Even though the coorgstories’s lady calls me “SAKUI” I have absolutely no idea what my name is.. But I am definitely not from Japan. Let me tell you little about me…
I am a desert termite … after coming to Kuwait from the Red Sea area of Saudi Arabia I managed to propagate.. a quantum leap in the game of evolution the secret of which I cannot tell you. You have to figure out yourself… but first learn to live in harmony which is the substratum of creation. I hitch hiked from Saudi aboard a Conocarpus tree because it’s my favourite food. This tree is as tough as I am & it’s fast-growing as well as tolerant to heat, draught & salt.
If you are wondering how am I helping evolution? Well I am a super bug… I am functioning under harsher climate & managed to survive & expanded my family from scratch.
How do I help Mother Nature? Well I am creating fertile top soil. If I get a place with trees & water I can convert the place into fertile land within a decade or so. That’s my story in a nutshell….
One fine day I stumbled upon this beautiful fascinating artwork with array of vivid shades of brown under Conocarpus tree but could not make out what it was. I never saw something so unique before. A well-planned nest, as if someone had painted a canvas with array of different shades of brown, starting from fresh wood colour to light brown to chocolate brown. And the water was dripping constantly from the drip irrigation pipe without disturbing the pieces. There was small vent for the excess water to drain too. The fresh wood turns brown eventually, guess because of the chemicals in the glue turning the wood there by creating different shades of brown.
Took a picture & asked around sent to my family members, colleagues & friends, no one could guess what it is. Everyone said it’s something they never saw in their life. That’s when my curiosity increased & the nest became a passion… whenever possible I went to see the nest & spent few minutes there yet I could never see the owner of the nest.
I could see the ants running around in & out of their nest nearby in couple of places where somebody usually puts some gains or sugar. But none near these beautiful nests… it looks more like the owners are the termites than the ants. When I sat down beside it, I could see the wood pieces were gleaming as if each tiny piece is polished individually. Out of curiosity I tried to touch it to pick one to show my family only to realize that it was glued permanently.
How did the termite ended up in Kuwait? Perhaps hitch hiked while importing the tree from Saudi… but I can’t understand how did they get a queen? Did they manage to breed one? So how many of them came here?
Initially there were only three nests & gradually they started expanding. One fine day, the workers who were repairing the compound wall had disconnected the water supply & that’s when I realized no water no nest. It’s a great miracle that they manage to survive in this heat but water is the most important source of survival. Since there is no underground water in a desert like in the forest, they solely depending upon the artificial water supply. Perhaps to grow mushrooms, their food. Once the water supply is cut, the nest became bone dry & within days they started their nest elsewhere but still under their favourite tree, the Conocarpus ….
Then in a sudden move they also found comforts under the date tree but only two trees so for. There are Cuba palm, bear fruit & other different trees but they are untouched. The latest one is an ideal location & they are planning to build a larger nest as the foundation seems pretty large. The one under the date tree however is growing in height faster compared to others. Perhaps the roots of the date tree decays faster than the other trees degrading into soil quicker. what is note worthy is that none of the plant or tree is dying or died… so it seems like they have a symbiotic relationship like ants & aphids or cattle & egrets.
Conocarpus lancifolius, derives its name from its cone shaped berries but does not have a proper English name. However it is known as Damas in Arabic & Qalab in Somali languages. A mangrove shrub it is found in the costal & riverine areas of Somalia, Dijbouti & Yemen, etc., etc. Also found in the mangroves of Saudi Arabia & now a days becoming a popular ornamental as well as hedge plant all around Middle East.
The interesting character of the tree seems to be its adaptation. Kuwait is one of the hottest countries in the world & in summer it grows as if possessed … it is hardy tree that grows well in sandy or rocky, alkaline soils as well as wet, saline conditions. Fast & symmetrical growth habit makes it the perfect hedgerows as well as landscape trees & maintenance seems to be practically zero except trimming when over grown as well as water supply…. However if let it grow straight it breaks easily whenever there is heavy winds. (I have seen it happening couple of times). Flowers are inconspicuous, with clusters of greenish white flowers mostly 1 to 3 inches long. They appear at the end of twigs & at leaf axils. There are no petals, & the sepals are fused. The tree seems to be having either the flower or fruits all the time!! Even though there are thousands of seeds it’s odd that I never saw one sprouting anywhere near!! The brownish red fruit look like old leather buttons & earned the nickname button wood.
However one of my Kuwaiti boss, who is very fond of plants & gardening, just hates this plant because he says his asthmatic allergy increases because of this tree!!
I nick named the termite as “Sakui” because born in Saudi Arabia, raised & propagated in Kuwait & found by an Indian… These nests are located in the northern side of the garden & I have no idea if it is by chance or choice may be to avoid direct sun.
To point out how these are different from ants nests, here’s pics of what ants nests look like: