Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Beware the wings of Summer!

Christmas is coming
Bruxas in the flat
please put the aircon on
and squash the mossies flat

Summer is coming to the Mata Atlantica, which means hot days and nights, and rain - perfect conditions for insects. This, not Halloween, is the time for witches, "bruxas", huge (up to 16cm) moths the size of bats who invade your house at night. As I mentioned in a previous blog, bruxas, (Ascalapha odorata) are of course completely harmless, if occasionally annoying, and they feed on rotten fruit. They'll probably be around until January.

Bruxas might be harmless, but other summer visitors not so much. Termites ("cupims") swarm at this time of year, males and females abandoning their nests and flying out into the sky. They are weak fliers, and blown hither and thither by the wind. When they land they shed their wings and, if they are lucky, start to make a nest from the wet trees and timber they have landed on, so if you see discarded insect wings on your furniature, watch out! Mated queens produce huge quantities of workers that build the nest where they will all live, either underground, in mounds in the pampas or fields, or as nests on the side of trees and fence posts.

As many house holders have found to their cost, termites are very good at digesting wood, which is beyond most creatures. Although some can actually do this by themselves, most have colonies of microbes in their gut who do the work for them. Humans though are having their revenge. Firstly, termites are edible and easily caught when swarming. Apparently they are best lightly grilled on a hot plate, their natural oils supplying the cooking fat. Secondly, they are potentially a source of fuel - producing hydrogen from waste wood, although nobody has quite made a termite power station yet.

And worst of all are the mosquitoes, their life cycles speeded up by the heat, and with plenty of puddles to lay their eggs. Development time for Aedes aegypti, from egg to adult, goes from 33 days at 16C to 9 days at 32, although if it's any consolation they do die younger. With more mosquitoes comes more disease, the incidence of Dengue fever for example starts to rise steeply in December before peaking in March to May.

So beware, the time of the insects is coming!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Worst of all are mosquitoes!!!!!