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Backyard horror

This afternoon, I decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather to clean up the backyard a bit. Industrious squirrels have created what would become a forest of black walnut trees back there without some human intervention.

So I went to work with a couple of cutting tools, snipping and hacking the unwanted trees to clear out some sunlight for the wildflowers Sharon planted. After cutting out everything that looked like a walnut (or maple, poplar, or mulberry), I came inside for a brief rest and a drink of water before returning to the yard to bag up the waste.

That’s when I found…them.

As I started to bag the unwanted saplings, my attention was drawn to an unusual black insect with white wings on a twig. I glanced around and saw a few more on the ground nearby.

They looked familiar. The last time I’d seen a similar bug, I was at my desk in the basement of my home in St. Louis, and hundreds of them were dropping on me through a gap in the false ceiling.

Termite swarm!

I knew where to find them; I’d noticed that the remnant of a tree that had been cut down in the yard years ago was home to a colony when I moved it a couple of months ago. Sure enough, the stump was alive, crawling with thousands of the winged insects like something from a bad SciFi Channel movie.

Well, I thought, termites are second cousins to ants, and I’ve got a can of ant spray in the garage. Let’s experiment!

It worked. One can later, the tree stump was littered with dead and dying swarmers. Once again, man triumphs due to superior technology! And opposable thumbs.

Interestingly, a steady stream of sparrows has picked over the stump since the ant spray dried a few hours ago. Only a few of the swarmers are left — and, as you can see in the picture (click for a larger version), there were a lot of swarmers. I had no idea sparrows ate those things when they had a chance.

I’m not sorry I sprayed the swarm, but I hope I haven’t poisoned the sparrows.

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