Termites hard at work!

Termites hard at work at Lake BaringoDear All, Hello – greetings from the road here. Have been travelling through the Rift valley and Western Kenya looking at plants, birds and insects along the way. Many of you will be familiar with the massive termite mounds that are found on the East African savannahs and in the drylands. Here is a typical mound from the Rift Valley area near Lake Baringo.dino_termite-moundlr1.jpgIt has been really dry, and therefore most insect life is lying low waiting for rain. Driving through the Rift and the highlands there are clouds building and it looks like the rains are finally on their way at least for this part of Kenya.A couple of nights ago as I was walking by a termite mound I heard a strange rattling noise. Like any good entomologist I went over and investigated. Peering down into the mound the most amazing sight greeted me. Thousands of termites were lining the walls of the main tunnel.temites_baringo-lr1.jpgtermites_baringo-lr2.jpgThey trooped up in organized squadrons and settled down to work on repairing the mound. There were two different castes of termites present – the workers – who are the smaller ones in the pictures with pale bodies and the soldiers who are larger with their very big heads and jaws. It was the workers who did all the labouring while the soldiers stood guard. We often think of termites as a nuisance when they feed on wooden structures. However, they are the ultimate re-cyclers of the bush taking indigestible plant matter and converting it into nutrients with the help of fungi and other micro-organisms (more on this soon).Here is a video of a view into the termite mound and some close-up pictures of them too.[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/8OlhynnOdss" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]termites_baringo-lr3.jpgtermites_baringo-lr4.jpg

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