Matabele ants (Pachycondyla analis) are large, black ants, often seen crossing roads in dense, long columns. Each of these columns represents a different colony of these insects, and is made up of sterile female workers. Matabele ants, named after a tribe of Zulu warriors, are voracious predators that specialize in hunting termites. The hunt begins with a single scout locating a vulnerable opening to an underground termite nest. She then leads an army of several hundred workers towards the nest, where each ant kills several termites, and carries them back in their mandibles. The prey is then divided among the workers, the queen, and the developing larvae in the ant colony.
Matabele ants can defend themselves with a powerful stinger, but they don’t attack people on purpose. When driving on Gorongosa roads, be careful not to crush these fascinating insects – they’re protected in the Park just like any other animal. If you see a column crossing the road, stop the vehicle and let them pass, it will only take a few minutes and give you an opportunity to observe one of the most successful predators of Gorongosa.
Shortly after arriving in the Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique I witnessed a puzzling phenomenon: while exploring the network of roads in the woodland savannas of the Park our local driver would barely slow down to avoid hitting antelopes and warthogs, but immediately slammed on the brakes if he noticed a long column of large black ants that were streaming from one side of the road to the other. We couldn’t quite get the exact explanation for his reluctance to drive over the insects (although we were very happy about it), but eventually gathered that driving over them could bring great misfortune. Read more from our blog