Monthly Archives: July 2007


Today, after finally finishing a long and boring project, bringing the deck chair, a bottle of beer and a book out into the sunshine I’ve squinted at from my office for two weeks, and settling down to relax and bake for a good few hours, I was immediately pelted by a small army of ugly flying insects. I looked behind me and, seeing a shimmering swarm on the ground, in the plants, on the wall, mingling with the ants that were pouring up from the cracks between the paving stones (were they killing the ants?), I was suddenly transported to an afternoon around the same time last year, when we were confronted by the exact same sight after returning from the market, and, simultaneously, another summer afternoon two years ago, when, having been to London for the weekend, we came home to find a neat line of ants from the front door to the kitchen, where a mango lay sweetly oozing in a bowl on the counter, alive with rapturous black emmets. I got up, found the insect spray, and went to work drenching them in toxic mist and smearing them across the flagstones with my sandals while flicking them off my shoulders, arms and legs. After several minutes of this, having decimated their ranks (though more were still flying into the courtyard, choosing, like last year, a precise spot beside our front door, directly behind me, where the ants have built their underground network), I sat back down and continued reading, despite the lingering smell of insect spray. Soon the last living ants finally succumbed to the toxins (twitching among the remains of their comrades), the few clouds in the sky cleared, and I sighed and sat back to enjoy the rest of the afternoon in peace. But then, when another bug landed on my arm and I looked at one of these creatures properly for the first time, I realised that the flying and the earthbound insects must of course be one and the same species – that the airborne ones had not come from outside, as foreign invaders, but from within the ant colony itself – and I remembered learning in school that ants grow wings in the summer before the young queens are fertilised and fly off to start their own nests. I had been pelted by young winged ants on their nuptial flight. When I later learned, after looking it up, that female ants can continue to lay eggs for up to fifteen years, I felt rather bad about having massacred these amazing creatures thinking them disgusting, short-lived parasites.