Saturday, December 14, 2013

Hail the Termite

Hail the Termite - 5D3, 24-70 II @ 24mm, f/5.6, ISO 100
I finally managed to hop my way up the stairs this afternoon to make it to my office for the first time in about 6 days.  Its awesome to be able to access my machine with all my images and post some new stuff.  I've also mostly kept my leg elevated since returning home from the hospital and putting this post together is the first time its been down for a long time, rushing a lot of blood there.

Termites!  These guys were probably the biggest surprise from my Botswana trip.  First, I didn't expect to see so many of them (more on that later) and second in California home owners generally vilify them and consider them a nuisance for the damage they cause to homes.  I learned a lot about termites on this trip including their fascinating role in the ecosystem.  As consumers of dead wood, they play a vital role in returning emergy back into the ecosystem.  Their mound structures and colony organization is also fascinating.  But the most fascinating thing is the termite bloom, oh my goodness what an experience.  The mound has future kings and queens inside, many many thousands of them.  The workers bring them food for most of the year and these guys fatten up, consisting mainly of protein and fat.  Then, at the start of the rainy season, after the first days of heavy rain, when the soil is softer, they are released en masse.  These termites have wings and their goal is to fly out, land somewhere, mate and start a new mound.  We had heavy rain on our fourth day so on the night of the fifth we had a chance to experience this first hand.

After returning from our game drive and before dinner we noticed several hundred flying insects up by the main light.  These were the termites and quickly their wings fell off, they fell to the ground and were swept up.  We then went on with our dinner and just as we finished our main course and were waiting for dessert we saw a horde of them by the main light again.  Soon the entire space was buzzing with what must have been tens of thousands of termites in flight; needless to say dessert was cancelled.  They are completely harmless, but they land everywhere and for those uneasy with insects they can freak you out.  I'm very uneasy with insects but for some reason I just found this fascinating and so stuck around for some time watching them.  My buddy +Vincent Mo was stuck in an upstairs loft area (the fallen termites had completely covered the stairs) so he stayed for a lot longer photographing them.  The camp staff swept them all up and in the morning little evidence of what had happened last night remained, amazing stuff.
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