Flying ants at French church cause fire alarm in Lisieux

Lisieux basilica - file pic Image copyright AFP
Image caption The basilica is named after Saint Therese, a French Carmelite nun

Firefighters rushed to tackle what seemed to be a blaze at the imposing basilica in Lisieux, northern France - only to find that it was a giant swarm of flying ants.

A local resident had raised the alarm after seeing "smoke" apparently billowing from the church roof.

Police also rushed there on Wednesday.

Laurent Boivin at the town's centre for emergencies said "we quickly identified the cloud as flying insects". "We had feared a big fire inside the basilica."

He told the BBC: "It was sheer coincidence that the ants chose to swarm above the basilica."

Scientists say ants pick a summer day for mating by sensing temperature, humidity and day length.

They like warm, humid conditions, which make it easier for them to fly and for mated queens to dig nests in the soft ground. Queens mate with males during flight.

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Hot, humid summers encourage flying ants to swarm

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