The Gardeners of the Garden of Ireland

It’s impossible to underestimate how important ants are to any ecosystem, but in Wicklow and the rest of Ireland they could just about be described as the maintainers of the ecosystem. Last week there was a mass eruption of Black Garden Ants (Lasius niger) in Wicklow and Swifts, Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins were swooping low over the countryside, joined by Robins, Blackbirds, Spotted Flycatchers, Grey Wagtails and Stonechats, among many others. And I got a photo I didn’t expect when a mating pair of these ants landed on a picnic table in front of me.

14782686681_899467ced1The male is tiny, but somehow contains enough sperm to fertilise the huge female for the remainder of her long life (several years). He dies soon after mating. This single female will bite off her wings having successfully mated, and find a suitable place to build a nest. Her children will eventually number in the thousands, if not hundreds of thousands.

So much is happening now as July draws to an end that I’m going to have to publish a lot, so expect more very soon.

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