Monday, June 4, 2018

Swarming of winged termites marks the start of the monsoon season

Take heed of winged termites (gamu-gamu or simut-simut Ilk) swarming in early evening in lighted homes and streets. Swarming means new termite colonies are in the making! Your home may be vulnerable.      

Dr Abe V Rotor 

Termites are among the most enigmatic creatures.  They are also among the oldest, older than the dinosaurs, and virtually have not changed.  Thus they are considered living fossils.  

What is more amazing is their life cycle and behavior as social insects. To ordinary observers it is a case of "now you see, now you don't."  For in most part and time of their lives, they are ensconced in mounds, crevices and tunnels of wood and earth incognito to the busy world.  

Here they form colonies in thousands, governed by a royal couple, with the queen tremendously enlarged compared to the king and the castes, the workers and the soldiers.  And her task is to lay eggs daily to maintain the colony to as long as twenty years. 

Protect your home from termites.  
  • Keep your home and surroundings clean, free of termite food such as pile of leaves, stock of firewood, old clothes, paper, unserviceable furniture, etc.    
  • Check regularly the presence of termites in your home - floor, ceiling, bookshelves, rooms, even in unlikely places like apparador and piano. Repair, and trace source of invasion.  Early detection is crucial. 
  • Treatment with chemicals may be necessary.  Consult an authorized pest controller. Keep in mind that pesticides pose danger to health and environment.  
  • Dig out termite mound (punso) around the house, in the garden and field.  Be sure to destroy the queen, otherwise the mound will grow back.
  • At the start of swarming, put off the lights in your home so that the swarm dissipates or moves away into the open. Coordinate with neighbors to do the same.
  • Where swarming is heavy, place a basin of water around a lighted bulb or lamp. Gather trapped insects for feeds or simply discard properly.  
  • Saw off stumps and limbs of trees.  Tree termites live in the hollow of trees, and standing dead trees. 
  • Knock down abandoned buildings which are a source of invasion. Effective termite control is a community effort.   
  • Observe Integrated Pest Management (IPM) where biological control and good farming practices work effectively. Examples: house lizard and toads feed on gamu-gamu, flood control and proper tillage reduce termite population. 
  • Dismiss subtly superstitious beliefs and fairy tales of dwarfs living in anthill (punso) without taking away the quaintness of bedtime stories. Termites have no place in ouir dwellings.  They belong to the forest to keep the balance of nature, recycling dead trees and litters back into soil. 
  • Avoid loud metallic music at home and vicinity. This stimulates termites to feed and make tunnels aggressively, according to recent research.         
Termite queen is surrounded by workers and soldiers, with the king on top.  The king is a bit larger than any member of the castes.  Right, winged termites swarm in early spring in temperate countries, or at the start of the rainy season in the tropics.
Closeup of the soldier, worker and immature members. Winged termite showing two pairs of wings of the same size and pattern (unlike most winged insects), from which its order Isoptera (same wings) is derived..

Left, dry termites live entirely on wood with very little moisture. Right, 
termitecomb, a complex maze of undigested and digested wood, earth 
and fruss (excreta) serves as a complex tunnel and abode of the colony. 

Its architectural design keeps the structure ventilated and light, but strong 
and firm in shape. In the case  of wood, the termitecomb keeps it to appear 
undamaged until it finally gives in to stress and gravity.  
 How high and massive can a termite mound (punso) get? This one in for the Book of Guinness   Right, cross-section of a mound showing the queen's chamber, chimneys and ramifying tunnels.  A mound grows in size through time and as the colony increases. The queen may live up to 20 years, and is capable of rebuilding the mound. In certain societies the queen is dug out and made into a delicacy.  
Basin full of  gamu-gamu.trapped by lamp, a practical method of gathering gamu-gamu for animal feeds and also as human food. Photo taken at author's residence in San Vicente (IS) 2017. 
Cu Chi Tunnel in Vietnam, a complex underground tunnel of the Vietnamese resistance against the French colonialists and Vietcong guerillas during the Vietnam War extends several kilometers linking major strongholds. It houses underground command centers, dormitories, armories, and hospitals. The Cu Chi tunnel owes much of its design from that of the termites. Left, map of the Cu Chi Tunnel complex, author waves at wellwishers before exploring the man-made maze. Right, author points to ventilation system of the tunnel appearing as natural termite mound. Team finds great relief upon emerging from the hot, steamy tunnel. 

