Small Talk

Look out, the insects are coming

I don’t think there will be a fire, flood or storm that removes mankind from the planet. 

I think instead, insects are biding their time, planning their take-over, and their headquarters may be my fence line.

There continue to be uprisings, with the termites currently showing real strength and leadership. Or maybe they are just fattening up the troops, courtesy of any wood that surrounds my house. All it needs is a microscope to make it a scene from any of the “Men in Black” films.

I think the only thing that keeps the take-over at bay is inter-species squabbles between the cockroaches, spiders, mosquitos, fruit flies and termites. If they can make nice and decide who will be in power when the coup d’etat comes down, we are all in deep trouble.

It began when we suddenly realized the wooden fence around our yard was being held up by tall grass and the on-shore breeze. Water and rot may have had a hand in it, but the real culprits seem to be the voracious, chewing termites. Our gracious neighbor is replacing the section we share and no sooner did he get a new portion installed then the termites began deserting their former quarters looking for a freshly built meal. That’s just discouraging.

I have launched an all-out research effort to find out how and if these critters can be squelched, but I am skeptical. Termites in our neck of the woods include drywood, dampwood and subterranean. That means if one won’t eat it, the other will. More bad news. Termites can be long-lived: “queens and kings can live for decades while individual workers can survive for several years.” Oh great.

These Spartan warriors do not necessarily even require contact with moisture or soil – just my fence. And the capper is, the desert area of California is home to the most destructive species of subterranean termites. But wait. There’s more. “Another destructive species in this group, the Formosan subterranean termite, is now in California but restricted to a small area near San Diego.” Yay.

I get the feeling that we are simply putting out wood as a ritual sacrifice, knowing that it may serve as a fence for a while, but its real purpose is to placate our future world leaders. When the time comes, I want to be able to remind them of all the lovely meals we prepared for them. It might buy me a little time before the mosquito Air Force swoops down and finishes me off.

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer listening for the sounds of thousands of little marching feet. Contact her at