Dr. Brendan Hunt suggested to me that I should videotape the mating flight behavior of fire ants since there are no good visual materials of it online. So I took out my camera on a collecting trip last year and made this short video documentary. Hope you like it!
— Text in the video —
On a fire ant mound, you typically don’t see a frenzy of worker activity on the surface unless the mound has been disturbed. But on a warm sunny day after a rain, workers open large holes on the surface of the mound, usher winged queens and males to the surface, and prepare for the nuptial bliss of their virgin queen nestmates.
This activity typically takes place in the late morning and early afternoon. Males typically depart first, form aerial swarms at altitudes of up to several hundred meters, then wait for the queens to fly through the swarms.
Queens of the single-queen (monogyne) form almost invariably mate with a single male in high-altitude swarms. In contrast, queens of the multiple queen (polygyne) form may mate at various altitudes, and perhaps even in the nest.
After landing, the queen runs shorts distances along the ground and immediately starts to break off her wings with her legs.
The queen then searches over a short distance (usually less than 10 meters) for a shallow hole or tunnel or initiates one herself.
Often collaborating with other queens, a queen excavates a small chamber no more than a couple centimeters below the surface. She seals the entrance with soil pellets and soon starts laying eggs.