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Radar alarms over the United Kingdom went off this week, signaling what meteorologists thought was a storm front. But it soon became clear that the masses on the radar were not clouds but an invasion. A 50-mile wide swarm of flying ants, so large it was visible from space, covered London and southeast England and was on its way to Ireland.

“It’s not raining in London, Kent or Sussex, but our radar says otherwise,” the UK Met Office said on Twitter.”The radar is actually picking up a swarm of #flyingants across the southeast.” 

 

The invasion was expected as ants swarm every year,  usually triggered by hot and humid weather in July or August. Though the exact date changes every year, when it does occur it is referred to as Flying Ant Day.

The ants usually seen are female black garden ants while they roam around collecting food. Queens can live for over 10 years but they are rarely seen, spending most of their lives in their nest. But during summer, winged males and new queens of the same species take flight to mate and set up new nests. Swarming protects them from predators and gives them a much better chance of finding mates as they mate in mid-flight. After mating, the male dies and the queens, averaging over a half an inch long,  chew off their wings and crawl around looking for a place to dig a new nest. 

The ants are harmless and unlike swarms of locusts that strip the countryside of vegetation, the swarming marks a feast day for local birds and other predators. They swarm may improve soil fertility and help aerate the ground to improve plant life. Despite flying ants being harmless, it is recommended that any plans for picnics be postponed. Not only are the ants, swarming in the sky and on the ground, detrimental, but birds, super satiated from gorging on ants. The ants produce formic acid which can “stupefy” the gulls. 

Though ants are common and seemingly insignificant, King Solomon held them in high regard. 

Lazybones, go to the ant; Study its ways and learn. Without leaders, officers, or rulers, It lays up its stores during the summer, Gathers in its food at the harvest. Proverbs 6:6-8

Valley of the ants is a medieval Jewish legend about King Solomon. In the legend, the king is flying on his magic mantle over a desolate valley. Flying lower and able to understand the language of all living creatures, he overheard one ant say to the others: “Enter your houses now. We are not safe. Evil Solomon is flying overhead. “

Angered, King Solomon descended to investigate, demanding to know which ant had spoken thus. One ant stepped forward and Solomon demanded an explanation. 

“It is not right that the one who asks a question should sit high upon a throne while the one who answers remains on the ground,” the ant noted. “Lift me and take me into your hand.”

Solomon acknowledged the truth in the statement and lifted the ant up in the palm of his hand. 

“Speak,” the king commanded. “Is there anyone greater than I? “

“Yes,” the ant responded. “I am the queen of the ants. I rule over my creatures. In the realm of the ants, I am more powerful than you. In the world of the ants, you must recognize my power. ” 

King Solomon scoffed at the answer but when he went to leave, a great wind blew him far away where no one had ever heard of King Solomon. He was forced to beg for food. In the morning, he came upon an anthill, swarming with busy ants carrying grain into the hive. Solomon was amazed at their industrious cooperation. 

“I am here on Earth, and I am only a speck of sand in the desert, a blade of grass in a field, the king said. “I am no greater than any one of these busy ants who build for each other’s comfort. “

Once he had learned his lesson, a great wind immediately blew him back to Jerusalem.

 


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