Nuptial flight

The nuptial flight is the mating flight of some insects, most notably social bees and ants. Winged sexuals are produced within the colony. When environmental conditions (such as temperature and humidity) are correct the winged sexuals from all of the colonies in a specific area emerge and start their nuptial flight.

During the flight females might mate with several males. Following mating the females land and, in the case of ants, chew off their own wings. The newly mated female then attempts to start a new colony by finding (or creating) a safe place to lay eggs. These eggs become the first workers in the colony.

Males don't live long after the nuptial flight.

The mass emergence of winged ants at the same time from different colonies has led to the colloquial name of Flying ant day.

A photograph of alate (winged) ants mating after the nuptial flight.

A photograph of alate (winged) ants mating after the nuptial flight.
Photograph by Dave Parker licensed under Creative Commons.

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