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Acromyrmex versicolor: Mating Flights

- by Pam Shack (from Tortoise Trail: A celebration of life in suburbia in the Arizona-Sonora Desert)

Thursday was a humid, overcast day with quite a bit of rain which lasted into the night. On Friday morning, R. and my daughter K., who is visiting from West Virginia, got me out of bed to watch the incredible sight of swarms of flying ants in nuptial flight. Each swarm swirled around like a dust devil.

Then we saw that many of the ants were raining straight down from the swirling mass. We could hear them hit the roof and the ground.

Some Internet research led me to the web site, Ants of the Southwest. There are three pages describing, Acromyrmex versicolor, a type of leafcutter ant.

This web site indicates that "after the female Acromyrmex versicolor falls to the ground, lots of males attempt to mate with her." However, K. observed that in most cases the ones that were raining down were already coupled.

After they had finished mating, they walked away from each other and flew off. The swarms eventually dissipated and most of the ants disappeared. A few, unfortunately, drowned in the deeper puddles.

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