© Flycatcher

The Frightening World of Ants

A small brown speckled frog hops through the leaves of the Riverine Forest floor. It creeps forward for a few seconds and swallows whole a bright green grasshopper that was sitting beside a flower. It hops again, this time misjudged, rubs its face in pain and tries to hop again, lands on its back and is swallowed in a rippling mass of dark red bodies. Ten minutes later, nothing is left of the frog, but the four-inch wide highway of red ants remains.

Biting red ants, or "Siafu" in Kiswahili live in colonies, but unlike most ants, do not have a permanent home. The ants range from 1 to 15 mm long, hunt at night, and hide in a hole in the ground or in a tree during the day, They shift locations as the insect, and sometimes frog-like, prey is exhausted. The Riverine Forests of Serengeti, being dark and moist, have Siafu hunting all night long and all day as well. They form either highways as they travel from their lair to the hunting field or fans when they are actively hunting.
Siafu hunt by sensing the carbon dioxide that insects and animals breath out. If a person is playful and brave, or just plain stupid, they can tease the Siafu by blowing on the trails of ants and watching them burst into activity, pincers held high, looking for prey.
Siafu nests of a few days old are typically a hole in a tree with a thick pile of insect bodies piled up outside the opening. While the bulk of the Siafu's food is insects, they can eat a small animal such as a shrew or a frog if it happens to get caught. Some people have claimed to see Siafu moving by forming terrifying rolling balls as large as a basketball. In truth, these swarms of Siafu do occur, but they are normally a mass of Siafu surrounding and biting a prey animal, and are seldom more than a few inches across.
People claim that these fierce little warriors can climb up inside the trunk of an elephant and bite. It is doubtful that anyone has been close enough to witness this, but when the Siafu are particularly active, such as after a rain storm, you will never find elephants in the same Riverine Forest.
Siafu, though aggressive and painful, are not at all a bad thing, even for people. If you live in Africa and Siafu swarm into your house, they eat all of the other ants, roaches, spiders, and everything else that slithers crawls or creeps, and then they go, leaving you in peace. Peace, that is, as long you have somewhere to stay for a day or two.

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