Category Archives: Ants

Strength In Numbers

Hello again everyone,

Yes – I managed to wrestle the computer for a second or two, so I am back!  And convincing the eafer data in-putters to get off the computer was more difficult than usual due to the arrival of our fancy, shiny new computer desks!  We have been using a plank of wood and two plastic crates for the last few weeks, as we waited for our desks.  Now all is well!

Today I simply had to show you a few more photos of little critters, as we had an encounter far too close for comfort with these fellows in the forest earlier.  These small yet feisty insects are not a normal sight at this time of the year, as they normally come out and swarm in the rainy season.  The fact we weren’t expecting them provided them with the element of surprise!  The small, aggressive creatures I am referring too are, of course, the much feared siafu, or safari ant.

 

A column of siafu

A column of siafu

They are of the genus Dorylus and are also known as the driver ant or army ant, and are found mainly in central and east Africa but also occur in tropical Asia.  We tend to run into them regularly in the rainy season, and it is never pretty as there can be up to 20 million individuals in a colony!

A closer look...

A closer look...

If one accidently steps on their column or haplessly wanders into one of their swarms (when they cover the ground like a carpet for huge distances), you will undoubtedly end up hopping around, trousers down, pulling them off every last part of you!  And they can really hurt, especially if it is a soldier.  The soldiers have relatively huge heads and mandibles, with extremely powerful jaws.  They are so strong that they can be used as natural sutures (the Maasai are known for this).

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When they are all over you, they are unpleasant things.  If you manage to avoid them however, I think they are fascinating.  When in a column, the soldiers will use themselves to create a tunnel or wall that will protect the workers as they run to and fro.  They will act as sentries and will attack anything that comes close.  I have spent hours tracing a column as far back as I can follow it, and they can go on for hundreds of metres, and with as many as 50-100,000 individuals (I have just looked that up – amazing!).

Anyway, I shall – as always – endeavor to  avoid unnecessary contact with them, but when I do I cannot help but stand back and watch them.  Let’s hope they never catch us napping!