Every year, on a single day, Great Britain has to deal with a massive invasion of flying ants. Often, the winged insects cluster into intimidating swarms, covering sidewalks, windows, and more. However, this year, some of the circling swarms were so large and dense that they were actually detected from space.
The flying ants began sweeping through the south of England on Tuesday, according to a report by CNN. The experience is reminiscent of a disaster or horror movie, with winged ants taking flight in massive swarms.
— Nikki Hounsell (@NikkiNhou) July 16, 2019
Flying ant swarms aren’t uncommon in Britain. In fact, their annual arrival has been dubbed “Flying Ant Day,” marking the moment the winged insects descend across the United Kingdom each summer.
The reason for the swarms is a naturally occurring phenomenon. When weather conditions are right, queens and male ants head out from the colonies to try and mate, seemingly all at once.
While the ant swarms have been large over recent year, this year, they were so massive that weather radar systems picked them up, thinking that they were rain.
Simon King, a BBC weather presenter, initially noticed the misidentification on the part of the weather radar.
King posted a video on Twitter showing what appears to be precipitation on the radar.
“Flying ants!!!” he wrote. “Swarms of them flying into the sky in S Eng are being picked up as rain on the radar image this morning…!”
— Simon King (@SimonOKing) July 17, 2019
The swarms were likely disruptive to anyone who intended to spend the day outdoors on Tuesday, but otherwise aren’t particularly dangerous. Additionally, the ants – the majority of which are the black pavement ant Lasius niger – are critical for the ecosystem.
According to the Royal Society of Biology, the swarming “allows for more oxygen and water to reach the roots of plants and they can even improve soil fertility and help control pests.”
If you said flying ants 🐜 you were correct! ✔️
— Met Office (@metoffice) July 17, 2019