It’s orgy time.
That’s how bug expert Jon Gelhaus explains the sudden appearance of swarms of flying ants around the Philadelphia area that has left some residents puzzled, and others annoyed.
They are, says Gelhaus, harmless and just playing out their part in the cycle of life..
Flying ants, similar to gnats, they just want to mate, said Gelhaus, professor and curator of the Department of Entomology at Drexel University and the Academy of Natural Science. They get ready around this time of year based on temperatures and the time of sundowns, then make their move after a good rain moistens soil, making conditions just right for laying eggs.
“I didn’t want to say it, but that’s exactly right, it’s orgy time,” Gelhaus said. “They’re annoying, but these boys and girls are out there for a very brief period of time.”
A majority of the swarming males will not have sex and will die, likely to be eaten by birds or other insects and spiders, Gelhaus said. The swarms disappear after a day or two. He warns, however, it could happen with other species in the weeks ahead.
The species has been identified as Lasius neoniger, an ant common to the area.
Before the experts weighed in, there were questions about bugs and whether they were gnats, flying ants or termites.
And as is wont with such a phenomenon, the plague exploded on social media.
The Philadelphia police were in the gnats camp and acknowledged helplessness in the face of the invasion.
Hmm. No, We don't know where all of these gnats came from, either. However, we, for one, welcome our new insect overlords. pic.twitter.com/ma5xq1pYxw
— Philadelphia Police (@PhillyPolice) September 12, 2017
Philly Public Health has no suggestions about what to do, but what NOT to do.
Have gotten some calls from the media about what to do with flying ants. Our only recommendation at this time is to NOT use flamethrowers. pic.twitter.com/u9nkgcOe95
— Philly Public Health (@PHLPublicHealth) September 12, 2017
Like everyone else, Kristen Fitch wanted to know their origins. And here it was they were amongst all along, waiting for the right time to emerge from the earth.
Who invited all of these flying ants to Philadelphia???
— Kristen Fitch (@switchfitch) September 12, 2017
And it became clear, we were not alone.
Swarms Of Flying Ants Seen In Metro Detroit https://t.co/mQsokYeFee
— NewsRadio WHAM 1180 (@WHAM1180) September 1, 2017
Joanie Clover also reports sightings in the Buffalo area.
— Joanie Clover (@JoanieClover) September 11, 2017
Meanwhile, back in Philly.
Ummmm EXCUSE ME PHILLY BUT WHAT IS WITH THIS OUTBREAK OF GIANT GNATS. ... not on just one street. EVERYWHERE!
— Amber Medley (@LinesandVines) September 11, 2017
And across the river, Gary Szatkowski, former head meteorologist at the Mount Holly National Weather Service Office, reported a huge swarm
Yeah, there's about a million of them here in Hainesport. Actually, just in my backyard. https://t.co/CxnqgkgzDQ
— Gary Szatkowski (@GarySzatkowski) September 12, 2017
But the last word belongs to the Academy of Natural Science, which gave Twitter the answer to the source of the scourge.
— AcademyofNatSciences (@AcadNatSci) September 12, 2017