Please forgive me. I don’t know what the device was called, but long ago before aerosol cans and pressurized propellants, the first sign of flying ants emerging from under the sidewalk or a corner of the house met being told by my Father to fetch “The Sprayer”? It was a rarely used metal tube with a handle on one end and a can on the other. The can would be filled with an insecticide. When you pulled the handle in and out, a loud hiss could be heard and a varying mixture of air and poison would be expelled from the other end. The poison would be sprayed anywhere virgin queen ants were emerging to fly off to produce their own colonies with hundreds of winged males in hot pursuit hoping to have an opportunity to mate with a virgin. I don’t remember any talk about wearing a mask over my nose and mouth while spraying this strong smelling, obnoxious substance..nothing about wearing gloves..not even a mention about the importance of wind direction or what is sprayed upward must come down. I vaguely remember, “Wash your hands well…with soap!” That was probably so I didn’t stink up the living room while adjusting the antennae (rabbit ears) on top of the TV so the entire family could watch Lawrence Welk. I also remember seeing huge, dark clouds of ants flying in the sky. I wondered how they could all do this at the same time with no calendars or watches. The phenomenon wasn’t happening just at our home. If you took a drive, the clouds of this particular species of ant were everywhere…even over water. It is funny how things change. Now at the first sign of a flying ant near sunset, I go scampering for my collection of artificial dry flies because I know what the rainbow trout will be feasting on this eve. It would be difficult to fool one of these finned entomologists with anything but an ant. Not just any ant, but one that is the right size, color, and with wings.
This photo was taken within the Adirondack State Park in Upstate, NY.
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Featured in Color And Light Group on 1/12/11.