Flying Ant Day 2021: When will flying ants take to the skies in West Norfolk and what should you do about them?
Every summer there is a day when thousands of giant flying ants emerge from their nests all at the same time - a spectacle known as Flying Ant Day.
The phenomenon, which often happens in July, will see giant black clouds of the winged insects descend on streets and gardens across the UK.
A few days into their most favoured month and there has been little mention - or sight - of the critters so far locally.
But swarms of the insects are common around this time of year as they take to the skies as part of their 'nuptial flight' phase of reproduction.
What happened last year?
Last year Flying Ant Day took place in most parts of the country on July 12.
Often encouraged by hotter and drier weather, sometimes after a period of heavy rain, there is some suggestion among insect watchers online that this year's event could fall earlier in the month because of the rainfall seen at the end of June.
During their flight the young queen ants will mate with the strongest males before landing and starting their own colony in a new location.
Although the phenomenon is often dubbed "flying ant day", it often builds over several days before culminating in a date declared as Flying Ant Day when people report noticing hundreds and thousands of swarms all appearing at once.
The Natural History Museum says: "This annual swarming event usually occurs in July or August and coincides with a period of hot and humid weather. Winged ants appear at different times around the country and local weather conditions are critical for the coordination of swarming activity."
And although most of us may not relish the thought of thousands of the tiny creatures buzzing above our heads, it can be quite a sight.
You could see them from space
In 2019, a huge swarm of the insects spotted over the south coast was so dense it could be seen from space.
The Met Office's radar picked up something over the south of England - and initially thought it could be rain. But a closer look revealed it was thousands of flying ants.
For people living around the coast, flying ants can present another challenge because the creatures produce formic acid, which can prove irresistible to seagulls.
Birds will gorge on ants and the acid's stupefying effect can make them appear drunk - and present a hazard to motorists when they sometimes stagger into the road.
Should you get rid of them?
Other than being annoying, the flying ants will do very little harm. In fact they can be extremely beneficial to outdoor spaces, helping to aerate soil and control other pests while also providing potential food for many species of birds.
And their arrival is short lived, so after a few days you should notice that any significant populations you have seen will begin disappearing.
But if you do find some near your home you may wish to discourage any potential new visitors. Disrupting any nests or ant mounds you find in your garden can be the best place to start in reducing the risk of them coming indoors in large numbers.