A few days ago we were woken by the sound of rain pattering on the dry earth.
Because of the rain that day, the Londolozi Cubs Den was a hive of activity, with various arts and crafts on the go. One of them being fairy decorating.
Each child was given a wooden fairy on which they painted glue onto a specific part of the fairy, which they then dusted with colourful glitter. The end result being a beautiful, colourful and glittering fairy.
The children enjoyed the placing them in aloes and against a tree trunk – ideal fairy habitat!
That afternoon after the rain had subsided we set out on an evening safari. The bush looked fresh and clean after the rain.
We had an incredible couple of hours on drive, in which we saw the Nhlanguleni and Mashaba female leopards re-marking their respective and adjacent territories, calling back and forth at one another across a deep drainage line. Due to the rain their scent on the bushes and usual marking spots would have been washed away therefore making it important that they re-establish their territorial boundaries so that other leopards would know that the area is occupied.
As we rounded a corner while following the Mashaba female, the children next to me exclaimed with joy “FAIRIES!” and pointed excitedly at the magnificent eruption of what did indeed look like a million tiny fairies clouding the evening sky. In actual fact it was one of the most amazing sights in the bush; an emergence of termite alates (commonly called “flying ants”). It was as if one was watching a volcano erupt! There were never-ending waves of these disperser termites becoming airborne and flying off into the sunset in the hope of starting a colony of their own.
A flying ant is a potential king or queen of a future termite colony. They are the only termites that develope wings. After rain these alates (the correct term for them) emerge into the open, flying away from their natal colony to start a colony of their own. Once reaching a suitable location their wings fall off, and the females release pheromones into the air to attract males. A pair will burrow down in a suitable spot, seal off the entrance and begin mating. After mating, the pair will never go outside and will remain in the colony for the rest of their lives (up to 20yrs for the female). After establishing their colony, the cycle will begin again after the next rains.
This link between fairies and flying ants is a wonderful example of how nature can stimulate a child’s imagination and educational knowledge. The bush that evening linked a craft activity with an actual biological process, opening a child’s eyes to the endless wonders of the bush and different cycles of life.