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Flying ant survey underway
Scientists study mating flight

Scientists from the Society of Biology are attempting to count the number of places flying ants appear in the UK as they swarm across the country during mating flights.

The seasonal appearance of these insects occurs when they begin their mating flight, in their first step to found a new colony. The males and potential queens are the winged ants seen during the summer months, and after mating the females will lose their wings and attempt to found a new colony.

It is of high importance that the flights between nests are synchronised; however, the details about how the ants know when to fly remain a mystery. The survey, running throughout July and August, may help to make sense of it by charting the appearance of the ants.

Dr Downs, the Society of Biology's chief executive, explained: "The flying ants won't survive very long and need to maximise the chances of meeting ants from other colonies to mate with. But how do they do it?

"Do flying ants appear at a very similar time each year, determined by the ants' biology, or is there a lot of flexibility in response to external conditions such as weather?"

The results will be announced during National Biology Week in October

Flying ant-spotters are being asked to submit their sightings throughout July and August on the Society of Biology's website.


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RSPCA braced for ‘hectic hedgehog month’

News Story 1
 The RSPCA says that it is bracing itself for a ‘hectic hedgehog month’ after calls to the charity about the creatures peaked this time last year.

More than 10,000 calls about hedgehogs were made to the RSPCA’s national helpline in 2018, 1,867 of which were in July. This compares with just 133 calls received in February of the same year.

Evie Button, the RSPCA’s scientific officer, said: “July is our busiest month for hedgehogs. Not only do calls about hedgehogs peak, but so do admissions to our four wildlife centres as members of the public and our own officers bring in orphaned, sick or injured animals for treatment and rehabilitation.” 

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ASF traces found in seized meat at NI airport

More than 300kg of illegal meat and dairy products were seized at Northern Ireland’s airports in June, DAERA has revealed.

A sample of these were tested at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, resulting in the detection of African swine fever DNA fragments.

DAERA said that while the discovery does not pose a significant threat to Northern Ireland’s animal health status, it underlines the importance of controls placed on personal imports of meat and dairy products. Holidaymakers travelling overseas are being reminded not to bring any animal or plant products back home.