The caterpillars are everywhere, as you can see from this photo:
But for now, men, women and children alike are waking at 3am every morning to collect caterpillars by torchlight. And Sioned (my new field assistant) and I are joining them.
People only collect caterpillars here in the early hours of the morning, because this is the time when the final instars descend to pupate in the soil. This means that during the daytime the caterpillars roam free from predators, but by night they're in high demand. I even spotted a snake enjoying the harvest the other day..
Each morning, we've been measuring the hours we spend collecting, the weight of our harvest, and (when technology permits) the distance we walked.
So far, between us (me, Sioned, and our neighbours - N=6), on each morning for the last three days we've collected for an average of 2hrs 25min, walked an average of 4.9km and collected an average of 8kg of caterpillars per morning! Our average departure time is 3.38am and our average return time is 5.49am.
8kg of caterpillars looks something like this (there's about 8kg in each of these buckets):
PS. If you'd like to know more about exactly what caterpillar collection involves, here's my post from last year collecting caterpillars here in Burkina Faso. And watch this space for a post from Sioned about her first time!
PPS. I'm trying to take video when I can, because it's so much easier to grasp what this is all like if you see a short video clip. I've been posting these on Twitter, @libertyruth - follow me if you're interested!