The Good, the Bad, the Termites


Photo courtesy CSIRO CC 3.0

Howdy folks. Today, I’ve got another entry from Grad Bernart’s research diaries. For once, he seems to be reasonably happy with his progress. Enjoy!


The good news is, my research into the language of ants might actually yield some useful results.

The bad news is, I’m surrounded by idiots. And termites.

I was so looking forward to today. I’ve waited the better part of a month for the termite mound to be delivered and today was supposed to be the day of arrival. There’s a plot in Experimental Garden no. 1–a nice open sward near several large trees–prepared for the termites and all I need now is a healthy colony. Once they’re in the ground then, quick as you can say “pest control”, the little monsters will set up a symbiosis with the trees. I’ll give them a few months to settle in, then start searching for their writings. Given how closely related termites are to ants, Grad Legun’s ant translations should make it easy for me to decipher any termite writing I can find.

Forty years, I’ve been working on this. Forty years, trying to understand the language of trees. Who would’ve thought that insects could be the key? But, considering how dependent termites are on trees, they must a) write copiously about them and b) have a tremendous knowledge of them. So, at a minimum, I’ll gain a better understanding of the trees. If I’m lucky, I might even come one step closer to understanding their language.

(I hope trees aren’t as blasphemous as ants. Spending four decades on research only to have my head cut off by an executioner would not be the best result.)

But the plan’s gone up in smoke. Or, to be more precise, sawdust. The nincompoops who dug up the termite mound failed to follow my precise and careful packing instructions. No surprise, then, that the bottom fell out of the crate when the porters tried to lift it. The crate had been chewed to dust. The earthen mound of the nest was intact but there was no sign of the termites anywhere.

Well, that’s not quite right. There were a few stragglers crawling around and numerous holes in the warehouse floor and walls. But the queen, along with the majority of the colony, was long gone. Clearly, the termites had dug their way into the building in search of food and a new home.

As usual, I paid off the porters at the warehouse. They’ve profited enough off of me in the past (and doubtless will again in the future), so I’m confident they won’t tell anyone who brought the termites in.

Still, that warehouse is on the High Bridge. The termites can’t harm the stone of the bridge itself but I’m worried about the buildings on the bridge. All the warehouses, inns and taverns have wooden buttresses supporting the portions that hang out over the water.

I wonder if l should warn someone. Surely, those buildings are inspected occasionally, perhaps by the Harbor Master or some such official, aren’t they? And, anyway, it’ll be ages before the termites can do any real damage, so I’m sure they’ll be spotted before it gets dangerous.

Oh well, time to order another termite mound. This time, I’ll have to consider how best to impress the finders with the importance of proper packaging.

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