19 October 2019 23:18
HUGE clouds made up of billions of flying ants are tricking weather radar systems into thinking they're rainstorms as the swarms burst into the UK. "You can tell it's not rainfall because it has that eerie look to it" Simon King Met Office forecasters shared incredible images of the swarms that showed the horde of flying ants racing across southern England. The insects descended on Hampshire, West Sussex and Dorset, according to the Met Office's radar. It is understood the massive clusters were caused when huge numbers of flying ants left their nests to look for mates. They are caused when Queen ants leave the nest and gather a swarm of randy males around them.
FLYING ANTS: The insects have appeared in swarms across southern England (Pic: GETTY) SWARMS: Met Office radar was tricked into thinking the clouds of insects were rain storms (Pic: MET OFFICE) A Met Office spokesman told The Sun: "The radar thinks the beams are hitting raindrops not ants." BBC weather presenter Simon King posted an image of the giant swarm on Twitter, describing it as "incredible". Swarms of them flying into the sky in S Eng are being picked up as rain on the radar image this morning." Mr King said it was the biggest swarm of its kind that he had ever seen. Swarms of them flying into the sky in S Eng are being picked up as rain on the radar image this morning...!#flyingantday #flyingants ������������������������#yuk pic.twitter.com/QGOcikqJFq — Simon King (@SimonOKing) 17 July 2019 GROSS: Swarms of flying ants have blighted southern England (Pic: GETTY) A cloud of flying ants that hit the south coast was so dense it could be seen in satellite images from space. The swarm of insects hit the counties of Hampshire, West Sussex and Dorset today and were captured on the Met Office's radar. The Met Office tweeted: "The latest view from space shows that our radar is picking up something that isn't precipitation along the south coast." They added: "We know this to be insect clutter (flying ants) based on inspection of raw reflectivity." The weather was perfect for ants to move into the "nuptial flight" phase of their reproduction, also known as "flying ant day" - where virgin queen ants are followed by male ants hoping to mate.
Right now, the warmest conditions are in the south of the country, which is why they have been spotted in large numbers there over recent days. The Met Office said its space satellites picked up an infestation of the big ants - some of which can measure up to 15mm long - on its radar along the south coast. He said: "While the warm weather is a welcome change to the recent spate of showers across the country, the rising temperatures of late June to early July can also cause an unwelcome increase in swarms of flying ants - giving rise to what's now commonly known as Flying Ant Day. "When the temperature goes past a certain point, large females and smaller males that have developed in neighbouring nests of black garden ants take to the air in huge numbers and initiate mating flights. Flying ants SWARM: The large-winged ants thrive in big groupings "After mating the females will start a new colony, while the males will die." Males will only live for a couple of days or so after mating, but queens can live up to 15 years in total.
Large outbreaks of rain will sweep east overnight after hitting Scotland and the west of the UK earlier today. Flying ants SWARM: The ants have been spotted at Wimbledon during matches Flying ants SWARM: Flying ant days are common in July and August when the weather is humid The groups of the flying insects were so large they appeared on weather forecast maps looking like rain. Simon King, a BBC meteorologist said the ants were large enough and flying at such a certain height they were picked up by radar systems. The swarms were spotted all across the southern coast from Hampshire to West Sussex. Mr King said such sightings were far more common on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean and added: "For it to actually to appear on the radar imagery, that's something certainly incredible, and I just feel sorry for all the people who have to experience those flying ants." A study found that flying ants fly somewhere in the UK on 96 percent of the days between the starts of June and September. A cloud of flying ants that hit the south coast on Wednesday was so dense it could be seen in satellite images from space. The swarm of insects peppered the skies in the counties of Dorset Hampshire, and West Sussex — and were captured on the Met Office's radar, shocking images show. Ants were also spotted in Kent and East Sussex. The insects were on their so-called 'nupital flight', during which they mate — an event triggered by the current weather. Ants swarm together to raise the odds of pairs successfully mating and to deter predators at this vulnerable stage in the life cycle of their colonies. The swarm of insects hit the counties of Hampshire, West Sussex and Dorset and were captured on the Met Office's radar, shocking images show Traditionally known as 'flying ant day', these stunning sights occur when female ants are chased through the air by male ants that are hoping to mate, forming giant airborne swarms. As the males follow her, the queens flee, meaning only the strongest are able to keep up and ultimately mate. Taking to Twitter today, users shared snaps of flying ants in their gardens. One wrote: 'It must be flying ant day.' WHY DO FLYING ANTS SWARM? Female and male citronella ants preparing to swarm Ants swarm in order to mate — travelling on a journey known as a 'dispersal' or a 'nuptial flight'. Swarming, a group activity, increases the odds of mating and gives strength in numbers, deterring predators. Flying ants will gather together in clumps to mate on high structures — a phenomenon experts dub 'hilltopping'. After mating, around half the male ants die — having served their purpose. A winged queen — of the black garden ant species — shortly after her nuptial flight Meanwhile, the fertilised queen ants will fly around trying to find a good site to start a new colony. When a nesting site is found, the queen breaks off her wings, never to fly again. A Met Office spokesperson said the ants showed up on their image as a showers of rain because 'the radar thinks the beams are hitting raindrops not ants.' Although referred to as a day, these mating rituals can last for several weeks in high summer. A flying ant day usually occurs when a spell of wet weather is followed by hot humid weather.