RED ANTS ON THE MOVE
It is the time of year when our red ants, also known as driver ants, are on the move. Since there has not been a definitive study of the driver ants in our area we can only assume that they are the genus DORYLUS.
There is currently a colony of the ants close to camp which we have been observing with great interest. They generally move around at night, forming fascinating columns consisting of millions of individuals, all different shapes and sizes, each performing specific tasks. They appear to be raiding parties and can efficiently clear out a house of all shield (stink) bugs and other insects overnight; leaving nothing but a distinctive, well defined trail in the sand showing they were there…. Unless of course you happened to be at home at the time! If one is unfortunate enough to wake up to a red ant visitation, the best move is to find alternative accommodation for the night and leave the ants to it. We often surround our houses with ash – this blocks their spiracles, making it difficult for them to breathe.
The soldier ants are large, with vicious, developed mandibles which wave in the air ready to defend the moving column from birds or other predators. Their nip is rather unpleasant and stings. Apparently some local tribes use these ants to suture wounds; the soldiers refuse to release their bite so they can be neatly snapped in half leaving a rather elegant stitch in place! I don’t know anyone who has actually tried this!
The worker ants can be seen moving within the columns, in both directions, often carrying larvae. We assume they come from less fortunate termite colonies which have been raided, but they might also be the larvae of the red ants themselves. Only once, when digging the foundations for a staff house, have we found the fat and bloated queen who spends her life laying eggs, but the male “drones” are often seen and are called sausage flies. One rather eccentric friend of ours would munch them as a party trick ….mmmm.
The internet provides much information about these little movers which wield such power. They apparently move at 20 metres an hour. They certainly keep us hopping when they decide to visit!