Can You Guess What Insects Invaded My Flat?

Can You Guess What Insects Invaded My Flat?

Hey everyone!
It’s Inés from Draw Curiosity! Firstly, sorry for being gone for so long without much
explanation! I don’t really want to go into too many details and don’t think I should
need to go into them anyway, but a concise summary would basically be I was very burnt
out after my PhD, I was quite stressed, this made me relapse with my OCD, and I felt it
like the best decision was to take a step back away from the Internet and YouTube and
try and reduce stressors in my life, get everything in order and basically do what I needed to
do to be less stressed. Now, sadly I wouldn’t say I am totally better and honestly, I’m
still pretty stressed, but I am definitely doing a lot better than I was and I’m in a
much better frame of mind to come back and make videos about science and curiosities
and bugs and all the other things which I am really enthusiastic about and which I hope
you will enjoy too – so here I am! Secondly, there have been changes – I know
you’re all looking at the hair! It has indeed all gone! For me this is quite old news now,
it’s been like this for a while now and I really like it. However, I’m determined
for the comment section to not be about my appearance, so if you do have any questions,
I actually preemptively already made a few videos on my second channel explaining why
I cut my hair, so please go watch those if you have any questions because I have hopefully
answered any question you could possibly have had about it. I do have a challenge for you
though – and if you haven’t done this already, because I have posted about this on twitter
and instagram, but I would love for you to go to this link, and guess
how much you thought the braid that I cut off weighed – please do weigh in with your
best guess, I will be weight-ing 😉 all that I ask is that you don’t write your guess
in the comments, otherwise it might bias and influence other people’s guesses, and we
want to be scientific as possible here! And anyway, if you felt that the meagre 1
metre change in hair length was a big deal, wait till I tell you all about the eleven
thousand kilometer difference I’ve made to my life! A couple of months ago I finally
moved out of Oxford back to my hometown Seville, and then about a month later I moved continents
to Malaysia, so now I’m living on the island of Borneo, in the city of Kuching, capital
of Sarawak state. I will probably also make a video on the second channel explaining why,
but today’s little story is set right here in this apartment in Kuching. [Raw Curiosity intro (yeah, I don’t know why
I made it like this)] So if you know me well, you’ll know that
I love my insects and I will fully admit to the fact that one of the main things for which
I was most excited about moving to Malaysia was the wildlife, specifically the insects.
Tropical regions have a much higher biodiversity than temperate regions, and I’m here for
it. Also I really love the heat, and apparently the humidity as well, so I haven’t even
used the aircon in this place yet and instead I usually just have my window open for ventilation
and also in the secret hopes that maybe some insect from the outside will make its way
indoors for me to have a closer look! I know it probably sounds like I have a deathwish,
but there are actually these really giant wasps, maybe hornets, I don’t know, and they
fly around outside and I secretly really want one of them to grace me a visit. I really
want to see one of them up close – I know, you can call me nuts. Anyway, indeed, ask and you shall receive,
and in my case perhaps I received a little bit more than I bargained for. Now, I’m
living in a high-ish rise building in the middle of a city, so it probably shouldn’t
surprise me that the vast majority of invertebrates that I have allowed to trespass on my premises,
whether voluntarily or involuntarily, were not cool tropical bugs from the depth of the
Bornean jungle… but household pests. And today’s story is no different. In fact,
I propose we play a little game, I am curious to know how long it takes you to figure out
what mysterious arthropod swarmed my flat, because as an entomologist I am personally
ashamed by how long it took me to realise what these insects were. So let’s set the scene. It’s a weekday
evening at the beginning of monsoon season, and the storms from the day had finally died
down. I was working in my office, so like most days, I opened the window to allow a
gentle breeze to come through whilst I sat at my keyboard. As the sun began to set, I
noticed that a UFI, an unidentified flying insect, had made its way into my room.
The first two seconds I saw it, I thought it could be a wasp, as its body trailed behind
it – but I noticed that it seemed to struggle a lot with flight and Hymenopterans are relatively
skilled flyers. My next thought was this might be a Neuropteran, because from what I could
tell it had roughly four equally sized wings that seemed quite large and membranous. However,
this insect was also flying quite haphazardly and whilst Neuropterans might not be the most
agile of flyers, they are generally quite graceful when they do fly. In fact, because
it was flying with quite a nosedive, and desperately spiralling into the ground, at first I thought
it might have something wrong with its wing, and whilst this was happening, I noticed that
another identical insect flew into my office – I had been graced with not one, but two,
and then three and four and five – – and by this point there were quite a few of them
flying manically around my office, so I decided to quickly slink out into the kitchen, turning
on a couple of lights along the way because it was actually quite dark now that the sun
had already fully set, to quickly grab an empty bottle and a glass to see if I could
contain these insects. By the time I got back to the office, which
was only about 10 seconds later, there were over 10 of them in the room, so I quickly
closed the window and put a glass on the top of one of them to see if it would encourage
it to stop flying and settle down so I could take a closer look. I tried to use my bottle
with the other one, and it’s wing fell off which actually made me feel quite guilty so
I decided I needed to brainstorm a safer way to catch them. I did notice that one of them
got stuck in a drop of water that had fallen out of the bottle, so I decided to fill the
bottle with water and just pour it all over my tiled floor. Because they were flying intentionally
into the ground, and their wings were so big, the water actually did a very good job at
pinning them to the ground without drowning them. I briefly wondered if they were flying
ants, because honestly this swarm reminded me of a nuptial flight, where many reproductive
individuals will fly out at the same time on the same day in order to find a mate and
found new colonies. So I did briefly think that they could be queen ants attempting to
nest in the ground. However, when the mystery insects were trapped in the water, I could
