Video Ring

Your Timeless Journey Awaits...

The Vital Role of Insects in African Safaris: Beyond the Big Five

When our guests ask ‘Will there be bugs on my safari?’, we respond, yes, and that’s wonderful!

An African safari conjures up images of majestic lions, towering elephants, and graceful giraffes. These iconic animals rightfully steal the spotlight, but amidst the vast savannas and dense forests, there exists a world of creatures equally vital to the ecosystem – insects.  These industrious creatures, comprising a staggering diversity of species, play multifaceted roles in African ecosystems, making them indispensable to the safari experience.

Little Kulala, cc Teagan Cunniffe

Why you should go on a walking safari

A Walking Safari affords the perfect opportunity to learn more about these fascinating creatures, and here’s why paying attention to these small wonders will add depth to your wildlife adventure:

 

Ecosystem Services:

Insects are the unsung heroes of ecosystem services. Bees, butterflies, and other pollinators facilitate the reproduction of countless plant species, ensuring the survival of vegetation that sustains larger herbivores. Termites and ants aerate the soil and decompose organic matter, enriching it with vital nutrients for plant growth. Without these services, the delicate balance of African ecosystems would collapse.

 

Biodiversity Hotspots:

Africa boasts unparalleled insect diversity, with estimates of hundreds of thousands of species yet to be discovered. Several regions within Africa are considered hotspots for insect biodiversity due to their unique ecosystems and high concentration of species.  Exploring this hidden world enhances the safari experience, offering glimpses into the intricate web of life.

 

Environmental Health Indicator Species:

Insects often serve as indicators of environmental health. Changes in insect populations can signal broader ecological shifts, such as habitat degradation or climate change. Observing insect behavior and diversity provides valuable insights into the overall well-being of ecosystems, guiding conservation efforts to protect not only insects but also the entire spectrum of African wildlife.

 

Cultural Significance:

Across Africa, insects hold cultural significance in traditional beliefs, folklore, and cuisine. Learning about indigenous perspectives on insects adds a cultural dimension to the safari experience, fostering a deeper appreciation for the interconnectedness of nature and human societies.

 

Wildlife Interactions:

Insects form the base of the food chain, serving as essential prey for numerous animals. From insectivorous birds to insect-munching mammals like bats and anteaters, many species rely on insects for sustenance. Witnessing these predator-prey interactions adds excitement and intrigue to safari outings, offering a holistic understanding of African wildlife dynamics.

Insects you may encounter

Here are some of the amazing insects you might encounter during your African adventure:

 

Sophie looking for termites.

Young Sophie looking for termites

Termites

Whilst on a game drive, you will most likely pass imposing termite mounds that dominate the savanna scenery. Termites are the true architects of the bush, constructing elaborate structures that function as ventilation systems for their colonies. Despite being so small, their impact on the ecology is massive.

 

Dung Beetles

These industrious insects are renowned for their remarkable ability to roll and bury balls of dung, which serve as both food and nesting sites. Observing dung beetles in action is a fascinating and quite humorous sight, highlighting their crucial role in nutrient recycling within ecosystems.

 

Jaci's Lodge

Photograph of an African Monarc Butterfly

Image by Erik Karits

African Monarch Butterfly

The African Monarch which is also known as Danaus chrysippus, the plain tiger, and African queen is a striking butterfly species known for its vibrant orange and black coloration. Like its counterparts worldwide, this species exhibits remarkable migratory behavior, making epic journeys across vast distances in search of suitable breeding grounds.

 

Driver Ants

Driver ants are also known as safari ants, dorylus, or siafu, these ants are formidable predators that travel in vast swarms, devouring everything in their path. Witnessing a column of driver ants on the move is a thrilling spectacle, underscoring the raw power and efficiency of these communal hunters.

 

Giant African Millipedes

Referred to by locals as ‘Shongololos’, these colossal arthropods are among the largest millipede species in the world, reaching lengths of up to 30 centimeters. Their striking appearance and gentle demeanour make them popular attractions for wildlife enthusiasts.

Rhinoceros Beetle

One of the ‘Small Five”, named for their impressive horn-like protrusions, rhinoceros beetles are among the largest beetles in Africa. Males use their horns to battle rivals for mates, showcasing impressive displays of strength and agility during mating season.

 

Little Kulala, Namibia

Spiders and Scorpions

Scorpions play a vital role in the ecosystem of Southern Africa. The fluorescent glow emitted by scorpions under UV light adds excitement to nighttime safari adventures (Namibia is an excellent destination for this).  On your early morning safari drive, you will catch sight of the elaborate webs spun by spiders, frequently adorned with dew in the early hours.  These webs are true works of art.


In this article
  • Introduction
  • Why you should go on a walking safari
  • Insects you may encounter

Discover Our other travel stories

Read our travel stories for inspiration and updates.