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Feeding Frenzy

In 2009, swarms of flying ants gained such impressive numbers that they brought a cricket match in South Africa between Australia and New Zealand to a twelve minute stand still.  

The swarm we watched take to flight on the banks of a dam on the Millstream farm kept us mesmerised for far longer than that.

In the space of a few minutes a calm winter’s afternoon turned into a frenetic feeding frenzy. Birds first dive bombed and then huddled, gorging themselves on thousands of flying termites emerging from a single small hole in the grass. It didn’t take long for the news to spread as birds flew in from every direction – nature’s very own fast food dive through.

Seeing the lawn covered in winged termites one moment, and then aflutter with birds the next, we could not believe the sheer number of termites emerging from this single nest. As quickly as one was plucked up in the beak of a bird, it was replaced, with multiple termites fighting their way out of the the nest hole at any given moment.

This was meant to be their nuptial flight, their maiden voyage and grand finale. The male and female winged termites, called alates, leave the nest once a season in a massive swarm. They pair up, mate in flight and then land to form a new colony of their own. This new Queen and King shrug off their wings and burrow a nest which will grow to be several thousand litres in size with a colony of millions of termites. They will continue to mate for the duration of the Queen’s life, sometimes up to 50 years.

The swarms occur usually once per season on a warm dry day, after wet weather when the earth is softer and allows for easier burrowing. It is thought that once one colony begins swarming, pheromones alert nearby colonies which follow suit, so that termites may find partners in neighbouring colonies to prevent inbreeding.

These termites, however would not be so lucky. It was not their day.

We've identified the following birds: a Natal Spurfowl (Pternistis Natalensis) at 02:00 and an African Stonechat male (Saxicola Toquatus) at 00:16.
The majority are Larks. We can’t figure out if they are the endangered Botha’s Larks (Spizocorys Fringillarus) or the more common Pink-billed Larks (Spizocorys Conirostris)

Let us know what you think.