October 17, 2015

Written by Thom Parrish

I like to explore the preserve after a good rain; it is when the riparian woods are the most alive. After last night and this morning’s much needed rain shower I was excited to go out and see what was new. I didn’t even make it to the first big granary tree on the main trail before I noticed something was…weird. Everywhere, tiny white specks floated gently upward from the ground. It looked like snow in reverse. The next thing I noticed was the acorn woodpecker activity was out of control! I had never seen them so excited, swiftly swooping left and right, snatching up and swallowing one white speck after another. I grabbed a speck of white out of the air with my hand to closely examine. A termite! I looked down to where they seemed to be coming from. All over the trail, by the thousands, termites were coming up from under the ground.

The Western Subterranean Termite, Reticultermes hesperus, is the most common termite in the western Untied States. It is also known for being the most destructive. These insects are infamous for the damage they cause to building timber, causing billions of dollars in home damages each year. These termites are capable of building massive subterranean colonies. Swarms like the one seen at Effie Yeaw today are more typical during the spring; however warm temperatures following a rainfall can sometimes trigger a day-time swarm in the fall and winter. During a swarm flying termites find mates with the termites of other swarming nests to establish new colonies.