Roots 'n' Shoots: October 2016

Why is RnS Moving to

Google had brought out an algorithm update in May 2017. With previous updates like Panda or Penguin, Mr G had penalized blogs or websites with low quality content and those more focused on aggressive adverts (including multiple ads or pop-up ads in articles). However, many blogs/websites that weren't shady got penalized beyond recovery too and a lot of people lost their income. The May 2017 update has had wide-scale effect on blogs and websites, but without any explanation from Mr G as to why or what it does. RnS has been hit by it too and hard. RnS organic search stats (i.e. users from Google) have dropped by 75% since. Even though RnS is not a source of income, I tried to figure out why RnS is being culled. It seems that it doesn't really have anything to do with RnS per se, but likely because RnS is FREE and not paying for page ranking (via AdWords or Ad Ranking). Now it is likely being aggressively shoved to lower page rankings to accommodate the paid ads.

I cannot rely on Mr G anymore to get RnS' content where it is needed. So I am busy moving RnS to Wordpress where you can find me as Whisker Flowers @

I am also imposing 301 redirects from already moved posts and pages!

- The Shroom - (AKA Whisker Flowers)

Saturday, 29 October 2016

When Termites Fly... cues from Nature

Flight of the Northern Harvester Termite
Hodotermes mossambicus
- not the best picture, but the camera doesn't see them LOL! -

"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished" , is a quote from Lao Tzu (Loazi), the author of the I-Ching (Tao Te Ching) and the philosophy of Taoism. I thought that it was especially fitting considering that as vegetable gardeners we are very aware of the seasons  and what this means for our crops each year (farmers even more so). If crops do not enter the soil at a specific time then crop yields are impacted or no crops are available at all. It is not just a matter of the time required for a crop to come into production for timely harvest, but also the amount of water content available in the soil and water table that influences how well crops grow or if they grow at all.

Alates (reproductives) and Soldiers
[You can click on the picture to enlarge]

- the one on the right took a bit of a nose dive upon lift off, they're not the best fliers :)  -

I think that we get swept up (as we do in most of our daily lives) with the time at which things 'need' to be done. With the threat of another drought looming for this year most of us are very concerned about when it will rain in order for us to get food production season going. Roodepoort had received a total of 47 mm of rain during the period of 7-23 October. On the 22nd the future kings and queens of the termites took to the sky in their masses. Their brief nuptial flight postponed (along with this year's sowing plans) by the late coming of the rain. I remember that they used to fly a lot earlier in the year with the coming of good rain, usually early September. Just short of two months past their due date, a good stretch of rain had triggered their annual cycle once again and ensured the establishment and maintenance of the next generation.

It's a war!
The ants have stormed the termite stronghold!
You can see the termite soldiers trying to fend off both ant workers and soldiers!
Alas termite alates are being captured!

[You can click on the picture to enlarge]

Termite swarming also means opportunity for food. All manner of predator take full advantage of the sudden oversupply and swoop, mob, peck and carry away countless prey. The swallows and bats are the most prominent predators to intercept the termites by wing. Flocks of swallows feast on the early fliers when there is still enough light in the sky, whereas bats take the night shift and any remaining fliers that emerge after dusk. Predatory insects also capture any victims who stray too close and other night time predators collect the now-wingless reproductives from the ground. Some stragglers are still left the next morning when early birds peck them up from the paving and roads.

Termite victims taken to the ant nest.
On the one side I feel bad for the termites,
but the ants have been so desperate lately (they're all over the kitchen!) and
this food will go a long way.

[You can click on the picture to enlarge]

Seeing the whole familiar scenario unfold once more was quite humbling. Taking some cues from nature in the sense that our vegetables will be planted and crop harvested. The produce may not be as bountiful or timely as we would like, but everything happens in its own time and life carries on.


Some scientific details to supplement my somewhat philosophical piece 

Termites make up their own order, Isoptera. They are not related to ants (from the order Hymenoptera), since they do not have constricted waists or elbowed antennae. The most common species in Gauteng is the Northern Harvester Termite (Afrikaans: Rysmier, translation: "rice ant"), Hodotermes mossambicus. They are not dry-wood termite and, as such they feed on grasses and twigs. They are ubiquitous and form large underground colonies even in very urbanised areas. Parent colonies release eyed, flying reproductives (alates) at dusk after a period of heavy rain. They fly a short distance, fall to the ground and detach their wings. Females produce pheromones to attract males. The pair burrow into suitable substrate and a new colony becomes established after egg laying. New colonies will only produce reproductives in a few years, but once established colonies can last for centuries.

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