I learned something more about ants today. I knew that from late autumn they start their trails inside, bringing eggs and all they need to nest for the winter. At my bach a few weeks ago, I found a million ants in the loft, a carpet of black shiny bodies and couldn’t believe how determined they were to stay there.

Today I talked to a man fixing the electronic box that controls the gate at my apartment building. He’d found why the gate had stopped working: ants! There they were, in hundreds and thousands, running up the pipes into the box, having decided this would be a perfect nest for the winter. ‘I’ve just cleared out two other boxes today,’ he said, brushing into the wire-filled space with a wide soft paint brush. We discussed how they could be deterred. ‘Can’t put poison in there, or spray, because damp kills the electronics,’ he said. ‘The only thing is cloves.’ ‘Cloves???’ Yes, they will work for about a year. Because they are dry, they are fine to use, and the ants won’t nest there any more.’ Only problem is, he’s used up the last box of cloves that he carries with him, and if we don’t find some before he closes up the box, that’s it. So we are hoping that when the gourmet cook in the front apartment comes home, he will be able to provide the cloves.