We traveled back from Soroti to Jinja yesterday and today, and managed to fit in church-plant visits and some shoe buying for some deaf children – more on that later.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned that there is a drought in Uganda causing a famine in many parts of the country. There has been much less rain during the last year and the crops have been hurt badly in what is known as the “Bread Basket of Africa,” one of the most fertile and productive countries on the continent. While we were in Soroti – and even now as I am writing this evening – the rains have begun, and people are rejoicing all over Uganda. An aside to all of this has occurred, having something to do with a combination of the season of the year, the sudden rains and the white ant population.

After the first two or three serious dousings we experienced in Soroti, a variety of ant called white ants suddenly emerged from the earth everywhere, mating (?), flying around on large white wings four to five times the length of their bodies, and then molting their wings all over the ground. We walked out of our guesthouse to go to our meeting and found the entryway, the veranda, and the grounds covered with these wings from which the ants derive their name “white ants” – the ants are actually black, as near as I can tell. We also found a small boy collecting the ants in a bucket, some with wings and some without – he did not care which, but collected them all.

White ant wings in the foyer, on the veranda and covering the ground.

We watched him briefly and then began asking questions of the gatekeeper. This kind of ant will suddenly emerge by the millions all over Uganda, shortly thereafter losing their large wings, and the people collect them and…did you guess it? They fry them and eat them. I am told they have a very sweet taste that is much sought after by Africans as a seasonal delicacy.

Tonight as Gail and I went out to the market to collect our dinner from the street vendors, the first thing we saw was a large bin full of something. I couldn’t make it out in the near darkness, so I shone my flashlight on the bin – fried white ants on sale for 1000 shillings per cup (about 30 cents). I asked them if I could take a picture, and they allowed me to photograph their little stand, for which I paid them a small amount.

I would have gladly tried a bite or two, since we are, after all, in Africa. But Alfred intervened and said they would need to be re-fried at home before I should eat them because of sanitary conditions – musungu stomachs often clash with the unfamiliar bacteria of Africa, so everything has to be cleaned and cooked hot to kill the bacteria. I did not get my taste-test of white ants tonight, but maybe Alfred will bring us some from home tomorrow. Everyone from Soroti to where we are tonight in Bugembe is talking about the white ants, and children are out everywhere gathering them in bags and buckets by many different methods, then selling them in the markets. Tonight in the market it was very common to see roasted meat sticks, fried chicken, and fried white ants set out side-by-side on the vendors’ stands.

Wings covering the driveway and lawn.

I guess I’ve never been here during the right seasonal conditions before because, though I’ve heard about the white ants, I’ve never seen them or the many millions of fallen white wings covering the ground everywhere. Enjoy the pictures I’ve included of this unusual phenomenon. And if you ever get a chance to taste this delicacy, well, I can’t really recommend it…yet!