I noticed the first hole in the floor of the sanctuary by flashlight, and I first thought someone had jammed a pole into the floor to support something. .

Something interesting happened while we were on Buvuma Island in early April. I almost said, “Something funny happened,” but I don’t think the people involved are going to find it very funny.

We were teaching in the church building we have been using consistently for the last three years. It is a typical pole-and-wood-slat building with tin sheets for a roof and a dirt floor. The podium portion of the room is a platform of raised dirt about 12 inches high at the front of the building. I always set up my screen, projector and computer on the podium so the students can clearly see the slides and the whiteboard.

We were there for five days, and on the third day as I was walking around on the podium, I noticed strange holes about an inch and a half in diameter in the floor of the podium on one side. I assumed someone had jammed a pole into the dirt to support something, and I didn’t give it much more thought.

Upon investigation, I noticed the termites!

Then I began to notice other holes developing, all about the same size and in the same area. When I investigated closely, the attached pictures show what I saw.

I am told that these tiny white bugs are termites. They have constructed these large holes into what must for them be super-highways, and the colony from which these highways extend upward seems to be directly under the podium of the church building. As I watched this process over the last two days we were there, I saw that the ground around the holes was gradually being built up by these tiny little creatures. This is very common in Uganda, and I have included a picture here to show what a mature termite mound looks like.

I have never observed one in the incipient stages of the colony, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out where the church’s podium is headed without some serious intervention. I’ve also never observed a termite mound inside a building. Science says that termites are very good for the soil; I wonder how they will be for the soil in the sanctuary…

I pointed this out to the leaders of the church since they didn’t seem to have noticed this invasion of their facility yet. They were mildly concerned, but not overwhelmingly alarmed. I guess they have a way to deal with them that I don’t know about. I asked how they planned to solve the problem, and they were non-committal. They live in a fairly primitive area, and I doubt very much that there are pest control companies available to the islands even if they could afford it.

I guess I’ll just have to wait for our next visit to find out how they will deal with this infestation right in their sanctuary.  I hope we’ll still have a building to meet in, and I hope I don’t have to share the podium with a huge termite mound.

 

More holes appeared. The soil is already beginning to build up around the holes.