09 July 2009

Les Fourmis Militaires

Mike left early this morning to meet a friend for a tennis game and from the front yard I could hear him and the guards having an animated discussion but I couldn’t make out what they were saying. I went about my coffee-drinking and blog-reading and forgot about it until later, after Mike got home and we were ready to leave for work. “The guards moved the chicken coop,” Mike said. “It’s been overrun by ants.”

Upon opening the front door, we were greeted in the driveway by a small, narrow trench, filled with not just any ants, but army ants. You may have heard about them; they’re also called driver ants, safari ants, or saifu. They are the ants known for destroying anything in their path, particularly infirmed animals and even people who cannot avoid them. The chickens are fine; it looks like their feed dish, not the coop, was in the path of the ants, but the guards moved it away from the trail as a precaution in case the ants change their minds.

Despite all the stories of destruction, these guys (or gals I should probably say) are pretty fascinating to watch. They’ve created a windy trail across the driveway and through the yard and it seems to have sprung up overnight. They certainly weren’t there last night when we came home from work. Standing there and admiring them for too long, the soldier ants left the trail to check us out; they defend the trail and you’d better not get in their way. You can see the larger soldier ants herding the smaller worker ants through the protective trench. Luckily, even the largest ant is much smaller than we are, so a big step backward was sufficient defense.

We are having them fumigated. Our gardener found the nest, and it’s very close to the house, much too close for my comfort. I just hope they don’t change their minds and head in to the house before we can get them taken care of.

Written with information from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siafu. The photo is mine.

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