“Anthills” That Are Not
On first seeing peculiar reddish structures that are popularly known as anthills, travelers in West Africa may have their curiosity aroused. These “hills” may be more than four feet (1.2 meters) wide at the base, and may reach 20 feet (6 meters) in height. But they are not anthills at all. Called termitaries, they are constructed by termites from the red laterite soil that covers most of Africa. The particles of earth are cemented together and built up to form a sugarloaf-like hill. Ridges along the sides give the structure a buttressed appearance. Although internally segmented by several stories, channels and chambers for the different categories of this social insect, the hill is strong enough to bear more than the weight of a man.
Except in resemblance, termites are not related to ants. They more closely belong to the family of the mayfly. In many parts of Africa, roasted termites are considered to be quite a delicacy and often form a needed protein supplement to the diet.