Monday, August 09, 2010

Ants In Your Pants

Now I don’t know whether this is a national phenomenon or even a global one - maybe you good bloggers out there can inform me – but it certainly is a personally observed local one.

On the same day, at the same mysteriously appointed hour – perhaps when the soil reaches a certain temperature and the eggs hatch – every ant for miles around feels the need to boil upwards from its underground nest and swarm crazily on the surface of the human world.

And not just ordinary ants but the far superior and brutal looking flying ant too.

Basically the ordinary common-or-garden ant is just an ordinary GI Joe. Regulation uniform, hand me down rifle and one-size fits all combat training. On their own or in small numbers they’re so ineffectual as to be negligible. But when there are hundreds of them swirling over the patio like self stirring bug soup it’s time to wear industrial boots or risk the flesh being torn from your feet by a thousand clicking mandibles.

The flying ant by contrast is a force to be reckoned with on his own. Compared to the GI Joe he is a Stealth Bomber with a full payload and a bad attitude. He’s out to nobble whatever and whoever gets in his way. When you see a flying ant up close – and I’ve had one of the buggers insinuate itself into my mouth and bite the inside of my lip – you can really see the genetic connection between wasps and ants. They’re nasty, my friends, really nasty.

Anyway, yesterday, no matter where we went during the afternoon the ants were out. Darting through the air, swarming on the ground, mincing over cars, pinching their way up T-shirts and blouses and basically getting into every nook and cranny they could find. And if those nooks and crannies were human in origin all to the good. There was just no escape.

And much as I’m used to seeing this phenomenon by now (for it happens every year) it still has me scratching my head (in fact just plain scratching) and wondering: just what is the trigger? How do they all know to leave the nest at the same time – or rather how do all the nests know that this is the day to evacuate en masse? ‘Cos we drove to the next town and, just as in our garden a couple of miles away, the ants were erupting there too.

Is there some kind of insectoid Google that we humans don’t know about? Is there an arthropod graffiti network that tags small blades of grass with the date and time of the next ant rave?

When me and my family have enough trouble coordinating ourselves to get to work, school and nursery on time each morning I find this invertebrate efficiency deeply enviable.

However, it still doesn’t stop me pouring boiling water all over the little blighters.

Another cup of tea anyone?


29 comments:

Rol said...

I was sprinkling the baby powder on our flagstones yesterday afternoon. I like to think it's a little more humane choking them to death on white powder rather than scalding 'em. It's how I'd like to go.

Steve said...

Rol: baby powder? Real baby powder? Or is that a euphemism for ant powder? Cos otherwise I'm wondering why you keep baby powder in your house when you don't have a baby? Baby oil I could understand (but for the sake of decency let's not go there).

As for scalding them with hot water... to be honest I only did that because the napalm ran out last month.

The Dotterel said...

I find industrial quantities of strong liquor help... me, that is, not the ants. After a while you can neither see nor feel them. Cheers!

Steve said...

The Dotterel: I would never dream of giving the ants alcohol. They're bad enough when they're sober without having them singing all night, urinating over the daisies and telling me how they "fuken luv me".

Gappy said...

No ants in my sunny (not) part of the world. I do have a ginormous wasps nest in my shed though. I can't get in there to get to the lawn mower. The grass is almost up to our ears.

Kelloggsville said...

They erupted here too yesterday (South Leicestershire). Initially I go for the tennis ball method counting off the biggies as they are hit. But when it gets boring I go for the kettle. Its a strange feeling of power versus cruelty watching them float away knowing the skin is peeling off their ickle legs

Steve said...

Gappy: what does it matter about short grass? Bowls is an over rated sport anyway...! ;-)

Kelloggsville: it seems there is a Midlands Massive in the ant community then and they were out in force yesterday. Proves my point though doesn't it? How did they all know? Do they have minature mobiles? Bet they're not waterproof though... or heat proof. Mwah hah hah hah!

Being Me said...

It's not ants here for us, but EARWIGS. Miserable ruddy earwigs by the bucketload. I've heard borax crystals are not their friend. I intend to find out.

Steve said...

Being Me: euw! Earwigs are, I admit, horrible. Ants at least have some kind of aesthetic quality to them but earwigs are just designed to make you shudder. Send forth your crystal warriors - and good luck!

Trish @ Mum's Gone to... said...

The buggers came out in S Lincs a few weeks ago. Don't tell me earwigs are back too, haven't seen them for years and they freak me out.

Steve said...

