Entomology (Study of Bugs)/Ant behavior

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Question
I have been living in the same house for 31 years.  Every year, without fail, around mid August, a trail of medium-sized ants, about 1/3rd of them winged, come filing about 15 feet across my porch along the back wall.  At about the same point every year, they turn up the brick wall and swarm to almost 5' up the wall.  In the past, I have prayed them with insect spray.  Then 2 weeks later, the whole routine is repeated.

This year, I decided not to spray them to see what happened.  The first group disappeared on their own after a day or 2.  The second group is here now, and I am waiting to see what happens.

I am dying of curiosity to know what this behavior is all about.  I also wonder about what appears to be a myth that only the queen has wings, since a sizeable portion of them are winged.

Answer
Hi Dana,

Great question! Many people do think that only queen ants have wings, but it isn't true. Other females (worker ants) and males can have wings too. It is not uncommon to see swarms of winged ants, called alates, in the summer when they are mating. They might move on if you leave the alone, or they will nest and you will have an infestation to deal with.

Best,
Jessica

Entomology (Study of Bugs)

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Jessica Mellinger

Expertise

I can answer questions about invertebrates native to California, including insects commonly found in homes. If you have an identification request, please attach a photo to your question.

Experience

I was involved in collection and identification of invertebrates for the United States Geological Survey, Biological Resources Division for six years. Also, I provided these same services intermittently for the UC Davis John Muir Institute of the Environment for many years. I have been a member of AllExperts.com since 2009.

Organizations
Department of the Interior: United States Geological Survey, Davis Field Station; University of California, Davis Aggie Alumni Association; UC Davis Center for Neuroscience; U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs

Education/Credentials
I have two B.A.'s from the University of California, Davis and two Associate's degrees from Sacramento City College.

Awards and Honors
Special Thanks for Achieving Results award from the Department of the Interior

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