A dubious holiday occurs in London once a year – Winged Ant Day. No, it’s not a mythical holiday about a saucy English ant that teaches little children the meaning of giving. Rather, it’s the day when queen ants emerge to start colonies, causing a massive flight of winged ants. And as the Metro of UK reports, it's a day not fancied by London's human residents.

Last week, flying ants made an appearance all over London and Twitter. As Metro user beccarothwell wrote, “Damn flying ants everywhere in Camden today! Got back from lunch and found one inside my bag! Urgh, I hate them so much.” The ants like hot and muggy conditions, and that has been easy to find in London lately.

But just what are winged ants? They are not to be confused with flying termites — a frequent mistake. Winged ants have elbowed antennas, while termites have straight ones. Ants also have a thinner appearance then termites, which look a bit broad around the midsection.

And as for the flying ant queen? She may inspire her workers into flight, but her life isn’t so glamorous. After mating, the queen loses her wings and tries to establish a colony. Most queens will die, but a lucky few will go on to start prosperous ant colonies, with an army of wingless, non-sexually mature workers at her service.

Humans need not fear the flying ants. These insects don’t bite and they generally avoid human homes — but they do swarm. The best way to avoid them is to not get between a flying ant and his queen.

For further reading:

Flying ants attack London
Winged pests, swarming in the millions, plague Londoners.