Trish: aha... so a strategic plan is slowly being mapped out. S Lincs was the first wave... or at least an earlier wave. Perhaps they were the forlorn hope and the main assault was due to take place from the Warwickshire brigades? Thank God I've managed to thin their numbers with my superlative guerilla tactics...! At ease, people, at ease.

Nota Bene said...

Oh...we had this a couple of weeks ago - couldn't walk down the street and had to shut all the windows in the office ona really hot day...nasty little blighters

Steve said...

Nota Bene: I don't mean to be the voice of the apocalypse but... they're taking over! Run for the hills! Whoa. Hold on. Ants live in the soil, dont' they? And you get soil on hills... Hmm. OK! Run for the submarines!

lunarossa said...

Hunting the ants here in Yorkshire as well! I was so fed up with them yesterday that I started spraying them first with deodorant and then with hairspray (as I didn't have any ant product in the house) and I worked...but the house smelt terrible afterwards...Ciao. A.

Steve said...

Lunarossa: deodorant and hairspray? I bet you have the best looking ants in the whole of the UK!

Val said...

We've always got too many ants here (and when I lived in London, I remember huge ants that used to swarm over the pavement and down our front path to the house, horrible things). A couple of years running we've put down honeydew for them in one or two places, so that they can collect in one area and - we hope - stay away from us. It works up to a point. Best thing though, probably, is to find the nests and destroy them somehow. Borax works, I've been told, but I've not tried it.

I couldn't swear to it, but isn't the flying ant something to do with the mating ritual? Maybe they're swarming to find mates?


If you want - clicky to see our 'ant art'!

The Sagittarian said...

Don't have that issue here, too freaking cold I reckon. It was -3 yesterday morning! However, in another part of this cute but pert country of ours I had a flat where the wee buggers would find their way in. We used sugar and poison mix to get rid of them, probably only dealt to the ones with a sweet tooth !

Steve said...

Val: now that is an impressive use of ants - ecofriendly, self-cleaning graffiti! I like it!

Amanda: you're an evil drugs pusher to the ant population... cutting your drugs with the nasty stuff. But if it works, more power to your elbow!

TheUndertaker said...

Well, I haven't asked one, but here they come out a) when they get rained out ("Hey checkout that dry pad over there, it's like a frikking palace, let's go there!) or when its dry and they are thirsty or need to move etc.
But all at once? Maybe they have the new i-phone, and i-pad as well as google-ant.
I spray the suckers with fly spray myself.

Steve said...

TheUndertaker: but does flyspray work on non flying insects? ;-)

Tony said...

I came across your blog through a friend’s blog and just wanted to say that I noticed we have some of those crazy ants too here in Las Vegas. I’ve been trying to think of a way to get rid of them and I think that after reading the comments on this post I’m going to try baby powder on them and see what happens. Hopefully it won’t anger them and they won’t come after me in my sleep. I really enjoyed your blog and will read more once I get home from work. Take care and keep up the good work.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

I honestly don't understand this fashion for al fresco dining. As my afro-carribean hairdresser said to me we have carnivorous insects in Britain which will start eating you the moment you stop moving, let alone your food. In her land they live off the fruit from the trees and completely ignore picknicking humans!

Steve said...

Tony: welcome from Las Vegas! Thanks for dropping in; I hope you'll return. I shall pop over to yours shortly! If the baby powder doesn't get rid of themat least they'll have very smooth buttocks.

Laura: hmm. I suppose we could try laying a place at the table for the insects and see if that distracts them...?

vegemitevix said...

A friend told me yesterday that it was Flying Ant Day. That there was a day on which all the ants took to the air. I thought it was a weird UK thing. Or was she taking the piss out of this poor Kiwi?

Steve said...

Vegemitevix: no, it's all perfectly true. It seems that different parts of the country have different days. from what I've plotted it appears to start in the south and then move progressively upwards. I'm sure climate has a lot to do with it!

LöstJimmy said...

I had the pleasure of sharing a bed with ants once, in one of my now dim and distant past working in latin america I discovered that ants also like to pick the top bunk for rest & recreation. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on one's preference the little blighters get everywhere, a bit like sand really

Steve said...

LöstJimmy: ooooh.... itchy. But totally inkeeping with the title of this post...

Keith said...

Our ants came a week earlier than yours. But strangely also on the monday, so exactly one week earlier. Maybe they gear up over the weekend, when there's nothing on the telly and everyone is out anyway.

And where do they all GO. That's what I want to know.

Steve said...

Keith: I'm assuming you're south of us. My current theory is that the diaspora is triggered by a warming climate that starts in the south and works its way northwards...? As for where they go... my guess is Ibiza.