Ten Acres, Two Horses, And A Billion Termites

About three years ago, I first noticed some mud casings covering dead sticks and weeds on the ground on the back part of our ten acres. I couldn’t figure out what kind of creature was making the casings, because I never saw anything inside of them.

20121214-074207.jpg

I saw and more of the mud tubes without ever seeing what might be making them. Until it rained two weeks ago.

I was out looking at the terraces on one side of my hill with my neighbor, Gary, because we’d had problems with run-off from my hill for the first time ever.

Gary had commented how bare the hill was, but I never connected that with all the mud tubes I’d been seeing. I poked at the tubes like I always do, and for the first time saw little critters–little, white grub-like insects. My neighbor Gary and I both said “Termites!”

20121214-082503.jpg

He knew they were some kind of subterranean termite, because they were living in the soil far away from any building. I had no idea termites could live in the ground and eat woody dead plant matter.

Here are some examples of their handiwork

20121214-082828.jpg

20121214-082850.jpg

20121214-082909.jpg

Here are mud tubes that the termites have made over the stems of living buckwheat shrubs

20121214-083009.jpg

I started scouring the Internet for information and found images of something that looks most like what I have. They live in soil, make mud tubes, and are common in Texas grassland. The species has the common name desert termite.

I haven’t had a definitive ID of the kind of termite these are yet, but I’ve talked to a couple of experts through San Bernardino County Agricultural Extension and to an entomology professor at UC Riverside. They may be Western Subterranean termites, or something else, but what they are is a mixed bag:

On the one hand, these termites aerate and help create soil, like earthworms do. On the other hand, they devour old roots and plant matter, so they take away things that hold soil in place, and therefore are contributing to erosion–at least on my terraced hill.

Here is a close-up of the critters, for you amateur entomologists out there

20121214-083610.jpg

The only remedies I’ve heard so far are spraying or simply harrowing the soil to disrupt the nests (one colony can contain millions of termites!). disrupting the tubes allows ants, their natural predator, and the elements to get at them.

Stay tuned, and I’ll keep you updated on the battle with the termites for Tiger Tail Terrace!

Advertisements

State St. & 5th

This weekend we made a quick trip out to the house, but ended up spending the night. Sunday morning we went downtown to, for the adults, try Augie’s Coffee House, the new cafe and roaster on 5th Street in Redlands. We had a good macchiato made with their house espresso.

Once we were awake, we took the kids to Martha Green’s for a hearty, homestyle breakfast. Their mueslix with pecans, chunks of grapes and melon, and heavy cream is “the bomb,” as my friend Maeve would say.

Here are some scenes from State St., which was the original Main St. of Redlands long before the (now defunct) Redlands Mall went in, let alone the much newer Citrus Plaza shopping center that’s anchored by Target, Bed, Bath & Beyond, and Barnes & Noble.

The old ads on the side of the building facing the little plaza are originals, restored after they they came to light when a couple of buildings came down to create the little park here.

This downtown beautification and redevelopment project happened after I moved away, so enjoying this spot with my own kids isn’t a flashback for me–it’s more like discovering a cool new spot in my own backyard!

20121202-192012.jpg

20121202-192026.jpg

Here is the Christmas tree at the corner of State St. and 5th.

20121202-192113.jpg

A big planter at the same corner with an old citrus packing label as decoration. The citrus label motif recurs throughout downtown and is a quaint historical touch.

20121202-192559.jpg

A look inside Martha Green’s restaurant where they also sell some neat reproduction citrus label gifts such as coasters, trivets, and soaps. I bought a few coasters for the house!

20121202-192806.jpg

<a