We enjoyed a light sprinkling of rain over the weekend. Nothing dramatic, only a few millimetres in fact, but it was enough to soften the top layer of soil that soon dried when the sun came out. Something else came out too – flying ants (alates).
These winged fertile males and females emerge from under the ground for their nuptial flight in order to mate and start new colonies of ants. The queen ants shed their wings soon after mating and, tough as it can be out there, the males generally die soon afterwards.
Although they emerge at the same time, the queens release pheromones to attract males before mating.
Several flying ants emerge at once and are immediately faced with a number of predators ranging from other ants to birds. The Fork-tailed Drongos in particular enjoyed a feast of them in my garden.
It seems to be imperative that the ants fly immediately after emerging as so few of them actually survive. Apart from being eaten, many of them drowned in our swimming pool and in the bird baths.