The Nigerian

I came home the other day and my son told me he had been vacuuming up ants.  He showed me a small hole near the kitchen that was the source.  The ants had traveled out of this hole, down the hall, across the living room and over a barrier into where our plants are being kept temporarily while the balcony is worked on.  He explained to me how the ants must move up the high-rise from floor to floor and arrive at our apartment through this little hole in the floor.  They are those very small ants that you can barely see but when they are traveling across the floor you notice them.

This reminded me of an evening I spent on my porch in Ibadan, Nigeria, many years ago.  I wasn’t much older than he is now.  I was by myself one evening having a beer and bored out of my mind and I happened to glance onto the floor.  The ants in Africa are large and can be lethal.  Army ants can devour a small lizard in a matter of minutes.  Fortunately the ones I saw that night were not Army ants.  I think they must have been vegetarians.  I followed the river of ants and found that they were coming out of the kitchen, across the dining room, over the sliding door tracks onto the porch and out a hole near the floor to the outside.  I was mesmerized by them.  Scouts ventured out at regular intervals to either check for danger or look for food.  They would report back and another one would be dispatched.  Pretty soon I noticed a potato chip moving across the floor.  Several of them had hoisted it onto their backs and were carrying it out.  I couldn’t believe my eyes at first.  After a while I saw another one.

This got me thinking.   I just happened to be eating chips myself although I’m pretty sure they were plantain chips.  I wondered what would happen if I placed one where a scout might find it.  Sure enough a scout found it.  He reported back and the river actually split off!!  None of them missed a step.  They picked up the chip and rejoined the parade.  Ever since then I have had great respect for ants!

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