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!