Saturday, October 19, 2013

Lasius claviger Flying Day and Night

Lasius claviger is holding their nuptial flights this week. This is an ant few people tend to notice. Their workers are a pale orange color and colonies remain subterranean for almost the entire year. Workers farm root aphids and rarely venture to the surface.

This species is a social parasite, which means queens require a host colony in order to start a colony of their own. After mating they have to find a colony of Lasius neoniger, or Lasius alienus and replace its queens. The host workers then raise the L. claviger brood as their own and the colony becomes self sufficient from there. Because this has a low success rate, Lasius claviger has to send out 10 times as many queens and males each year as either of their hosts.

Nuptial flights take place in the afternoon, with swarms gathering at about 200' in the air. If you stand so that your head is just in the shade and look up at the sun, you can sometimes see the dazzling display of their wings darting about that high up. Once the sun goes down though, they get disoriented, and are drawn towards lights. In the video above I found millions of them gathered in the parking lot to a fast food restaurant. They were still trying to fly around the lights there, and even swarmed about inside the building.... of which I was apparently the only person who noticed. A friend of mine said just down the street there was another store that got swarmed much worse.