Mali success environment story on desert elephant protection and wildlife conservation///CRIMSON TAZVINZWA
The annual gathering of polar bears is a big event for the residents of Churchill. They maintain a hotline for bear sightings and even run a polar bear ‘jail’ that temporarily holds ‘pesky’ bears to keep locals (and their food) safe.
Quick fact: Under a polar bear’s bright coat, its skin is jet black, which helps the bear soak up the sun’s rays to stay warm.
For visitors who want to see polar bears on the ice floes, Churchill is the base for guided tours in protected tundra vehicles. The Tundra Buggies glide smoothly over ice and snow, providing a rare opportunity to get up close to the bears. Visitors may also spot other animals native to the Arctic, including reindeer, foxes, and hares. And after the Arctic safari, when the sun goes down, this is an ideal place to see the Northern Lights.
The, er, joyous occasion lands around this time each year meaning that you’ll likely spot lots of the pesky winged insects while in the UK – both while out and about and, unfortunately, in your home.
We’ve got the lowdown on the unpredictable creatures and what Flying Ant Day’s all about.
There are over 60 species of ant in the UK but the flying ants that we see flocking towards us tend to be the sexually mature queens and males of the common black garden ant (also known as the Lasius Nige).
You can easily spot the queen ant, as they tend to be the largest and can grow up to 15mm long.
Flying Ant Day occurs when the queen ants are on the lookout for a new home but, unfortunately, they don’t leave the nest alone.
When they decide to up and flee, they bring the male ants along with them in order to mate en-route. This way, they can prepare to create a whole new colony elsewhere.
Large winged females and smaller winged males also join in on what is known as the ‘nuptial flight’ to mate.
In the run-up to the big day, worker ants spend weeks preparing to swarm by piling heaps of soil above their nests – another way to potentially spot a nest in your garden.
There isn’t actually a specific ‘Flying Ant Day’ (if there was, we’d certainly call in sick). Think of it as more of a loose time period: the insects tend to emerge from their nests in July or August.
Historically, stray flying ants are a warning sign that the colony’s getting set to relocate. However, one study conducted by the Society of Biology indicated more unpredictable swarming patterns during recent years are perhaps triggered by the change in climate.
Back in 2013 for instance, there was an entire flying ant month.
“The good weather seems to be causing multiple flights with much less synchrony than we saw in 2012,” Professor Adam Hart said. “So far the idea of a flying ant day is very much a myth. Last year we had a flying ant month.”
So we may well be waiting a while until the ants completely disappear from our garden…
According to multiple sources, swarming is kick-started by the warm and humid weather hence the prevalence of flying ants in the summer.
Unfortunately for city-dwellers, they tend to prefer urban areas due to what is known as the ‘urban heat island effect’.
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If you’re hoping to prevent a swarm in your back garden, then you may need to check your patio for piles of soil ahead of the ‘nuptial flight’.
Flying ants tend to build nests in dry soil so can be found beneath flower beds, lawns and paving slabs.
Although they’re not dangerous, flying ants can prove incredibly irritating. They’ve been known to bite or sting but this is fairly uncommon and they’re usually harmless.
If you find yourself faced with a swarm or nest in your garden, you can try the following methods for ridding yourself of them:
Once you’ve identified where the nests may be in the garden (check patios, flower beds and beneath paving slabs) then pour boiling water into the area.
This should kill the bugs and hopefully prevent more from returning to the nest.
One of the most talked about ways of deterring the swarm is to put tin cans atop their soil hills.
It’s crucial that you do this in the morning though, as the cans will heat up over the course of the day and this encourages ants to take their eggs into the tins.
In the afternoon, slide something beneath the cans and dispose of the eggs. Nope, this isn’t one for the faint hearted.
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