Termites flying

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Flying termites

***** Location: Kenya
***** Season: Long and short rains
***** Category: Animal


The flying termites usually come out during the rain seasons.

Termites here in Kenya are a delicacy
enjoyed by some Kenyan tribes particularly the Luhya of Western Kenya!

The termites are cooked, fried or eaten raw. Just a pinch of salt is salt is sprinkled on the live, raw termites and there you go... when being cooked, they are put onto a huge sufuria and a little water and salt sprinkled over them, then allowed to boil. When being fried, just a frying pan or sufuria is first put on the fire and allowed to be hot and then the termites are put on it and turned over and over until they are fried.

Sometimes, the termites are dried and preserved. This is done by first boiling them as stated above and then spreading them out on the sun to dry for several days. They are then rubbed slightly and winnowed in the wind to remove the wings. This leaves only the dried termites for storage for future consumption.

However, remember, there is a slight difference in the names we give to the termites here with those given in other countries:

We have the Swahili names:

mchwa: the ants


kumbi kumbi: flying termites

Mchwa eats up wood; but in other countries, termites refer to mchwa.
Kumbi kumbi does not eat up wood; they fly around and are eaten by almost all birds and human beings.

. . .

I would like to share more details about my termite experience from Western Kenya when I was young. There, we used to go hunting and harvesting the termites. We did not just wait for the long and short rains to bring them to the surface. This is how we used to do it. One had to locate the termite nest first, then use a hoe to scratch for the openings, which indicated the termites had grown wings.

If the nest did not have small holes, we said the termites underground were still 'young'. Once the openings were located-- there could be as many as fifty one one nest-- we could use mud to build a very peculiar structure which I am unable to describe here. It looked very much like an inverted kettle, such that the spout connected to the opening where the termites were expected to come from and the tank was where the termites would land and wait to be harvested. Then what followed was a unique way of luring the termites to the surface.

We know about a certain bird that drums on the soil to lure the termites out. When the termites hear the drumming, they usually think it is the heavy rain so they come out, only to be preyed upon! We used to use one long stick put on the nest and each person used two smaller sticks just like those used to play xylophones, to drum on the longer pole firmly embedded into the ground on the nest. We drummed the whole evening and the termites would start coming out at twilight to land in the artificial nests made of mud. We would then harvest them soon after sunset.

Termites are rich in protein. In Western Kenya, they have become an income a commercial venture and are now being exported all the way to Nairobi in their various forms. At Gikomba, in Nairobi, you can now find even the live ones on sale!

Patrick Wafula

Sufuria .. cooking pot or fryingpan ... and haiku


Flying termites remind me of my childhood days. When I was in primary school, our house was lit by a kerosene lamp that consists of a tin tank, a wick and a glass chimney.

Since we got home from school early, we would go to play in the fields and during rainy seasons, there were a lot of termites. My elder brother would send me to fetch a basin which we used to dive on the termites, trapping a good number of them. Then we would go home and while mom was preparing supper, we would wait when the glass chimney of the kerosene lamp was hot. We then shared the termites and I would hold one termite by the wing and move it just above the glass chimney where it was very hot for a few seconds and have my bite, minus the wings of course!
It had a sugary taste and a salty taste in the head region. All this was happening behind mom's back and I must add that termites are yummy!

Caleb Mutua


The first heavy rain usually brings out the large termites, which fly into the dusk and up to any electric light, and which get devoured by frogs, gekkos and other waiting animals. There are some people, particularly in Uganda, who value the flying termites as a source of protein, catch them and have a feast.

First Rainfall : Kigo


During most of the year, termites live in the ground and are thus a

TOPIC for haiku.

Worldwide use


termites (winged types)




Ants were eaten in the Edo period, simmered in sweetened soy sauce. Other insects are also eaten in Japan.

Insects as food (konchuu ryoori)

flying ants 羽アリ (ha ari)

Things found on the way


I walked to the huge trunk and found that termites were busy eating up its roots and building their nest at the base :

eating into its roots --
the dead bunchananii

Patrick Wafula

Arboretum Kukai, 29 March 2008


morning rain--
three hens chasing
after one termite

the eagle
diving again and again--
flying termites

flying termites--
the kite and the eagle rival
for air space

dripping children
chasing after termites--
morning rain

Patrick Wafula
Kenya Saijiki Forum March 2010


frogs emerge
termites flying in the drizzle
plenty of protein

Patrick Wafula



the birds in the air
wait from above --
flying termites

a dragonfly
rotates in the air --
catching termites

Kenya Saijiki Fourm, April 2010

Related words

***** Ant, ants (ari)Japan
kigo for summer


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