Communion with Nature – Ten Ways

"Here is seeing the world in dreams;
half awake, half asleep,
on two planes -  fantasy and reality."avr

Dr Abe V Rotor
Parakeets, Safari World, Thailand

Lovely, friendly -  kindest words ever be,
whereas their kin are wild and free;
lucky in man's judgment these pair  may be
if only we understand their plea
for freedom to the wild, to their ancestry
and away from the artificial tree.  
Tamboili shells, former St. Paul Museum

I'm standing on the world's narrowest isthmus,
among archives and fossils of history,
where I can hold the Pacific and the Atlantic
oceans half the world apart and free;
I cross the time and distance barrier
with these chroniclers singing to me
the unending roars of the tides,
tides on the street, tides of the sea.
Sunken Pier, Puerto, Sto. Domingo, Ilocos Sur

Behold! a jellyfish as looking glass
unfolds a third world scene:
half terrestrial, half aquatic,
solid and liquid in between,
third matter in colloidal form -
strange the world is ever seen. 
Baby sitting: Fluppy, angora rabbit at home

Here is seeing the world in dreams;
half awake, half asleep,
on two planes -  fantasy and reality,
rather than counting sheep,
to unload life's burden at the end of day -
a heaven sent li'l rabbit.
Rare walking stick insects, Museum of Natural History,
UPLB Laguna

Dragons in fairy tales and religious fictions -
they are fierce, they're enemies of mankind;
in fossils and movies they scare the children;
little do we think of them friendly and kind,
devouring pests, singing lullaby in dull air;
misjudged, they're harder and harder to find.
Baby orangutan, Avilon Zoo, San Mateo, Rizal

Monkey on my back, that's what people say
when what we say logic we lack;
genes may vary, yet the same to this day,
indeed, a monkey on our back.
Viewing telescope, Mall of Asia, Pasay Metro Manila

Yes, creatures but man, are getting fewer, farther apart;
changing the old game with art of glass and steel;
where you can't get near, when you can't touch and feel,
technology comes to fill, yet empty still. 
 Red shelf mushrooms, Sacred Heart Novitiate, QC

Flaming red in the night and in bright light -
what secret have you Ganoderma
and yet your light cannot make the dead rise
again, the tree felled by cold heart,
lying unknown and forgotten in its demise.

Crustose lichen on a tree trunk, Silang Cavite 

Crust blankets the tree with powdery green,
 strange indeed to the inquisitive, 
that this is a model of symbiosis,  
for tree and lichen together they live.  

Violin and aquarium fish, Don Antonio Heights 2, Diliman, QC  

Music is universal - that is worthy of praise,
 to all creatures the "Mozart Effect"
that brings us all together in work and ease,
friend and foe, master and subject,
sans division and color in war and peace.~

The Dying Pond Atop Mount Pulog, Benguet

Dr Abe V Rotor

The Dying Pond atop Mt Pulog, Benguet.  Author (right) and friend., 1985   

“Death be not proud,” this dreaded fate defied;

In death something rises at its side

As on a dying pond, a swamp in its place

Grows, dying in peace and grace.

And the watery grave dries into grassland

Where roam the roofs and claws in band;

And the winged sweep the air, retreating

On the trees nearby and advancing.

Yes, the trees they come when the wind blows;

They ride on furs, beaks and furs;

A woodland soon rises from the trees’ breath

And hides the pond, the grass, and death.

A Rocky Shore Comes Alive

"Wish the old days could come back in old age,
     and exchange childhood from being a sage."

Painting and Poem by Abe V Rotor

Summer on a Rocky Shore, in acrylic by AVRotor 2012

Wish the old days could come back in old age,
     and exchange childhood from being a sage;
wish the unspoiled field and shore remain,
     the simple life over richly domain.

Wish the sky is deep blue as the sea before,
     the hills green and alive as the rocky shore;
wish the lilting joy of children fill the air,
     the sweet cacophony of a country fair.

Wish the tide to recede and walk on the reef,
     to be in the underworld for a time so brief,
wish the waves to be as calm as your thought,
     yet wish the surf to keep coming back and forth.

