Picture of a judge's wigThe Judge RAVES!Picture of a judge's wig

Date: 15/08/16


I thought I'd missed it this year.

For some time now, there has been an ant colony - or possibly more than one - under the path at the back corner of the house. Some would see this as constituting a pestilence, but they've never done me any harm (the odd one may have got into the house simply by riding in on my shoe) and my rule with these things is 'live and let live'. Except for wasps, of course.

Every summer, there comes a point where hundreds of them emerge from under ground at once, a fair proportion of them winged. This, it seems, is what is known as the 'nuptial flight' and the winged ones are mature males and females whose only mission on their emergence is to mate and (in the case of the females) find a site for a new nest, or (in the case of the males) die.

In the case of my own little neighbours, this has usually taken place sometime around mid-to-late July. This year however, the laying of the new paths obviously disrupted the process and the ants presumably had to do some substantial rebuilding under them. Also, the 'swarming' - for want of a better word - had always previously happened around late afternoon; say, between four and five o'clock.

I went outside at about seven this evening to fetch the washing in and saw that the (wingless) worker ants were scurrying about in their dozens across the path and the slabs next to the former coal bunker. "Ah!", I thought, "I wonder if they've just swarmed?".

Within a few minutes, dozens of winged ants started to emanate from under the edges of the path and from around the slabs and - attended assiduously by workers - began to fly as best they could (I've never seen one stay in the air for more than a foot or so).

I got the camera going on my mobile and filmed some of this, but it's a very bog-standard phone and so all I've got is a sequence of a lot of dots scuttering about, like the white noise you used to get on television screens when you'd unplugged the aerial; and taking snapshots from the video didn't do much more than showing the odd indistinguishable blob. I went inside to get my 'proper' camera, but by the time I got back outside, all the excitement was over and there were just a few dozen workers milling around the manor.

It's somehow consoling to me that despite the crimp that must have been put in their year by having to repair their domain, an old, old pattern has still been maintained, and that - for all the wars, Trumpery, Brexitarsery and chauvinistic rah-rah which fills our inconsequentially brief time on this planet - Nature has still been getting on with it, as it has done for the last four-and-a-half-billion years. It's a thought that gives me more of a sense of wonder than anything that religion or any other soporific drug could provide.