The great antnapping: How we went on holiday and came back with a bunch of ants - Prologue

A couple of weeks ago, Stroomschok and I went on holiday to my native country of Romania. The plan was to spend some quality time with the family, see some beautiful nature and maybe capture some ants, should any queens be flying out at that time. For the latter purpose we took some small plastic catch tubes with us, which promptly got lost when the KLM ground crew failed to load Stroomschok's backpack into the plane (and about 40 others). As we were on a tight schedule, we did some blitz shopping for clothes and other necessaries and left on the morning of our second day for the Danube Delta.

Our destination was a small town called Sfantu Gheorghe (Saint George),  located near where one of the Danube's branches flows into the Black Sea, a place reachable only by boat. After spending the better part of a week there, we would be heading into the mountains to spend another week in the highest resort in Romania, surrounded by pine forests and meadows.

On the regularly scheduled boat taking us to Sfantu Gheorghe.


The weather in Sfantu Gheorghe was fantastic - sunny and warm, a marked departure from the cloudy and wet Dutch climate. This raised our hopes that ants in that area may still have nuptial flights, although we were in the second half of September, so we spent our first day with our eyes peeled for the little critters. No flying queens, alas, but we spotted several interesting species and spent a good deal of time observing them, much to my 5-years old nephew's fascination. By the way, the word in Romanian for ants is "furnici". It was a word that we would hear quite often from the kid as he would inquire on our progress about 20 times a day.

The spot where we discovered an ant nest from a species that Stroomschok could not identify. Mystery ants!

On the second day, after a boat trip through the delta, we decided to dig up a couple of the ant nests we had spotted on the previous day. Trouble was, we had no tools. But after raiding the local store for a couple of metal spoons, small brushes and various plastic receptacles, and after borrowing a spade from our kind, if thoroughly bemused, host, this was no longer a serious impediment.

But first, some macrofauna from the Delta.

These guys are two different species.

Wild ruminants.

I will let Stroomschok give you the details on Operation: Antnapping in his next blog post, but suffice to say that we were both as excited as children in a candy store. My brother, who had organized the trip, now had three kids on his hands, poor soul. We kept yelling "ANT!" at each other during our otherwise peaceful walks to and from the beach, proceeding then to squat down and examine our new find for long minutes, or whip out an improvised capture device (aka paper napkin) to preserve the specimen for later study.

In the Sacalin lagoon.

A colony of pelicans, seconds before a douchenozzle scared them off.

Ohai ther.

On our fourth day in the Delta we went on another boat trip, this one quite a bit longer. If you think that you can't possibly find ants on a boat trip then you are sorely mistaken, and in my next blog post I will tell you the tale of Caraorman, the Dark Forest. But for now, enjoy these pictures of the beautiful Danube Delta and keep an eye out for Stroomschok's tale of the dune ninjas.

Post sponsored by the Romanian Board of Tourism (I wish).