Thursday, May 8

Methane chimneys

Okay, I lied. They’re actually termite launch pads for royalty. At least the queen is royal. The boy termites with wings are completely disposable after mid-air mating is finished; they become instant bird chow as they float wingless to an otherwise death-inducing crash to earth. The queen is then ready to reproduce for what—forty years?— and to grow to the size of a lemon or even a coconut and pump out millions of her kind, mostly commoners, with the exception of a few winged royals every spring.

These towers, which stand at most 3" or 75 millimeters tall are what the winged termites crawl through (they’re hollow) and jump off in order to get airborne. They don’t have the power to do it directly off the ground, and there aren’t any easy-to-climb grasses around for them to gain the necessary altitude. So, grain by grain, the slaves construct these elaborate towers. When the launch is complete and the world gains a few hundred more queens, what becomes of the towers? Mostly they get knocked down by critters or even a moderate wind. But while they stand, maybe they’re used to vent a few megatons of methane, helping keep our cozy planet even toastier. I should go over tonight, light them off, and enjoy the light show. Or toast a few royals.

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