Matabele ants get their name from the mighty Matabele tribe as they equally go to war with termites the same way the Matabele tribe use to overwhelm their adversaries.
The participants on the EcoQuest course at Karongwe Camp came upon this Matabele Ant raiding party setting out. Also known as hissing ants because of the sound they emit, they live on a diet comprised solely of termites.
Although the Matabele raiding party featured extensively during the morning drive, there was time to focus on other interesting interactions that were taking place close by. Like this African Harrier Hawk and Fork-tailed Drongo.
Equipped with long scaly legs and a long neck for getting into the cracks and crevices, the large grey raptor also known as a gymnogene was busy searching in this tree as to where chicks and eggs might be concealed.
In this scenario, it is possible that the Drongo did have a nest it was protecting. This relatively small bird will dive-bomb large raptors that are intent on killing their offspring or just out of defense.
When first discovered, the participants watched as the raiding party set out in a very organized manner. Then, one of their scouts took a wrong turn, leading to total confusion within the party until the issue was resolved and they could move off with confidence.
Another diversion, this time to take a moment to look at some of the flora that we can observe during morning activity. The Black Stick Lily is known as the Monkey’s Tail, derived from its Afrikaans name ‘Bobbejaan’s stert’ (Baboon’s Tail).
This is a resilient plant that can withstand extreme conditions and can also go for long periods of time without water. Their medicinal properties include the treatment of asthma and as an anti-inflammatory.
Instructor, Michael Anderson, wondering what the result would be if he stuck his fist into the path of the returning raiding party. The bite of this ant, although not toxic to humans, can be very painful and can cause swelling.
This particular species of ant is the only one that look after those that get injured during a raid. Much like the US Marines, they try not to leave anyone behind and will tend to the wounded on the site of the battle. The treatment is only carried out on individuals who have lost one or two limbs.
From the time they left their nest until they returned with their spoils, less than an hour had elapsed. As they were not under constant surveillance, it is not certain as to how far they had to go to reach the termite mound.
The returning raiding party with their spoils. As their diet consists only of termites, they returned with as many as they could carry. Interestingly enough a raiding party will not return to an already raided termite mound immediately. Thus giving the termites a chance to replenish their losses. These ants do not forage individually, but only as a large coordinated party.
The successful and victorious raiding party disappears into the grass to share and enjoy the fruits of their labour with the rest of the colony.