20/07/2016 11:26 BST | Updated 19/07/2021 09:28 BST

Seagulls 'Drunk' From Eating Flying Ants May Pose A Danger To Humans

"There has been a massive emergence of the ants over the last three days and they are like little treats for the gulls. They are like M&Ms to them."

Britons have been warned to stay alert due to an unusually high number of seagulls “tripping on acid” after eating flying ants.

 Experts say this week’s hot weather has caused a mass emergence of the insects, which seagulls like to eat despite it affecting their cognitive behaviour.

Dr Rebecca Nesbit of the Society of Biology says the ants contain formic acid, which can cause gulls to appear “drunk” and lose their inhibitions after eating them.

Georg Stelzner via Getty Images
Monday was dubbed "Flying Ant Day" because the high temperatures caused swarms of the insects to appear across the country.

The RSPB’s Tony Whitehead says seagulls have an increased appetite for the bugs.

“The gulls are mad for them,” he said in a statement. “There has been a massive emergence of the ants over the last three days and they are like little treats for the gulls.

“They are like M&Ms to them. They go to wherever they are.”

The effects of the critters are said to have caused seagulls to fly into buildings and even moving cars.

“I have seen the crushed bodies of around half a dozen gulls on main roads around the city,” one Exeter motorist told the Daily Star.

“Normally they fly off before getting anywhere near a vehicle, but they just seem to be getting mown down.”

Lauren Hurley/PA Wire
Wildlife experts say seagulls become so hellbent on gorging on flying ants, they become reckless and dangerous.

Flying ants are drawn out of hiding in huge numbers at one particular point in the year due to their queen’s “nuptial flight”.

The conditions for this mating ritual must include high temperatures and no chance of rain, making the current weather perfect for the ant queen to leave her nest in search of a mate.

The matriarch of the colony takes flight to find a suitable spot far away from her home to avoid in-breeding, then releases pheromones to attract swarms of male drones. The sudden appearance of these flying ants in huge numbers provides a substantial snack for hungry seagulls.

The phenomenon can last up to two weeks at a time.

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