Nuptial flight – When flying ants mate in the skies

The nuptial flight, also known as flying ant day, is seen as the first stage of the ant life cycle. The reproductive, flying alate ants i.e. virgin queens and male drones, take to the skies to mate.

Something in the air, thought to be humidity and temperature, synchronises nation-wide flights. This allows individuals from different nests to mate.

The alates will fly away from their nest to ensure outbreeding.

Once the princesses are ready to mate, they release pheromones to attract drones. They often try to out fly the drones so that only the strongest can mate with them. Mating takes place during the flight.

Princesses usually mate with more than one drone. The sperm is stored in a ‘sperm pocket’ that should last her throughout her lifetime fertilising tens of millions of eggs.

Soon after the flight the drones die and the princess lands in preparation to find a new home.