Friday, December 4, 2015

And the army ants are back

When I pictured living in Malawi, I imagined the wildlife as elephants and hippos and monkeys. The reality is that outside of the National Parks, wildlife is mostly farm animals, birds, lizards and bugs. Emphasis on the bugs.

Maybe it's the heat or the late season dryness, but there are a lot of critters about. I don't mind so much except when it is in my house and my yard. Just in the last couple weeks I've had a snake in the chim, a weird gurgle-growl coming from the bafa where I bathe, a new species of ants in my bedroom, and I've already posted about the exploits of the Mouserat. Plus the usual gang of geckos and house lizards and skinks that are always about. And all the spiders and bees and flies and wasps and lately, crickets and grasshoppers.

This week I found mouse poop in my oatmeal. After I had already eaten a bite. And when I poured out oats from the new box of oats into my bowl, I noticed a few small black ants had found their way in already. But it was just a few so I ate it anyway. Because oats are expensive and it's all protein, right?

Plus there is more. These weird ant-flies have been emerging at dusk out of the cracks in my cement porch for the last month or so. They seem harmless, just kind of gross. They dig out the dirt and then emerge like this.

These termites (chiswe) attempted to build a mound in my yard. The kids made quick work of destroying the tunnel yesterday. They wield a khasu (hoe) like a boss. Incidentally, I asked the kids and they said no, they do not eat these termites. There is another type with big fat heads that are the ones they eat(!)

And last but not least, the linthumbu (army ants) made another appearance. I noticed a thick trail of them a couple weeks ago about 50 meters from my house, but then they were gone. Which is typical of army ants because they are always on the move, foraging and killing everything in their path. Then yesterday the kids knocked on my gate to tell me the linthumbu were back. Great. So the kids brought the kindling, I provided the matches, and many fires were set. My grass has a big burnt patch now and a small tree in my yard got scorched. Unfortunately, that is about all we had to show for our effort because this morning I found a huge thick trail of them in my yard, just a meter or two away from my porch. I had never seen so many in one place. They were forming those thick mats where they are crawling on top of each other, like in the pictures you see online. My very own National Georgaphic special. Obviously fires weren't enough. So I got out the poison and I dusted the area where they were most concentrated in, but it seemed so futile. There were so many of them and I kept seeing more and more of them in other areas. It was really muggy too so I retreated hopelessly inside. And then I prayed. And texted Colii. But guess what-- I checked again this afternoon though and they appear to have moved on. I am so thankful!

I tried to get photos, but they didn't turn out because it was too dark. I did get this one of the larger army ant though (the soldier, maybe) wandering around on my porch. It was hard to take because when I would get close he kept making a beeline for me. Creepy. He is about 2 cm long.

Here is the colony when they were blazing through my path to school a couple weeks ago. Notice the larger soldiers like in the above photo, plus the more numerous small workers. At least, I think that is the difference.

All I want for Christmas is an army ant and mouserat-free home and yard. The lizards can stay and I'm mostly okay with all the other things. What do you think, Santa?

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