While walking through the Ashley Schiff Preserve with my class, the quantity of things I like to call ‘nonliving living things” disinterested me. These trees, fungi, moss and leaves bored me and I wanted to find something fun. So I set forth on my quest; flipping over rocks, rummaging through leaves with a stick, and overall just acting like a pest to things we humans would call pests. To my surprise, an accident finally led me to something intriguing. As I looked for something compelling on this so-called quest, I accidentally kicked a log in my path. The damp log broke and to my surprise, revealed multiple white/clear ant-like creatures. Projecting my teenage angst, I started kicking off more bark from this log until I saw at least twenty of these insects scrambling for shelter. I termites.jpgopened up the iNaturalist app and took a picture. The app identified the bug as Zootermopsis angusticollis, aka the Pacific Dampwood Termite. The name automatically alerted me to something unusual; we were on the Atlantic side of the US, not the Pacific. I clicked the info icon by the name on the app, and like I thought, this creature lives on the West Coast, with no observations made of it on the East Coast other than mine and a lone one in Albany. The app likely misidentified the species, but nevertheless, it made for an interesting find amongst the other relatively boring flora and fauna. The IUCN Red List has not assessed this taxon as of yet, but according to the iNaturalist app, its population does not concern. On the Web of Science, a study on the Pacific Dampwood Termite concluded that STDs caused the collapse of many colonies of this species. They really should’ve paid attention in sex-ed.

Gurpreet Singh

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