Attack in the Twilight

The following is a guest post by Barbara Bruhwiler.

We are lucky in that no member of our family has a birthday in October. Because during that month, having an evening party is risky in Johannesburg.

You might be attacked.

No, it’s not what you think. The culprit, in this case, is nature.

Picture yourself on a balmy evening in October, a few days after the first spring rains; the sky is a dark blue, slowly turning to twilight; you are on your patio drinking in the scene (or whatever you like to drink on your patio on a balmy evening). Suddenly, they are all over you: masses of flying insects buzzing around your head, landing in your food, or desperately paddling in your drink. And the ones that make it past you and your dinner and your drink land on the floor, and with horror you have to witness them shedding their wings and starting to crawl everywhere.

Not so great, hey?

Let me introduce you properly: the name is ant, flying ant. Appearance: a body slightly smaller than a wasp, black, with four brown wings attached that are about twice or three times the size of the insect. Hobbies: travelling with friends; finding a new home; preferably yours. Strong point: adaptable – can fly or get rid of its wings and crawl. Weakness: can’t resist bright light.

In my humble opinion, they are disgusting [note by editor: but as disgusting as Parktown Prawns?]. Everything about them makes me shudder: the buzzing, especially the buzzing around my head; the way they arrive in hordes; the fact that they have four wings, not only two, and drop them on your table or in your drink; and last but not least the fact that within mere minutes they surround you with an army of creepy airborne AND crawling insects.

But not everyone thinks like me. My problem is that I’m not a frog. Or a hadeda, one of these screeching ibises living in our garden.

Last week, when we had another attack of the flying ants, I was peeking through the window from the safety of our house. I couldn’t help noticing how two of our resident hadedas were having a real party, staying up way past their normal bedtime, feasting on these insects. Even the frogs forgot about how they are supposed to be only heard but not seen: there they were, frolicking in the middle of the lawn, savouring the home delivered delicacies.

You never know exactly when the flying ants have their night out, but it seems they swarm when a proper rain follows a dry spell in summer.

There is one good quality in the flying ants, though: They unite our family. All our family members are trained to announce ‘code red’ as soon as we see the first of these insects. Because we hate to have them in the house. Or anywhere near us.

We have a procedure in place to avoid these creatures, and it works quite well:
We barricade ourselves in our house. And turn off as many lamps as possible inside, while switching on the ones in the garden. There we sit, huddled together in one room, with closed curtains and dimmed light, under siege.

Thankfully, after about an hour or two, the coast is usually clear. All that reminds you of the attack is a sea of little wings on the patio.


Barbara Bruhwiler lives in Johannesburg with her husband and two children. She is an internationally successful author of five books. One of them is the Guide to Johannesburg, a handy reference guide full of practical, useful information and advice for expats moving to or living in Joburg.

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