Survival – March of the Insects

Clouds of butterflies, armies of leaf-cutter ants, stinging wasps, tiny black or yellow salt loving bees, swarms of midges and batallions of termites. These have been our chief companions over the past couple of weeks, whilst running through the steaming heat of northern Bolivia.
Butterflies “boozing” on the salt on our clothes!

When I say, “companions”, the leaf-cutters, if truth be told, have been more foe than friend. It seems that leaves are not the only fodder they like to march home with to grow their fungi gardens. Unfortunately, they have mis-identified our mosquitoe-net tent, my shorts, the ground sheet, the trailer harness and the old rubber bicycle tubes that we use to strap the trailer as worthy leaves too…..

Incredible strength in their jaws cutting through the rubber fastenings!

So during the night, we wage war on the leaf-cutters, as the ground sheet puckers up with tiny pincing mandables intent on cutting neat little circles. One pair of mandables are still set into Dave´s shoes. The rest of the body went dancing off before it realized it has lost its head! I do love leaf-cutters, one of the most interesting and entertaining animals to watch, but wow, fending off chomping mandables all night gets pretty tiring.

The signature of the leaf-cutter ant. Sorry about rather disturbing image!

 And if it´s not leaf-cutters, it´s termites… Deftly the motor-way of termites crafts a double hole in the net, it´s using us for cover it seems. It then passes by in a 3 to 4 lane marching configuration over whatever lies in its path, building a covered walkway before the sun should rise, and before cutting out a neat little exit. Mud walkways are cemented across our clothes, sun-glasses and the GPS watch. 

The Scene of the Crime
 The bees very rarely sting and really do just want to dine on our salt it seems. The wasps, on the other hand, have stung us both on numerous occasions, but the sting generally wears off within a couple of hours.  The butterflies of course are friends of everyone. We are running through huge clouds of them at the moment, a kaleidoscope of colours and sizes. Why they have emerged just now, no one seems to know, but it feels like running through confetti!
Clouds of butterfiles
Holes and stings aside, the insect clans brighten up the running day. Especially as the humidity is often near 100% now, with huge cumulous clouds billowing up before the afternoon rains, making running a hot, hard, sweaty process. We run with a new “fermented” aroma, as our clothes literally appear to rot on us. It´s  disgusting, but atleast our insects appreciate us! Plus they provide us humans with honey, pollination, clean up detritus, represent a mighty biomass on which ecosystems and incredible animals such as giant anteaters depend….
But having said this, I do wish they would stop sabotaging our equipment! A new strategy is required…. any ideas?

One Comment

  1. When “running through confetti” (great imagery!), keep the great attitude. Much better than pesticides or stopping your epic journey. We stand with you! Ellen and Jim

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