Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Florida is blessed with all manner of pests, beyond the kind that move here and build golf courses, condo's, and u-store it miniwarehouses. This post is not about those pests.
Today's pest post is about termites...who are only pests when they are eating something you don't want them too ... like the son who finds your bag of Kashi Dark Chocolate Chip Oatmeal cookies you cleverly hid behind the canned corn.
This is not about killing the little wood munchers. Nor is it about the cool symbiotic relationship they have inside their pastey bodies.
It's about training them to obey your every command ... sort of.
Termites depend on pheromones to find their way in a world of darkness. Pheromones are essentially chemicals that communicate a message. In the subterranean termite world, a pheromone trail tells them where to go. They are basically powerless to ignore these messenger scents.
It just so happens that certain very cheap pens, BIC pens especially, contain chemicals that mimic the termite trail pheromone scent. This little bit of serendipity opens up a whole world of termite fun.
So get yourself some termites, a cheap BIC pen, and a sheet of paper.
On the paper, make any design you wish with the pen and add your termites to the paper.
You will GASP in wonder (I did anyway) as the little wanderers find your ink masterpiece and begin to follow it as if it were the yellow brick road.
I have fun with this in my class each year when we get to Insects. I don't mention pheromones before the activity. I just bring in some termites and tell the kids that if they carefully coach and encourage the termites, they can train them to follow a pattern drawn on the paper.
Termites are blind and deaf, but the kids don't know that.
For 10 minutes or so, they are all bent over their papers, talking to termites, encouraging them, reprimanding them, etc.
It's a hoot.
Every once in a while some kid happens to be using a BIC pen and the termites obey.
"See, Cindy has the knack", I announce to the class. Cindy beams.
Eventually, being kids, they begin to figure out it has something to do with the type of writing instrument used.
THAT is the moment I explain what pheromones are and then everyone gets to borrow one of my BIC pens so they can be a termite master.
An obscure vocabulary word becomes part of their life experience.
So, if you could invent a pheromone spray that would carry a message that had to be obeyed, what would it be?
Posted by R.Powers at 6:04 AM