The Siafu of Africa

Leaving a wake of destruction tantamount to a Biblical plague, the reputation of Siafu ants has surpassed them in the Western world of pesticides making them almost, mystical in their ability to devour anything and everything in their path. While hiking on the slopes of a volcanic crater, the Siafu lived up to this reputation in my very first encounter with them. Beckoned by the first rains after an unseasonal drought, the Siafu surfaced, hungry and once on the warpath for nutrition, cannot be stopped. Our hiking guide, a Masai named Freddie immediately warned me against these dreaded ants.

“Don’t get too close,” he cautioned with a wiry smile,” I don’t want to see you take your clothes off.” With lunchtime leftovers at our disposal, we stooped low and watched these mighty munchers in action.” I prudently kept my distance, intrigued by these warrior ants. The chicken instantly disappeared before our very eyes- like one of those wildlife documentaries that had been sped up for effect. We were once again back pack clad and on our way up the mountain. Suddenly shrieks of anguish broke the tranquillity of the mountainside panorama. A back pack went flying, followed closely by a shirt and a shoe and before any explanation could be offered a half naked hiker came bounding down the mountain, screaming in agony, fleeing in desperate search of respite from some invisible affliction. This moment of madness left her audience in shocked silence, followed shortly by pitiless laughter once we realised she set her pack down a little too close to the path of the ants and picked up a few unsolicited hitchhikers. Her stowaways, hungry and angered at being separated from their fellow soldiers decided to cash in on their free ride and started munching away at their host, their mandibles razor like and strong producing a fierce, sharp, burning sensation that induces an immediate onset of insanity, where stripping to your knickers in search of a reprieve is instantaneous. Freddie’s warning played over and over in my head, “I don’t want to see you take your clothes off!”

K Letcher

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