A CLOUD of flying ants that hit the south coast was so dense it could be seen in satellite images from space.

The swarm of insects that arrived in Sussex, and other southern counties, was captured on the Met Office’s radar.

After the warm weather and rainfall, the conditions were perfect for ants to move into the “nuptial flight” phase of their reproduction, also known as “flying ant day” – where virgin queen ants are followed by male ants hoping to mate.

As the queen sets off, she emits pheromones that attract the males. But when they follow her she will flee, meaning only the strongest are able to keep up and mate with her.

A Met Office spokesperson said the ants showed up on their image as a showers of rain because “the radar thinks the beams are hitting raindrops not ants”.

It may have seemed like it was actually raining ants because male ants who have successfully mated shed their wings and fall to the ground where they will start new colonies.

Flying ants are mostly harmless to humans, but they do have a strange effect on seagulls who can appear drunk after eating a few due to formic acid they expel according to some experts.

Dr Rebecca Nesbit, an entomologist with the Society of Biology, told The Argus ants produce formic acid which can “stupefy” the gulls.

She said the amount eaten could explain why gulls were not flying away from danger quickly.

A flying ant day usually occurs when a spell of wet weather is followed by hot humid weather.

The mating ritual can last for several weeks.