Pinching ants are called "siafu" in Swahili, the trade language of East Africa. They are also sometimes called safari ants.

Anyone who has ever lived in Africa can tell you many stories about pinching ants. Having lived in Africa for twelve years, I too have some observations.

The pinching ants, sometimes erroneously called army ants, would come in columns maybe 12 inches wide and up to 200 feet long. When they reached a home, they would enter and swarm all over the inside of the house. They would eat everything in sight that moved. They ate very little of our regular food, but they would eat all mice, scorpions, spiders, etc. They would kill and eat dogs and cats if they were trapped in the house also.

In the older times of missionary work, before poisons were available, the missionaries would simply move out and let the ants do their work. They would be done and move on in as little as two days, and when the missionaries moved back in, the house would be free of varmints for a long time.

We had some poisons we used to apply to the outside walls and the door entries so the ants would not pass them and move on to other places, but the Africans still just moved out for a couple of days. We applied the poison by dragging a can full along the wall so that is came off on the cement, and my job as a kid was to hold the pressure lamp. Dad and I kept our feet moving all the time so the ants could not have a chance to grab hold and climb our legs.

When pinching ants get on you, they don't bite at once. I have heard anyone with experience tell the same story. The ants climb up inside your clothes, and you never feel them. They seem to give a signal, and suddenly they ALL start biting at once. They have huge pinchers, and they grab hold and don't let go. There are many stories told about them.

My story is that, as a kid, I went out at night into the dark to relieve myself before going to bed. We were visiting friends, and needed to take care of the call of nature, so my brother and I went out into the dark and took care of things. In that short time, while standing smack in the middle of a pinching column on its way somewhere, we were covered. The ants all hit as we were walking into the house of our friends, and my folks had to strip us and pull the ants off one at a time.

One missionary was going to preach, and before the meeting he stood afar off and communed with his soul and the Lord. The problem is, he communed in the path of pinching ants. They did not strike until he was in the meeting and ready to preach. He is said to have made the point that Satan is working to attack in everything we do. The ants struck. The missionary jumped, and said that Satan seemed to have struck him, asked the group to sing a hymn, and he headed for the outdoors where he had to strip and take the ants off.

In Ethiopia, where Elizabeth and I were missionaries, we used Eucalyptus leaves. We stuffed them in all the cracks around the house, and laid fresh leaves across the doorway, and the ants would not enter. Even old leaves in the cracks around the room next to the wall could be freshened up after the leaves died by pouring a little hot water on the leaves.

I do NOT miss the critters, but the memory is interesting.

For the record, army ants are much larger than pinching ants, and they don't attack the same way. They will bite, but they don't climb all over you as a rule. They will actually ignore you. I used to slowly put my finger in the middle of a column of army ants as they went by, and they would bump into my finger, check me out with their antennae, and then walk on. They forage the same way thought in long columns.


I would like to add other people's experiences here.
Credits will be given if I add your story.