The rainstorm and termite swarm

Southern Taiwan has been enduring a serious drought since Typhoon Morakot dumped unprecedented rains last August. I heard a report on the radio that this current rice harvest was in danger of going bad, if we didn’t receive any significant rain soon. Waking up this morning to cool, humid breezes and cloud cover, the chances of rain seemed promising.

I took the family to my mother-in-law’s house for lunch. Just before noon, a slow drizzle started to fall. Even though it was raining, I took my boys for a short walk to the Hsu Temple nearby, where they were preparing for a large celebration and outdoor banquet. The light rain was welcome relief and felt pleasant on our skin.

By the time I returned to my mother-in-law’s house for lunch, the rain became hard and steady. I heard the persistent “mewing” of a kitten outside, and located a wet, black kitten in a drainage ditch. There were no other cat’s around, and it was certain to drown where it huddled in the thick, wet grass. I took the kitten, which was no more than 10 days old, to our carport, and put it in a cardboard box to stay dry and warm.

While standing in the cover of the carport, I started to notice other animals seeking shelter from the pouring rains. Caterpillars started to appear. A very large snail had crawled onto our wooden fence. It was a very large snail common in Taiwan. I always wondered if it would make good escargot. The Taiwanese, known for eating practically anything that moved, have said it was not edible. That’s too bad, because the snails are plentiful, and I hear they are actually a nuisance.

About 30 minutes into the heavy rain, the soil began to soak, and standing water started to gather on the ground. That is when I noticed a sight that I will never forget. I noticed something large flying by, but it was not like any flying bug I had ever seen. The wings flapped slowly and the flight was very clumsy. When I looked into the sky, I was amazed. These flying bugs were everywhere, in the millions! Every space in the sky was dotted with these insects. It seemed like something of biblical proportions. The rain continued to pour hard, so these exhausted creatures started to fall to the ground, many drowning in pools of water. Swallows were flying out in the rain, gorging themselves on the easy feast.

I examined one, and realized that it was a termite, with it large mandibles and 4 wings. I couldn’t believe the number of termites I was witness to. If this swarm had happened in America, no one would dare build their homes out of wood. I was told this was something that was common.

Click for more info on the Formosan Termite.

I now completely understand why wood-framed homes are not built in Taiwan. All construction here is steel frame, with brick or concrete. Steel is more expensive than wood, but somehow, the cost of homes here are reasonable. I wonder why steel-framed homes can’t be more affordable in the USA? Steel frames are more practical, and can withstand natural disasters more easily, reducing the risks to the homeowner. It’s just another thing to wonder about.

The sky remained filled with termites for hours. It was a sight that was eerie and beautiful in a way, but it also dramatized that nature still reigned supreme, and that man always has to adapt the way they live to accommodate nature.

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