RV Matters - 16 Sep 2018

After a gap of nearly two months, we finally had good (6.1 cm) rains on the night of September 11. It was great to see the dry spell broken, finally.

The leaves of the duranta bushes which were drooping have sprung back to life almost overnight. Millipedes (the long brown ones) have emerged from their hiding places. Frogs started croaking. The grass that had turned brown is lush green once more. The Scaly-breasted Munias which had suspended their nesting outside my house have resumed their activities by coming in with long strands of green grass for lining their dome-shaped nests.

To me, the most interesting development since the rains was the emergence of winged termites. They started making their appearance the evening after the rains and they were immediately noticed by their predators. Crows gathered in the playground, picking out termites as they came out of the crevices in the ground. A spotted owlet made sorties in the air flying after the insects. Even the next morning, the feast continued – several dozens of crows and mynas were busy picking the termites from the open meadows and fields. They were joined by bee-eaters, babblers, drongoes, coucal, bulbuls and a host of other bird species. A flock of House (Little) swifts flew unusually low over tree-tops, catching the termites in mid-air and consuming them.

Winged termites are the most sought-out food by many birds. Even humans (tribals like Irulas) consume them regularly for their proteins. Though a lot of these insects fall an easy prey to birds, mammals, larger predatory insects, reptiles and amphibians, by their sheer numbers the termites are able to satiate their predators and a large proportion of the population actually escapes and survives. Maybe these insects have already learnt some of the basics of economics by which they can outstrip the demand by excess supply!

Dr Santharam