It’s one of those annoying things that happens every summer at around this time – swarms of flying ants taking to the skies.
The phenomenon, known as Flying Ant Day, happened on on July 15 last year. It has to be hot and dry, with no chance of rain, so today and tomorrow are just right.
So watch out for drunk seagulls, who lose their inhibitions due to the amount of formic acid ingested from gorging on ants.
The phenomenon can last several days and started in Exeter on Sunday, with reports of small swarms in the city, East and Mid Devon. There were large numbers taking to the skies in South Devon on Saturday.
The flying creatures provide a feast for birds, but what causes the insects to rise up all at the same time?
Queen ants take their cue from the weather to venture out of their nests on what is known as a “nuptial flight”, seeking males from other colonies to mate with.
Once far enough away from their own colonies to avoid in-breeding, they release pheromones, the chemicals behind sexual attraction, to attract suitors.
They then lead the males they have attracted on a chase to ensure only the fittest get to mate.
Flying ant days normally happen in July but can be any time between June and September if the weather is right.
The huge number of ants which emerge provide food for predators but sometimes this has unexpected side-effects.
An increase in attacks and nuisance behaviour by seagulls has been reported, due them getting drunk on the formic acid created by the large number of flying ants they were gorging themselves on.
Like humans, the effects of getting drunk made the seagulls lose their inhibitions, stealing food from people’s hands and raiding bins. There were also reports of seagulls getting so drunk they flew into buildings or into the paths of cars.
Over the years the dates of Flying Ant Day across the country have been getting earlier, with some experts saying climate change is to blame.
While most people think there is just one day when all the ants come out, it generally happens over a period of two weeks and can even be spread over several months.
There is no common signal or communication that causes all the ants to take flight at the same time – it is a common reaction to the same weather conditions.
The phenomenon sees huge clouds of ants swarming, which in the past has caused public events to be cancelled.