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  1. ITV Report

Dive-bombing seagulls driven mad by 'M&M-style' flying ants

People are being warned to be on their guard for dive-bombing seagulls keen to get their beaks around the swarms of emerging flying ants.

The creatures, dubbed by one expert as "M&Ms for seagulls", are causing the birds to become distracted and excitable - making them forget to look where they're going.

Clouds of insects took flight this week as queen ants emerged from hiding in search of mates, pursued by millions of male drones.

Credit: PA

RSPB gull expert Tony Whitehead said the ants make the gulls "very happy".

The gulls are mad for them.

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.

They either pick them off the ground, or sometimes you see big flocks randomly flying everywhere through the skies to pick them out.

It was said at one point that they made them drunk, but actually I think they just make them very happy.

I think rather than drunk, I think they are distracted and happy and focusing on eating ants rather than looking out for cars for example.

– Tony Whitehead, RSPB gull expert
Credit: Stefan Sauer/DPA

It is thought the rising temperature is encouraging the ants to take off in what is known as "flying ant day".

Queen ants take their cue from the weather to venture out of their nests on their "nuptial flight", seeking males from other colonies to mate with.

Once far enough away from their own colonies to avoid inbreeding, they release pheromones, the chemicals behind sexual attraction, to attract suitors.

They then lead the males they have attracted on a chase to ensure only the fittest get to mate.

The huge number of ants which emerge provide food for predators like seagulls.