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The north side of my house is in the shade of some big spruces, and we're in a valley, so the area that they come from is quite shaded. They are little red ant-like insects that I never see until they swarm. A couple times a year they come above ground in great quantities. They must live deep, for they also come up on the other side of the foundation, in my unfinished basement. When they come out, they cover the ground and climb slowly up the wall. They are very delicate and cannot support their weight well. After they climb up waist to head height, they drop off and fly. They flutter and dive and wobble in circles. Half of them bump into the wall and fall back down The others fly somewhere else. They don't all have wings, and some have only one. They have a stinging bite, which is surprising because of their weakness. This whole process is done in a few hours in the afternoon. Unfortunately, I do not have a picture. What are they, and how do I keep them from pulling down my lily of the valley (what I have for a foundation planting)?

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Thrips, maybe? Probably not chiggers, but check images. Probably not spider mites - you must know them. Bright orange-red? –  Ed Staub Mar 30 '12 at 23:23
    
@EdStaub Dull clear orange red. Also, they smell like lemon mint. –  jmusser Apr 1 '12 at 1:13
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Maybe Larger Yellow Ants? –  Ed Staub Apr 1 '12 at 2:21
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Sounds like they look, smell, and behave like Larger Yellow Ants, also known as Large Yellow Ants, Citronella Ants, or for the nimble of tongue, Acanthomyops interjectus. The ones with wings are queens. The queens shed their wings after mating.

A fellow in southern Ohio named Steve Willson just published a splendid blog post on these guys - a great read whether you have them or not!

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