How the times they are a-have-changed.
Once the friendly flying ant was as welcome an annual sight as the Padstow Mummy or Doctor Christmas. Now the insect has fallen from favour, and its day (traditionally the third full sun of July) is seen as nothing more than a regular nuisance.
The change seems to have taken place in the 1980s, when increased awareness of sub-surface pestlife like moles and soil turtles was met with the might and maybe of the poisons industry. Turtle powder and mole hammers were regulars under the sinks of the nation’s sinks.
In the 1950s, people were encouraged to put out a saucer of sugary batter to welcome the popular arthropod into their home, to bring good luck or, at least, a stay to any forthcoming death.
But after Britain joined the Common Market, an increasingly busy populace didn’t have time to prepare the Anting Bowl, and neighbours no longer gathered to bob for faeces alongside their insect friends. Ant Carols were no longer sung, and only children on the Isle of Hair now dress as Ant Henry VIII.
By 1978, the only airborne formicida was an unseen character – part of its sad downward journey from local feature to threat, much like the urban fox and the postman. And, by the 1980ses, a traditional Flying Ant Day costume could only be seen in the record videos of pop man Adam Ant, who had chosen the trappings of the ritual – including Ant Henry VIII’s distinctive nose stripe – to promote his double-drum music.