The Ancient Modern
I Saw the Wonder and Glory / Joshua Alan Sturgill
Yesterday, I saw the wonder and glory…
of a termite migration!
As the sun was setting, a spouting cloud of huge-winged insects as large dragonflies—I thought that’s what they were—rose up from a walled yard next to our building. The evening light made them iridescent as they floated off in all directions—thousands of them, it appeared, all glowing orange and drifting up like dandelion seeds.
After just a few minutes, several different kinds of birds came swooping around the swarm, eating them out of the air—mostly birds I didn’t recognize, but they looked like sparrows, finches, magpies—
It all lasted a full half-hour, while the birds dived and the termites kept rising and rising. A volcano of termites with spouts of birds! I was looking down from a sixth-floor balcony, and the termites spread out so high and far, they came quite close and I could see their big, ant-like bodies and their thinner-than-paper wings.
I didn’t know what they were, but a Ugandan friend explained. He said that, in Uganda, people eat them, too, just like the birds do. Some people pull off their wings and some don’t, but he said in any case they taste good… like popcorn. Living popcorn? A snack that flies right into your mouth? Yum, I suppose…?
The whole moment was shocking, beautiful, un-repeatably strange. I had the best possible view—combination of perfect light and a balcony—and I had an expert termite tour guide!