Like tourists to a steam clock, they descend upon our city each summer: flying ants.
It’s hard to make the distinction when you’re pulling them from your teeth after a bike ride, but the insects that thicken the air for a few biblical days each summer actually represent a variety of ant species, from Carpenter to Cornfield. These are the same ants that are hanging out on your front sidewalk or in the park the rest of the year, seemingly happy to not be airborne. But much like every family has an uncle who tries to borrow money from you so he can start his own candy company, all types of ant colonies have designated “reproductive swarmers” (dibs on that for a band name) who take to the skies, like so many horny teens at theatre camp, for a thrilling week of cruising in late July. Hubba. Hubba.
So don’t be too mad that the insects in this swarm are ruining your perfect sunburn by blocking out those sweet UV rays with their plump, pulsating thoraxes. They’re just looking for love!
Is it annoying that you know what ants taste like now? Yes! But I for one am not going to slut-shame the humble winged ant for chasing its bliss (“bliss” in this case being “ant booty”).
How dare we blame our wing-ed brothers and sisters? Did we, too, not spend a winter underground? Post-COVID-19 lockdown, did we, too, not feel nature’s call to come out, blinking into the sun, vitamin D deficient and hungry for human connection? We didn’t care that no one wanted to see our feet in flip-flops—we took them out into the world anyway, ruining patios for everyone! We were all metaphorically hatching to enjoy a sexy swarm-about-town. And really, compared to everything else that’s happened in 2020 so far, having our city overcome by friendly bugs feels like a damn treat.
In other parts of the world, ants are hooking up on the regular, but because of our particular climate, the drones (males) and queens only have a small window once a year for their heady, will-they-won’t-they dance: between a day and a week, weather dependant.
And when that summer love is over, it’s really over. The female ants lose their wings and start building a nest; the male ants straight-up die (or have they just perfected the art of ghosting?). So, really, maybe this natural phenomenon is actually less of a chilling, Hitchcockian infestation... and more like a reminder to live every day to its fullest. Now, pick that ant meat out of your teeth and give me a smile.
Illustration by Byron Eggenschwiler