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September 12, 2017

'Welcome our new insect overlords': Flying ants spotted in swarms across Philadelphia

Flying insects spotted in swarms around Philadelphia is the kind of stuff nightmares are made of.

Residents from South Philadelphia, Center City, Fishtown, South Jersey and even parts of Bucks and Montgomery counties spotted dozens of what experts are now saying were flying ants, NBC10 first reported late Monday. 

"My block has been taken over by flying ants," Bella Vista resident Garrett O'Dwyer said on Twitter on Monday, later adding that he could count "hundreds on every surface."

Like O'Dwyer, many took to social media to voice their concern. 

The city is aware of the insect issue but doesn't know much about them either. 

The official Twitter account for Philadelphia's Department of Public Health joked that its "only recommendation at this time is to NOT use flamethrowers," while the Philadelphia Police Department said that it welcomes the new "insect overlords." 

Philly isn't the only place to experience such a phenomenon – residents in West Michigan, Detroit and Connecticut have spotted what they believe to be flying ants in the past week, too. 

The winged creatures also made quite the splash during Wimbledon in early July, finding their way into the players' hair and faces, according to the Guardian.

So what gives? Flying ants, also called alates, are "ants that are sexually mature," according to pest removal company Terminix. Their purpose is to reproduce and start a new colony, and they're harmless. 

While there hasn't been any reported speculation that the swarms of bugs are flying termites, the two often get confused for one another. Orkin, also a pest removal company, says that termites can be distinguished by a straighter body and antennae and four wings that are equal in size. The ants have bent antennae with a pinched waist, according to the company.

Check out Orkin's handy guide here