Ants offer clues to storms

A flowering marri tree.
A flowering marri tree.

JASON Barrow looks at Bunuru, which ends this March and is one of the six Nyungar seasons.

Bunuru is a time for long dry heat, flies, white flowering gums, the occasional thunderstorm from the north and the increased frenzied activity of the ants that comes with the moisture in the air of the thunderstorms.

This is the hottest time of the year and usually with little or no rain.

Traditionally, if indigenous people were following the signs provided by the country, they would receive respite from the heat with the afternoon coastal sea breezes.

The occasional thunderstorm from the north can range from quite mild and non-|eventful thundery rumbles through to extremely destructive electrical storms with hail, flash flooding and gusting winds, like we saw in March, 2010.

These short-term weather events can be predicted by looking for the subtle signs, like paying attention to the ants.

The ants become busier during dry periods, gathering as many food stores as they can for when the wet weather returns.

Ants in the wild and in gardens provide a valuable role in aerating the ground and dragging collected seeds underground so that they might germinate after the winter rains.

A key indicator of the hot dry heat of Bunuru is the amazing quantities of flowers from the pricklybarks or coastal blackbutts (E. todtiana), jarrahs, marris and ghost gums.

Across Joondalup and Wanneroo, marris (honky nut trees) have been flowering early. Marris usually flower in late February, but some marris started flowering in the first week of January. This may indicate some nice winter rains this year in Makuru (June-July) season.

As the season comes to an end, we’ll start to see some migrations. When the new moon comes towards the middle of March, several bird species will start their migration to the far north of Australia and beyond, providing a sign that cooler weather will soon be upon us.

Jason Barrow

Cultural awareness officer

Kurongkurl Katitjin, Centre for Indigenous Australian Education and Research,

Edith Cowan University