“Safari Ants!”

We shot from either side of the bed – sheets, pillows, blanket flying – flailing through mosquito netting like flies exiting a flimsy spider web.

All was pitch black in the thatch roof hut. My wife and I had been asleep less than three hours when the miniature flesh-eating troops attacked.  “Ouch!, Ah! Oh!! Ouch, Ahh!!”

“Where’s the torch, Jerry!?”

“I’m feeling for it down here. Keep moving about. Don’t stop moving!” I blindly surveyed the floor with my hands.


The flashlight’s narrow beam cut through dark. We kept in motion, hopping about, reaching for our garments.

“Shake your stuff out before putting it on.”

“Right”. I danced into my jeans.

Unlatching the door, we scurried outside and up the incline to the entrance of our host’s main house. Answering our tap-tap at the metal door, our Mennonite friends ushered us in. “Sorry guys, some visitors chased us out. Otherwise the new guest hut is perfect!”

“Sharon,” Ann raced her fingers every direction through her hair “They’re up here, biting my head”. Sharon Stutzman sprang to action under the light of a kerosene lamp. Relief came.

The aggressive, flesh-eating creatures – called by some, safari ants, by others army ants or fire ants – showed up at the start of every rainy season. Moving about as if commanded by army generals, they advance to places where meat is found – human, animal, insect, reptile. They are not choosy.

Will and Florence Burnham, an older English couple, served with us at Bukuria. Will chuckled during one of our visits over tea, recalling his bullet-speed moves a year or so earlier when he shed a pair of trousers along some grassy trail.

“Lucky the grass was high, letting me keep some dignity. . . and, you know”, he added in a rich Liverpool accent, “when they bite, they hang on for dear life.  They won’t drop away with a simple brush-off.  Aye, you must pick them off, one-by-one!”

Experiments led me over time to an effective means of blocking the invaders. Pouring a light trail of paraffin (kerosene) along the outside base of the mission house usually held them at bay.

We learned of one clever family who would simply vacate their place a couple days – lodging with friends a distance away as the ants took over their home. Always on the march for more cuisine, Safari Ants don’t linger after a good house-scouring.

Roaches – rats – centipedes – scorpions. . . beware.

© 2017 Jerry Lout





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