July 21, 2004

Plagues #8 and #9

The Isle of Wight is far from the Egypt of the Biblical Era.
I’d say a couple of thousand miles and a few thousand years is pretty far, wouldn’t you?
But there were regular plagues.
Mini ones…
A couple of days each summer, always after rain, the flying ants come.
They pour out of thousands of underground nests, and millions of them, charged with the anty equivalent of testosterone, career drunkenly around the skies, the fields, the beaches, the streets and the houses, the pubs and the bedrooms, desperately looking for a shag.
My parents’ house has a small garden, and because it is bordered on both sides by car parks, it seems to have a disproportionately large number of hidden underground nests, and in the first hour after the rain, which I have always imagined drumming on the earth and waking the waiting hordes, they swarm in thick swirling columns of rising insects from the ground.
The plague only lasts for a day or so…swooping swallows and housemartins gorge on the insects, the drone ants themselves, not destined to fly for long, crash down, exhausted, and attempt to continue their quests on foot.
I know almost nothing about them apart from the fact that they are biological liars. Universally, well, okay, almost universally, insects with black and yellow stripes are giving the rest of Mother Nature’s children a kind and gentle warning that if they are thinking about lunch, they’ll have to deal with poison/stings/halitosis afterwards. Hoverflies have hijacked this gentleman’s agreement and sport the yellow and black livery to capitalise on that moment of hesitation in their predators and get the fruit out of town.
It would appear that humans are easily impressed by the black and yellow. The days when the swarms of hoverflies would swoop in on the wind, the beach was almost always deserted.
As a child I would stand in my swimming trunks behind my parents’ windbreak, pretending to be a professional tennis player, sporting a beach bat’n’ball bat as though it were the finest graphite composite racquet available. The wind would rush the hoverflies up and over the windbreak, and, as tens of them coasted on the lifted streamline, one or two every few seconds would recieve a piece of plywood to the head with an incredibly satisfying *thwack* and they would be hurled back to hit the woven plastic of the windbreak.
It was great fun, although I daresay, bad karma.


6 thoughts on “Plagues #8 and #9

  1. Mini plagues. Presumably that was abandoned by the marketing dept. when they realised that Mini adventures would be more customer friendly.

  2. Also known as maybugs aren’t they? One tried to gatecrash my birthday party (back in May, so it at least picked the right season), but was ejected by the doorman (or maybe just a man stood by the door)

  3. No, I was thinking of a cockchafer. I apologise to anyone I led astray.

  4. No, thunderbugs are very very small, and are more of a nuisance due to the sheer number of them and their ability to get anywhere and everywhere. The picture in Karen’s post is most misleading. They actually look like this:

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