We recommend browsing from our website to ensure the most relevant information Go to site
Continue browsing here
Volunteer and Intern Abroad since 1997
New Program! GVI's Business Internships in Cape Town have just launched. Find out more here.

Nature's Epic Events - Jalova Episode!

By 6 years ago
Categories Jalova


A solitary ant, a scout perhaps, peeks his head into an empty kitchen. A plethora of curious pheromones and smells intrigues him and he races in, determined to find the source. However, what he smells isn’t the usual jackpot for an ant – kilo upon kilo of sugar, fruit, vegetables, coffee, peanut butter and jelly – but instead is a thriving population of invertebrates, namely cockroaches. Within seconds he has discovered that there are thousands of hard-shelled, squirmy, fast-moving meals, hidden in the nooks and crannies of this gigantic structure.

He is an Army Ant. He is just one of tens of thousands of individuals that makes up one of the most efficient, unpredictable, and destructive colonies of insects in the world. He immediately releases trails of chemicals alerting the other ants of the glorious bounty he has witnessed. Within minutes, events will unfold that will leave everyone on base standing on benches and crates, watching the floor move around them, yelling in fascination and excitement and surprise and fear, like Frodo on a smoldering boulder, watching lava encircle him on all sides, moments after destroying the sacred ring.

The colony moves into the kitchen with unbelievable speed and determination. Trails of ants break off of the main trail and spread out in all directions, carpeting the walls, raiding all cracks and crevasses, all holes, all corners and joints, under every container and box, leaving no space unexplored. Cockroaches are scurrying out from every imaginable space, fleeing with the urgency and panic of a gazelle in hot pursuit by a cheetah. The invasion has begun.

Within 20 minutes, thousands of ants occupy the kitchen, swiftly moving from the point of entry near the sink around the kitchen clockwise, methodically and systematically eradicating it of all life. None of the ants are static. Every one is seeking out cockroaches and helping to disembowel them. It appears that typically, as a cockroach sprints by, desperate to escape, a lucky ant is able to hook onto it’s leg and hold on tight, causing it to limp and stumble, giving the other ants just enough time to grab on. Within 20 seconds, the cockroach is no longer twitching and spasming, invisible behind a blanket of ants. Within 5 minutes it has been completely dismembered, partially eaten by the invading ants, partially carried outside to the other ants of the colony. This is not an exaggeration. Hundreds of cockroach carcasses litter the walls and floor of the kitchen. Most are just a fuzzy mass, an unfortunate soul under a dense swarm of Army Ants. The occasional scorpion defends his ground amazingly well. People’s cameras are going off in all directions, and the spontaneous expletive comes out loud as people are unexpectedly bitten on the foot.

Within an hour and a half, few cockroaches remain. The ants begin the second phase of the invasion, and it commences extremely quickly. They begin bringing in their eggs and depositing them under the food crates. Apparently this is the perfect place to start a new base. Some of the ants are so eager to deposit their eggs that they can’t be bothered to walk all the way around a cupboard to get to their destination and instead just build a ladder of ants. It hangs more than 6 inches in the air, a mass of pure ants all clutched to each other, with others coming on to lengthen it, carefully getting closer to the bottom ledge where they can continue their mission on foot. The GVI staff quickly intervene with this egg deposition and scatter the food crates. The intervention works and the ants quickly abort the mission and carry all the eggs back out. Within half an hour, the vast majority of the ants are gone, and within 2 hours, not a single ant remains in the kitchen. They leave with the same phenomenal speed with which they came and relieve some stress from the camp duty team who are then able to resume with lunch, a process they were forced to temporarily abandon.

They came, they ate, they conquered. Epic.

-Kevin, Expedition Field Staff