Walking down the hill after my day at the Art Club yesterday, I was looking at the ants beneath my feet. There are obviously a lot of ant colonies under the pavement, because every now and again there are little holes between the paving stones, surrounded by sandy deposits, and the ants scurry about their business in and out of the holes.
There is a more scary possibility, of course - there's only ONE ant colony and it reaches the full height of the hill. But let's not go there.
Yesterday, I noticed an unusual amount of ant activity. The paving stones were covered in frantically scurrying ants, so many it was impossible not to stand on them. When I got home, I checked the garden. Sure enough, the ants were in a turmoil, covering the patio in an excited carpet.
Now, at about this time a year or so ago, Pat and I were sitting in the garden eating caperberries and drinking a nice bottle of rose (that's "rosay", there being no accent available), when I noticed out of the corner of my eye a twinkle, a glittering. Looking across the patio I spotted a cluster of winged ants. Within a matter of five or six minutes, a horde of the winged things had boiled up out of cracks in the concrete and climbed to the tops of the sandstone blocks at the edge of the paving.There must have been hundreds, maybe even thousands. Smaller, wingless ants scurried round, getting them ready it seemed.
Then, in ones and twos, they took off, flying out over the Valley, each pursuing a course of its own. Some had deformed wings and, try as they might, couldn't lift off. These the workers attacked and dragged away. As the last of the flights were about to leave, I couldn't resist it any more and hitched a lift with one of the stragglers. The things I saw have stayed with me ever since, and I'm now scanning the patio regularly for signs of another journey of discovery.
(OK, I made the last bit up.)