I expect that many readers may have experienced something similar recently, especially if they live in Wimbledon, but for me in Wanstead on Sunday it was Flying Ant Day. Flying Ant Day is an annual event with no set timetable, it just needs to be hot and muggy and then it will happen. I’d been in the garden all day – a frequent occurrence of late – and was just sitting down to a very well earned G&T when I noticed a small trickle of ants coming from a hole at the corner of the terrace. Soon the trickle became a torrent, and gradually the large winged ones started coming up. They climbed up the brickwork steadily, and once at the top milled around for a while before taking flight and floating into the humid evening sky - it would have been a good evening to be a local Swift. An hour later and there were none left at all and you would never have known that it had happened. I know it is only small scale, and isn’t quite comparable as a wildlife spectacle to the annual migration of the Wildebeest, but it’s always quite a special moment – especially the way that these hidden colonies all of a sudden become incredibly visible.
In a previous house we lived in we had the unfortunate ‘pleasure’ of one of the egresses being indoors. No matter what we tried in terms of blocking up holes or putting down ant poison, once a year in addition to the hordes taking flight in the garden, a steady stream would exit into the house, in the kitchen and conservatory to be precise, and we would then spend the next week either transporting them outside, or more likely hoovering up dessicated carcasses. It makes you wonder what their subterraenean world looks like – somewhere under our house there was clearly this large network of catacombs, home to thousands of tiny creatures going about their lives in total darkness. The kitchen was some way away from either the front or the back, it must have been like the mines of Moria down there, I'd like to think with one super-ant in charge. I wonder how big it was? Shudder. Luckily the Wanstead colonies are all outside. I’d known about three nests as I disturb them from time to time with my potterings, but this one yesterday was a new one on me, and seemingly right below where I like to sit and contemplate. An interesting thing to think about, especially in flip flops…..