Being an incredibly tall man, a towering 5’6″ (and a half inch), I tend to miss a lot going on at ground level.
OK, so that’s not tall, but allow me the fantasy.
Anyhow, I’ve been watching a small termite mound on my outback property over the last year or so. The mound is just a couple of inches higher than the ground and nothing much ever happens with it – or so it seemed.
Curiosity got the better of me the other day and I scratched a small amount of the top layer of material off with a stick and found things were indeed busy inside – termites everywhere. The thin layer of material covering the nest was somewhat hard, almost like a shell and I didn’t really give much thought as to why.
As some termites rushed to restore the couple of inches of damage I had done, out the corner of my eye I detected movement and looked to see a horde of ants moving in.
I had unwittingly become an accessory to a termite massacre.
Aside from some protection from the elements, it turns out the thin top layer was also protecting the termites from ants – they couldn’t seem to burrow through it. How the ants knew I had breached the defenses, I’m not sure, perhaps there was some scent signal.
It doesn’t sound like much of a discovery or revelation, but it’s these little things I learn that continually top up my awe of Nature and remind me just how important it is to tread lightly in the bush.
While termites aren’t the cutest and most cuddly of creatures, they are fascinating. In fact, there’s a lot of creatures we overlook or crush beneath our heels with barely a thought that have fascinating lives with a purpose.
When we head out into the parks and forests, we looks for wildlife – but the fact is even our suburban backyards are teeming with wildlife we know so little about.
Often our brushes with these smaller critters aren’t always positive – a fly buzzing around the house, ants in the kitchen, a spider frightening the heck out of us or termites chewing on framework.
But all these creatures have a role. They are all fascinating – except maybe mosquitoes ;).
The great shame of it all is that we are brought up to consider bugs “icky”. While in some circumstances they are a pest and need to be controlled, I think it’s important we learn and bring up our children to understand the vital roles they play – it’s an exercise in conservation and education that starts in our own yards.
By showing children flies aren’t just made for swatting or for pulling wings off and ants aren’t just good for roasting with magnifying glass; by showing them we also respect the “lesser” creatures, it’s a stepping stone to learning respect for the larger stuff – like our planet as a whole – and how little actions can have major consequences.
When you have a spare minute, sit down in your garden somewhere and just watch what’s going on around you at ground level – you might be amazed to see the biodiversity and activity in your patch of the world.