a spray bottle to catch the little creatures in flight and mix two generous squirts of dish washing liquid with water.

2. Catch them with sticky tape

Lure the little things in with a food source and place some tape as close as possible with the sticky side up.

3. Attack ants with an artificial sweetener

Certain types of sweeteners are very toxic for ants. For example, if you mix in the sweetener with apple juice, it forms a viscous paste that the ants will carry back to the colony. Once consumed there, it will kill off a portion of their population.

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4. Use insecticidal powder

An insecticidal lacquer can be applied around door thresholds or wall and floor junctions where ants run, or spray these areas with an insecticidal aerosol which is labelled for this use.

5. Place tin cans over the ant hill

This should be done in the morning. As it heats up, the ants take their eggs up into the can. In the afternoon slide a piece of cardboard under each can, and remove and dispose of the eggs. They make a nice treat for birds, especially chickens.

6. Pour boiling water into the ant hill

Once you have located the ant hill, pour boiling water over it. This should kill most of the ants and detract other ones from coming back.

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