Digging out the termite mound

I heard the workers in our backyard, but I assumed they were chopping up the tree stump left over from last week’s felling. After about an hour, I looked out and noticed they were digging up our termite mound. Yes, our house has a “proper termite mound” as our English biologist friend Harry put it. I ran out back to see what was going on.

Thomas, John, and the other workers said the termites were causing problems, though it wasn’t clear what the problem was. They made great progress digging up the mound exposing the big-headed soldier termites and little white immature ones. They were looking for the queen. Once they found her, the termite mound would be history. I remember seeing a termite queen on TV once. It looked like a big white potato with a little termite head. This is what we were looking for.

They kept digging. John was wearing sandals and was inside the pit. I asked if the termites would bite. He said yes, but seemed unconcerned about his bare feet. As they cleared away the soil you could see the tunnels and chambers radiating out from the center. It went down a couple of feet.

We started to find some large winged males – a good sign we were getting close to the queen. Thomas and John said these are good to eat – but only the ones with the brown abdomen. Don’t eat the ones with the black abdomen. John set these aside in a little cup of water so they couldn’t fly away. You pull off the abdomen and fry it up. I said I would try it if he cooked it.

The men pulled out a solid mass about the size and shape of a football. It was the “queen’s palace” as they put it. John gently sliced into it with a panga (machete). After a few slices, the central chamber was revealed – and within, the termite queen! The queen looked like a thick white sausage, pulsing and throbbing in the sunlight. We all gathered around to inspect it. John said you can eat the queen too. It is full of fat and oils they said. You fry it up like a sausage. I passed. John put this one in a little plastic bag that already had a queen from another termite mound they dug up in the morning.

That was one of the more exciting things that has happened at 11 Malawi Close this week. You never know what to expect around here.

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