Friday, November 28, 2008

Flying Termites of the Monsoon Season

In villages, here in Tamilnadu of India, people, especially children are sportive in collecting Flying Termites (Alates or Swarmers and ‘Eiesal’ in Tamil). They sing a song to threaten them, and blow air into the opening to their nest present underground! The song contains the following message: “There is snake inside the nest of these flying termites! Won’t they rush out vacating the nest?” As the flying termites come out by themselves (!), one by one, from their underground colony, they are collected in a tiny basket! One can hear these songs of the children in villages after each North East monsoon shower: at these times these creatures swarm around the places. In a few hours they shed their brown membranous wings, and then they are seen in the vicinity running one after the other in pairs. These flying termites are the reproductive forms of the Termites. They, the kings and queens from the termite colony come out of their nest, fly in air, mate with each other and settle down somewhere else inside the ground to establish their own termite colony!

Ok. What the children do with the collected flying termites? In the early part of 19th century they simply put them on the top of the ‘Hurricane lantern,’ roasted and then relished. Elders used to roast them with fried Bengal gram (Chick pea), onion and puffed rice to make a snack for the rainy season! Now the flying termites are consumed as a side dish by the pregnant women for their high mineral contents. Their content has a good taste like that of yellowish butter and is a nutritious delicacy to all. These flying delicacies are wonderful and delicate insects indeed!

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