Monday, 8 September 2008

Bugs save pest control man!

This is a survival story from the BBC a few months ago that I have only just discovered - Bug feast save Outback pest man

I won't copy out the whole story but I will describe the salient points. A former pest control officer got lost in the Australian Outback and thought he would die until he stumbled on a termite mound and "got stuck in".

Theo Rosmulder survived for 4 days eating termites and other insects before being found by local Aborigines. All he had with him was a penknife, a torch and a metal detector. He believed he wouldn't be found so decided to "crawl into a hole and just call it quits". After spending the night in a cave, he chanced upon a termites nest, knocked the top off and began to eat them. A Western Australia Police spokesperson said the termites had provided him with moisture and protein!

Mmm, let's think about this for a while. It certainly makes a great story but how likely is eating a bunch of termites going to keep you hydrated? Personally, I don't think it would help at all and could possibly worsen the situation - here's why.

To start with, there is going to be very little protein in your average soldier termite. They are going to be mainly chitinous exoskeleton and not a lot else. The body uses water to metabolise food, and protein is the worst culprit for using up your internal stores of water. So, that being the case, by harvesting and eating these termites he may well have used up more water than he would have gained and thus compromised his own survival! You can certainly live for quite some time without food so, again, eating the termites was probably not the best plan. If you have little or no access to water it is better not to eat - even if the food is available due to the amount of water used during metabolic processes.

He said he was holed up in a cave and had basically given up hope. To me, this means he probably spent a lot of time in the cave where it was cooler and shaded and didn't do much 'work'. This would have reduced the amount of water he lost through perspiration. That is probably what saved him - not the termites! He may well have been well hydrated before he got lost and this would have helped considerably as well.

Overall, I don't think the termites helped at all but like I said, it makes for a good story!

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