Jeffrey Hahn, Asst. Extension Entomologist
There have been numerous sightings of winged ants during August and September throughout Minnesota. These winged ants are reproductives, i.e. new females (soon to be queens) and males. The fly out of their nests at the same time, usually in large numbers for the purpose of mating. After mating, the queens fly off in search of favorable sites to build their own nests and the males die shortly afterwards.
Although nearly all ants swarm, different species do so at different times of the year. Right now cornfield ants and field ants are the primary swarmers that are active. Both of these ants nest in the soil in exposed sites and can be commonly found in lawns and other turf areas. Cornfield ant queens are about 1/4 inch long while field ants are a little larger.
Because of their size, field ants are sometimes mistaken for carpenter ants. However, carpenter ants do not nest in the soil and swarm just during spring. These swarms sometimes are mistaken for termites. However, termite swarms are rare in Minnesota and when they do fly, they occur in the spring. They are also have four wings of equal length which are much longer than their bodies.
Despite the impressive numbers that nests can generate, these swarming ants are harmless. They presence is also temporary, usually lasting just a few days. No control is necessary.