What is this flying ant? (Anne, Zanzibar, Tanzania)




Dear Sirs,

What looks like a flying ant appeared at the beginning of the rainy season, a few days ago, in great numbers, in Zanzibar

They are not aggressive, no bite so far

Could you tell me more about it?

Many thanks and Kind regards

Anne

Dear Anne,

Thanks very much for your question! According our very own experts on Malagasy and East African ants, Brian Fisher, it's a queen Camponotus maculatus. The genus Camponotus occurs on all continents except Antarctica and is probably the second most diverse genus of ants (after Pheidole). Camponotus maculatus is widely distributed in East Africa, and forms that are either closely related, or within the same species also occur from the Middle East to insular Southeast Asia.

Like many members of their genus, they probably nest in dead sections of living trees or vines. They are most likely generalist omnivores that will eat everything from nectar to dead insects. Camponotus are members of the ant subfamily Formicinae, and all of these ants have lost their stings and instead have the ability to spray formic acid. This is a very effective weapon against other insects and spiders, but unless it gets directly in your eyes or an open wound, you won't feel a thing.

In the tropics and warm temperate deserts of the world, many ant species will have mating flights right after the first big rain of the rainy season. You may continue to see flying queens and males, but this will probably be the biggest swarm you see this year.

I hope this helps!
Best,
Jesse Czekanski-Moir & the AntAsk Team

ps. for even more information on Camponotus, check out these other blog posts we've written that mention this cool ants!

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