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Ant swarms are harmless

A swarm of winged ants at this time of year
is probably field ants.  They are harmless, just
ignore them.  Photo: Jeff Hahn, U of MN Extension
Residents have been seeing large numbers of winged insects in their yards lately. Despite their fears that they could be carpenter ants or even termites, these insects are harmless field ants.

Essentially all ant nests produce large number of winged ants for mating swarms, although they do so at different time of the years. Field ants swarm any time from July through September. Carpenter ants only swarm in the spring so any flying ants seen now are never carpenter ants. Termites are rare in Minnesota and swarms even more rare. When they are found swarming, termites do so in the spring.

A mating swarm consists of females and males, which leave at the nest at the same time. They mate and then the females fly off as new queens to look for new sites to start nests. The males die shortly afterwards.

Fortunately, field ants nest in the ground and do not infest homes when they swarm. They are at best just a nuisance. People may also be seeing cornfield ants swarming now too. They also nest in the ground and are similar to field ants but are smaller. If you encounter an outdoor swarm of ants, the best step to take is to ignore it. They only persist for a few days and then go away on their own.

Author:  Jeffrey Hahn, Extension Entomologist

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