Wish the child in you shall live forevermore,
     as innocent and pure as he was before;
wish for the ideal, the sublime, and the free,
     and the shore shall forever clap for thee. ~

Enlarged details of painting

Plastic bag at sea - a deadly prison

Environment Day  June 5, 2018 
Theme: Get rid of plastic.
Dr Abe V Rotor 

Folded plastic bears remnants of organisms from fish fry to crustaceans trapped in this plastic bag. The cause of death is asphyxiation and exposure to unfavorable conditions and predators.  Entombment in sand and detritus seals their fate, so with countless marine organisms lured into this artificial abode.   
The part of this plastic sheet that is exposed to sunlight shows initial algal growth, but it is just a temporary foothold. Plastics find their way to sea via the tides and flowing rivers, littering and direct dumping. Plastic bottles to car parts outlive humans, for which they are dubbed immortal. White Sands Resort.  Morong, Bataan.  
April 27 2014  
Plastics outlive humans, they are immortal.  avr

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Children Fishing after a Heavy Rain

Painting and Verse by Abe V Rotor

Painted from childhood memory, acrylic on canvas, 2002

Oh, how we love the fields like farmers do,
But not our classmates in school though;
And Nature more than our teachers know
What the sun and rain in childhood sow.

The Art of Diorama

Museum of Natural History, UPLB Laguna 
Photographed and Photo Edited by Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog []

Philippine Eagle lords over the vast landscape atop Mt Apo, its home. Fewer and fewer sightings tell us the bird may soon join the list of extinct animals - if we don't protect its remaining population estimated to be less than a thousand

The idea of a diorama is likened to a showcase in a mall. It is an enclosure of glass, multi-dimensional so that the viewer enjoys a natural panoramic scenery - foreground and background, ground and ceiling, and a spacious center view for the main subject. From one side to the other, and back, the viewer finds freedom of vision to explore the whole diorama.

Natural history dioramas gain attention to naturalness. The stuff animals look real, a pond reveals the secret of its bottom. Water always looks fresh and invigorating. Trees and the whole vegetation retain their freshness. Depth of field leads the eye to the farthest point disappearing in thin air.

Emphasis is given to interaction of the living with the non-living world, the interrelationships of organisms in food chains and food webs, and by the flow of energy from one organism to another.

A diorama artist is multi-skilled: he is a sculptor, a painter and an architect. Above all, he is a scientist who understands the working of biology and ecology. He must be a naturalist, and being one, must uphold the philosophy of reverence for life that makes man the custodian of creation.

The Museum of Natural History is an educational center with a sprawling natural setting - Mt. Makiling, a tropical rainforest reached in three hours from Manila. It is a world-famous center of studies and researches in agriculture, environment and many related sciences, including humanities.

I recommend the place for a whole day educational field trip. An itinerary includes the Mt Makiling Botanical Garden, tour of UPLB campus (agriculture and forestry) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). Special lectures and guided tours may be arranged. Packed lunch under the trees is a rare experience. Nature photography, is at its best - so with on-the-spot composition (drawing, musical sketch, poetry).

Happy field trip!

The Hornbill is another endangered Philippine bird. The first and last time I saw hornbills was in the seventies at the tip of Luzon along the treacherous Patapat road joining the Ilocos Region and Cagayan Valley. They are a closely knit family moving on the forest canopy. Their call is heard far and wide. It is resonated by their big hollow bills and echoed by big trees and cliffs.

Cave bats in a simulated habitat. Being nocturnal, the bats hunt from flying insects in the dark locating their prey through echolocation, the principle of the radar.Their droppings make a huge guano deposit mined for agriculture.

Tree mushroom garden

A rare rodent that lives on trees in Palawan, the last bastion of rare animal species, among them the porcupine, mouse deer and anteater.

Nesting pigeons keep vigil for intruders and predators. Masters of camouflage they blend with the surroundings and remain extremely quiet and still at the sign of danger. But when imminent, the mother bird stealthily dashes to another place and decoys away the attention of the enemy.

A cluster of nature dioramas, each an ecosystem pristine and unspoiled

Instead of a diorama, the actual skeleton, and replica, of a whale are displayed for anatomical and morphological study. In the Smithsonian the blue whale, the biggest creature that ever lived on earth spans the length of a hall the size of a typical chapel.

Centennial celebration of UPLB, pictorials at the museum's lobby.
Author and wife are among the countless visitors. ~