There are many of these termites hills in the villages of Merti, These are where the sand flies hide and come out at night and transmit Ka-alazar disease. Photo by Mary Mwendwa

AN ANT (TERMITE) COLONY, also called an ant mansion, is the basic unit around which ants organize their lifecycle. 

The ants are a busy lot and are not known to go to sleep or rest. When humans say they are busy, they may not have an ant in mind. These insects know for sure what business is.

The job of the queen is to lay eggs which the worker termites look after. The Army Ant (Ecitron Burchelli) can have as many as 700,000 members in its colony. At night the worker termites move the eggs and larvae deep into the nest to protect them from the cold. The queen termite lays all the eggs in the anthill.

An ant colony is like a factory. Nest mates work together to convert resources (food) into products (more ants). Younger ants work inside the nest, taking care of the queen and her brood. Older workers go outside to gather food and defend the nest against enemies.

Although ants are frustrating when they get into your home or when you’re having a picnic, ants do help the environment. They are social insects which means, they live in large colonies or groups. Depending on the species, ant colonies can consist of millions of ants. The queen is the only ant that can lay eggs.

Pheromones help ants keep track of food and also direct each other through their environment. When searching for food, ants will walk around randomly (“scouting”). Each ant leaves a trail of pheromone as it searches for food. When an ant finds food, it can follow its own trail back to the nest.

Termites at work in their little kingdom in Muhoroni Kenya. Picture Tujipange KE Archives

Ants are skinny insects. Like their relatives the wasps, they have a narrow connection between their abdomen and thorax. They have chewing mouthparts, and their antennae are bent in the middle. Some ant species are very tiny (1-2mm long), but some tropical species are very large (30 mm).

While both species have four wings, termite wings are uniform in size. Winged ants have noticeably larger wings in the front than the pair in the back. Termite antennae are almost straight where the ant’s antennae are elbowed. Termite wings are twice as long as their body.

An army of ants are known to be so destructive that they can evict human families from their own homesteads.

Chickens find mites such delicious food and have a party when an anthill is dug up!

Tujipange African Media