When I was young, my family spent two months - the school summer holidays used to last the full eight weeks - in Arran. And I well remember the horror of picnics in sheltered glens, favoured spots which we'd already visited in July, suddenly made horrid by ants in our tea, ants on our sandwiches, ants swarming on a white t-shirt. I recall that I made a fuss, and was unpopular.
Today I was reminded of these picnics as we parked the car at the Arboretum. The moment we stopped, almost before we'd switched off the engine, the windscreen was crawling with winged ants. The air was thick with them, and we left. We found an airier spot where only a few creatures landed on us as we walked, and when we reached the gate into the wood at the end of it, we found it crawling with ants and turned back. And for the first time, I looked them up to find out why this annual horror occurred, and found this:
In late summer, male ants and large fertile female ants are produced. These ants have wings, and can fly. They will leave the nest, sometimes in large enough numbers to make a noticeable swarm, and will mate while flying. All the male ants and many of the female queens will die fairly quickly, but the queens which survive will set up new nests.This explains a great deal while at the same time adding to the horror of it. But I take courage from that bit about them dying fairly quickly. I just wish they'd get on with it. Maybe I should take an August holiday in the middle of Glasgow?