London

Have you walked through swarms of flying ants lately? Relax, they're just mating

Ontario's hot and wet summer has made for perfect conditions for flying ants to multiply, creating mating swarms that can make for unsettling encounters with hundreds of bugs (but also a protein-rich meal).

Hot and wet summer means flying ants, mosquitoes and midges are abundant in the region

A hot, wet summer has led to perfect conditions for flying ant mating. Londoners have noticed swarms of the insects in recent days. (bugeric.blogspot.ca)

Ontario's hot and wet summer has made for perfect conditions for flying ants to multiply, creating mating swarms that can make for unsettling encounters with hundreds of randy bugs (but also a protein-rich meal). 

"It's been a pretty good season for bugs. What we've had in London is this great growing season where three times a week you get a good thunderstorm and it stays nice and moist, which means more water available, more places to breed, and it's warmer, so they develop faster, you can get through more cycles a year," said Brent Sinclair, a biologist at Western University who studies insects. 

"What we're seeing is the effect of weather. It's a hot wet summer. But if climate change brings us more of those kinds of summers, than we'll be seeing more of those bugs." 

Social media has been buzzing about the swarms of flying insects in the last few days. Some have described swimming pools clogged with insects while others have brushed them out of their hair after an evening walk. 

When you walk through a swarm of flying ants, you're essentially walking through a giant mating session, said Sinclair. 

A tiny, tasty treat

The queens fly around, mating with as many males as possible. They keep the sperm until they die. 

When they've had enough mating, the queens drop to the ground, drop their wings, eat them for protein, and then bury underground to start a new colony. 

"Because it's been so moist the last month or so, that speeds up the life cycle," said Bruno Levesque, the Ontario Regional Manager for Orkin Canada, the pest control company. 

"They become overpopulated so they need to break off and create sub colonies." 

Many ants mean more queens, more mating, and more colonies, Levesque said. 

The flying ants are completely harmless, though a slight nuisance, Sinclair and Levesque say. But if they're in your house, best to call a pest control company.

And there's a tasty upside, too. 

"These bugs, they're delicious," Sinclair said. "The females of the species have a lot of protein. In cultures that eat ants, these are ones they eat." 

Mosquitoes and midges are also thriving in the recent hot and wet weather.

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