Friday, 25 July 2008

Day of the Ants

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.)


Bee Skelton said...

Doh! You nearly had me there ;)

Seriously ... there's so much amazing natural stuff to see when folks just stop and look for it.

About once a year we get a swarm of fairly large flying ants that fling themselves against the front door for some reason. We've never quite worked out what they're upto. We generally find a heap of disconnected wings and really don't know where the rest of them disappear to.

H's speciality is rescueing lizards and long leggety Cyprus hedgehogs from swimming pools. This year I was really lucky to spend a couple of hours on my knees watching and taking pics of a caterpillar morphing into what I guess was a crysallis (it's on my blog some where). I still check each day to see if the metamorphosis has completed ... but as of today he's still stuck to a brick.

marja-leena said...

Oh, the subject of ants is a touchy one around here! Our entire property is full of ants from the tiny ones that bite if you stand too long on the grass over their property to carpenter ants attacking the house! The annual flights, to me, are horrifying as I imagine them spreading and taking over the whole world. Did you know that they are the toughest living things on earth, likely to survive any other? I keep trying many different natural recipes to reduce their numbers where they impede on our home and plants and make the patio cave in. See - I told you this touched a nerve.

ian gordon said...

Ant Day hasn't arrived in Nottingham yet. But it's certainly due. I give it another 2 days...

harrybell said...

Bee: Friend of mine tells me that on the instant they land, the wings fall off.

I've seen the long-eared hedgehogs in Cyprus, but not the long-legged ones. Unless they're the same?

Marja-Leena: Sorry to have unsettled you! I'll try to keep further references to a*ts to a minimum.

Ian: they've definitely gone quiet here now. Have you had your Ant Day?