Wildlife on a Friday morning


We have with us a lovely boxed set of the BBC series Planet Earth on DVD, narrated by David Attenborough. One of the programmes about the tropical rain forest features close-up shots of enormous ants in glorious technicolour, devouring everything in their path. Well, when we opened the door this morning, there they were. The entire BBC cast of thousands was queued up outside our door waiting patiently to get in. I didn’t see Attenborough but I did recognise the big ugly one with black mandibles.

It’s amazing how fast it is possible to move with ants, and these are the biting kind, crawling inside your pyjama bottoms. Half an hour and several buckets of water later (there goes next week’s shower) we managed to stem the tide. In Africa one becomes accustomed to using whatever is around. “What eats ants?” was the obvious question. Looking about, the answer seemed to be “Not much.”

Several slugs that I hadn’t noticed before were lying around, decidedly inactive. They may have been the collateral damage of our water onslaught, or perhaps were the reason for the ants’ unwelcome appearance in the first place. Certainly the crawling things were eating the sliding things, not the other way about. A caterpillar doing a very good impression of a bottle brush was trying to escape into one of Bronwen’s sandals. It didn’t look like it was going to fend off an army of ants on its own. Some big beetles looked vaguely interested, but either these were the wrong kind of ants, or the beetles had already had breakfast.

Eventually I tried the Savlon antiseptic that we bought in Nakomatt the other week. Bingo! Ants don’t like Savlon. I don’t blame them. It tastes revolting, especially as you are supposed to dilute it to 5% for first aid purposes. We managed to clear the marauders that had found their way inside the front door and used two strips of cloth and more water to form a moat across the doorway itself.

Needless to say, we were late getting out this morning. We had agreed to meet the committee down at Nyamirambo and ended up having to apologise. Not that it mattered. Most of them weren’t there either. This is Africa. In any case, we had had an interesting time meeting the neighbours and trying to work out which end of the food chain we were at. The happy ending? We now have clean pyjamas. The only way to get rid of the ants from inside our clothes was to wash them out in soapy water.