By Jos Weale
These incredible shots show the terrifying moment an army of soldier ants marched in unison after plundering a rival termite nest – and carrying off their babies for food.
The close-up photographs show off the Matabele ants creating a formidable column after one of their notorious raids, where they invade termite homes, kill, and steal their young for food.
The skin-crawling but rare sight was snapped by Lisl Moolman in Kruger National Park, South Africa, as the marauding troop defiantly crossed the road in front of her car following their invasion.
The 43-year-old wildlife photographer quickly pulled over to get up-close with the brutal bugs, which are among the largest ants in the world.
Lisl, based in Phalaborwa, South Africa, said: “These ants are formidable, they easily measure 20 millimetres in length.
“They were marching over the road, creating quite an impressive image – they looked just like an army.
“It’s easy to notice the ants when they cross the road in a column-like party. I really like the formation they create.
“They’d been stealing the eggs and nymphs as food.”
Lisl, who has been snapping stunning wildlife in South Africa for five years, said she relished the opportunity to get up-close and personal with the creatures.
Lisl said: “I think the image portrays the incredible team work and communal organisation of the ants.
“It teaches people about the bio-diversity in nature and the food-cycle.
“It was an impressive moment to watch as they were all moving in the same direction in a column.
“At that stage I wasn’t sure what type of ant it was and after reading up on it later I was surprised by their method of searching for food.
“Many people who have seen these pictures have been stunned and amazed to see the moment in such detail.”
And the ant’s victory march, with their living bounty raised high in their nasty-looking pincers, is something that Lisl claims many people in the area easily miss – sometimes even squashing them en-route.
Lisl said: “These ants are seen occasionally crossing the road but most people don’t see what’s going on and would, in ignorance, drive over these columns.
“When photographing insects, it all depends on the speed at which they move. Fast-moving insects are more difficult to capture.
“No other cars were on the scene so I could park my car in such a position that I could capture the ants in the best way possible.”