clearly tell that these were no Hymenopterans. They didn’t have the narrow waist nor the
elbowed antennae that are characteristic of queen ants. So I still didn’t know what
they were, and at this point I actually had to leave quite quickly as I was going to go
to a dance class, so as I opened the office door to go and get changed I was greeted by
a swarm of around 300 of these insects that had gathered in my living room after I had
carelessly turned the light on less than 10 minutes earlier. So what did I do? I very
quickly refilled my water bottle and I just chucked it all over my floor and surprisingly
in 30 seconds flat every single one was glued to the floor. This was a surprisingly good
method, because the water creates a thin film on the floor, shallow enough such that the
insect won’t drown in the water, but because the insect’s wings were so large, they are
actually unable to unstick them from the water due to the surface tension. It is also reversible,
because if you remove the insect from the water and you allow it to dry, it will actually
just be able to fly and live exactly as it did before ending up in water – and to be
honest I expect no less of an insect living in a tropical rainy country. Additionally,
also because it is so humid in Kuching, I believe it is actually the most humid city
in Malaysia, the water shouldn’t be evaporating any time soon, so I was hoping it would keep
them glued in place whilst I bought myself some time and went to enjoy my dance class,
and you know, just delay dealing with them! So, the whole area of the city seemed to be
covered in these insects, as the stairway that lead up to my dance class was also peppered
with these mystery insects. On my way back two and a half hours later and still none
the wiser as to what these non-Hymenopteran insects were, I remember I asked the guard
at the apartment gates what they were. And he said something like “sempoh” or “sempah”,
not for lack of trying, I have not been able to find any word in Sarawak Malay or related
dialects that matches with any type of flying insect that sounds like that. The closest
I can think of is sampah, which means rubbish, so I don’t know what he was referring to sadly.
I saw quite a few on the ground and some were missing their wings and they were clearly
being chased by their mates in a behaviour known as tandem run, where several males chase
a female and the female chooses the one she wishes to mate with, so it was clear to me
that this was definitely some sort of nuptial flight. Now, going up in the lift I encountered
two of my neighbours, and I also asked them what these mysterious abundant insects were.
They spoke in Chinese about it, but sadly my Chinese wasn’t – and still isn’t – good
enough to pick out the name, but basically they said they didn’t know the name in English
but they swarm occasionally in the early evening after there’s heavy rain and they smell
really bad. I’m ashamed to say I actually verified that claim. When I finally opened
the door home, Malaysia’s humidity didn’t let me down and thankfully I wasn’t received
by another swarm but instead by the insects still being mostly glued to the ground. However,
some giant versions of these insects, almost like the boss of a videogame, they suddenly
materialised out of nowhere, but when they finally landed in my water trap they seemed
to almost purposefully shed or yank their wings off in order to continue being able
to move – and the dealate insect honestly looked very similar to a cockroach. And this
is when the penny finally dropped for me! What insect has a life cycle very similar
to that of ants, in that they engage in nuptial flights in huge numbers and shed their wings
soon before or after mating and they seem to attempt to bury into the ground to found
a new nest but aren’t Hymenopterans and are closely related to cockroaches? Ding ding
ding! Termites!! and termites are never good news, so we entered DEFCON-3, time to terminate
the termites, say bye to the 白蚁, chuck out the cekeler, termuerte a las termitas,
shiroari wa mou shindeiru and the termites promptly went from reversible floorwater quarantine
to swift death by summer footwear compression and disposal via the sewage system.
Anyway, admittedly there is a very high chance now that some of the several hundred termites
that invaded could have shed their wings and for there to have been a pair of the opposite
sex who used their strong smelly termite pheromones to find each other somewhere in my flat and
mate and found a colony… but so far I have thankfully not found any evidence of termites
and neither have the termite experts that I paranoidly brought around – but I will keep
you posted in a few months, because you know, it takes some time.
I did keep some of the wings and corpses for identification purposes, and I’m quite convinced
– although I’m also very prepared to be wrong and to be corrected, termite experts
please do weigh in, but I think the small ones sadly, do look like Formosan termites,
or Coptotermes – which is bad news because they are basically one of the most invasive
and destructive species out there. The big ones might have been a separate species altogether
because they were unusually large, maybe they were physogastric, I’m thinking maybe Macrotermes
gilvus based on their size and coloration and wing shape, but who knows, maybe they
were just mutant alates of those smaller termites, which were probably Coptotermes. Anyway, there goes my story on how I’m adjusting
to life halfway across the world and how my naive love of insects is going to land me
with some household pest infestation. I really hope you enjoyed this, and I would love to
know if you guessed they were termites before I did. I’m still actually quite ashamed it
took me that long, although in my defence I’ve actually never seen an alate termite
before! And honestly, I feel I’ve filled my lifetime quota of them, so I hope never to
see one again. Anyway, I will be posting regularly from now
on, so it would be a great time to the notification bell if you do enjoy my content and my ramblings.
I would love to be posting weekly, but I do still currently do everything myself, so research,
present, edit, design, animate, the thumbnails and jump through all of the youtube publishing
hoops, so unless I make more videos that are little bit more like this which are a little
bit more vloggy and require a little bit less post-production, honestly it might still just
be 2-3 times a month, and also I obviously still work on other things on the side and
one of the most recent things is I worked on the new Edge of Science series that the
BBC and YouTube Originals are releasing on the 10th of December (AKA today), and of course,
I’m also determined to try and maintain a healthy work-life balance which is the whole
reason I stepped back in the first place. ANYWAY, I hope you’re doing well, and as
ever, thank you so much to my wonderful patreons for supporting me – which also, patreon has
now reopened after the hiatus, and as always thank you so much for watching me and I’ll
see you in the next one! Bye!

