The Maa word for locust is olmaati (ɔlmáatî for linguists); the plural is ilmaat (ɨlmáāt). I don’t know whether these are the same species of locusts and plagued the ancient Egyptians (and others), but they are African locusts and can thus swarm.

Today I saw more of these ILMAAT than I’ve ever seen before in one place — not quite EMUS OOLMAAT (a swarm of locusts), which is probably a good thing. These were around the famous Oreteti Tree of Lenana, near the lower peak of the Ngong Hills toward Kona Baridi, Olepolos, and Kiserian.

Enjoy the 27 second video clip:

(click on the photos to see larger images)

OLMAATI / ILMAAT can refer to a number of different species of grasshoppers/locusts, some of which are consumed by some African communities (though not by the Maasai). Don’t try to mimic John the Baptist and dip these in honey, though! — these pictures are of Green Milkweed Locusts (aka African Bush Grasshopper or phymateus viridipes for our latinophone or entomologist friends). They like to eat milkweed and various members of the nightshade family, and so are decidedly NOT good to eat.

Edit:  (5 November 2019)
What’s the difference between a grasshopper and a locust?
The difference between a locust and a grasshopper is that they’re locusts when they’re swarming, and otherwise just grasshoppers. (That’s a bit simplified, but close enough.)  Except in some parts of America, cicadas are called “locusts”.

City Wildlife

We no longer live in the bush, so we haven’t seen any elephants, baboons, and giraffes out of kitchen window here in Narok.  (Narok is a “small town” with a population of around 100,000.)  We’re on the edge of the river valley, and sometimes we’ve seen some zebras several kilometers away across the river.  But there are some other wildlife roaming around our house.  Hundreds of bird species (many brightly colored ones; the ibis and an eagle are the largest) nest in our trees.  In one side of the yard, there are hundreds of baboon spiders (think hairy tarantulas) that live in underground (thankfully!) burrows.  Only one of those has ever found its way into the house.  (It died a quick and sudden death).

A mongoose couple seems to be taking up residence in our yard.  The girls are very excited.  We are pleased.  Remember the story of Rikki-Tikki-Tavi ?  Mongooses mean no snakes.  (Yes, the correct plural of mongoose is “mongooses”, NOT “mongeese.”  We double-checked in the dictionary.)  The girls would like a PET mongoose (so would I, actually), but having a pair of wild ones living around the house is a close second.   …  I wonder, do mongooses eat big hairy spiders?

The monkeys have been waking us up very early lately.  The juvenile monkeys have taken to dancing and scampering about on our tin roof.  Houses in Kenya that aren’t way out in the bush usually have cast iron security grills (often quite decorative) over the windows.  The monkey babies have been climbing on the grill of the second floor windows of the girls’ room, watching them play with their toys.  We have to make sure that we leave the door to the balcony-veranda off of our bedroom CLOSED or they’ll come right in and steal things.  This has happened to friends of ours.  Gotta keep the downstairs doors closed as well.  These monkeys like nothing better than to ransack a kitchen in search of people food.  But they are quite cute.

grace and peace to you all,
joshua for all of us

December 24 update:  Ah, well. I suppose it couldn’t last! A monkey finally got in and ransacked our kitchen a couple of weeks ago (Dec. 15) . Lost to the monkey: 2 pounds of tomatoes, 9 large bananas, maybe 4 passion fruit, 1 mango, 1 papaya, 1 pound of butter. Somehow, the two monkeys that are playing outside of my bedroom window in a Jacaranda tree right now just don’t look as cute as they used to look.  Oh, by the way, they are vervet monkeys, for those of you who want to know.