Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Vast clouds of flying ants deceive weather satellites


Experts believe false readings occurred because radar interpreted insects as raindrops
Wed 17 Jul 2019 22.14 BSTLast modified on Wed 17 Jul 2019 22.28 BST
Huge swarms of flying ants that hit England’s south coast were mistaken by weather satellites in space for clouds of rain.
The Met Office’s radar captured what it described as “insect clutter” over the counties of Hampshire, West Sussex and Dorset on Wednesday morning. They were also spotted in East Sussex and Kent.
“It’s all about mating,” insect expert Prof Adam Hart of the University of Gloucestershire said. “The ant colonies in the ground are busy rearing the potential new queens and males. When the weather conditions are right, they go into the air.”
The weather in the south of England has triggered what is known as the “nuptial flight” phase of the ant’s reproductive cycle – commonly referred to as a “flying ant day”.
But Prof Hart argues that the term is misleading as the mating ritual can last for several weeks throughout July and August, depending on the weather conditions in different parts of the country, ultimately involving billions of ants.
The ants typically take to the skies when rainfall is followed by hot, humid weather. The queen emits pheromones as she takes flight, encouraging the males to pursue her. But only the strongest are able to mate with her.
As the queen flees their advances, birds swoop in and prey upon them. The chase is intended to ensure that the queen’s offspring are as fit as they can be.

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