41 thoughts on “Can You Guess What Insects Invaded My Flat?”

  1. How long did it take for you to guess what these insects were? Did you do better than me?


    – Guess the braid weight:

    – Edge of Science –

    – Why I'm Cutting My Hair:

    – Why I'm Cutting My Hair Q&A:

    – Haircut Reveal:

  2. I can’t believe you’re in Malaysia,First of all welcome to Malaysia 2nd we speak Malay,Chinese and Singilsh aka (Singapore Broken English 😂),3rd,you should visit Kuala Lumpur in the mean time,4th,We usually close our windows most of the time to prevent mosquitoes and any sort of bugs…..

    Correct me if I’m wrong if you’re living in Malaysia

  3. Actually I didn't guess what it was cuz' I'm very bad at identifying insects and animals in general… But I loved watching the video, you were telling a story which I found very entertaining! I love the fact you said and showed what you observed chronologically, for me there was suspense till the end… Hope they won't cause you too much trouble in the future ✨😘

  4. Flying termites come after a rainy day at the beginning and the end of the rainy season. They come in the evening… be sure to keep your lights off indoors cause they will find an opening. Doesn't matter how well sealed your doors and windows are, they will find an opening.

    I live in south east Asia so, I guessed it pretty much straight away.

  5. Welcome back Ines another great video!

    At risk of commenting on your appearance, you might want to get an anti-reflective coating on your glasses so your light doesn't appear over your face at certain angles

  6. I'm sorry, my last comment must have come across wrong as it appears to have been deleted. I was just making a doctor who reference. Anyways I'm not mad or anything just wanted to say I'm sorry. Have a nice day 😀

  7. Yay, great to see you back 🙂
    I hadn't the slightest clue as to what your insect invaders were, but it's always enjoyable to watch you nerd out so adorably about insects.
    Have you ever studied the weta? Huge cricket-like insects indigenous to NZ – and ferocious when they need to be too, I once watched a weta hold off a full-grown house cat!

  8. Watching this reminds me of the termites that would show up at the beginning of the rainy season of Brazil, when in lived there for 5 years. Not sure what species they were but they got into my furniture and created the tunnel structures in the wall and through my pinewood. If you've brought furniture from Europe, then check your softwood lumber.

  9. I knew right away it was termites ! The giveaway was the recent rain. I see swarms here in Thailand. They gather under every light source at dusk after a bit of rain. Don't be stressed about infestation too much. You're high rise is probably constructed of not so tasty materials for termites and any wood is probably treated. Look for sawdust near wooden stuff to know where to spray the culprits if they do find something palatable.. I enjoy watching the dragonflies dive bomb the swarms for easy snacks. Great seeing you again, looking forward to more!

  10. I guessed ants first, but changed to termites on the close up 😁
    Nice to see you back, I hope we get to see more interesting bugs in the future!

  11. I am SO happy to see you are back and feeling a bit better. Stress takes a loooong time to work out, and I cross my fingers for you making further progress. 🙂
    THank you for a most interesting and entertaining video!

  12. When you showed the one you had trapped under the glass, I thought, oh god, it looks like a termite! Then when you described the quantity of them in your living room, I thought, termites! Dear god, she's letting termites into her flat!

    I'm glad you eventually shifted to terminator-mode.

  13. I wouldn't be too worried about termites. I guess it is possible they could affect furniture but the building itself should be made of concrete if it is like every other building I've seen in SE Asia.

  14. I thought they were ants when you said there were 10, but when you showed a close up I thought termites because they looked like cockroaches.

    I’ve never seen a termite but when I moved to China I met many cockroaches. Proud of my guesses as I’m not an entomologist.

    Really enjoyed this video and so glad to see you back.

  15. Hi Ines! Have missed you so much
    I guessed it before watching the video. I think the chances are slim that they infest your apartment if it's new and high up.
    I live in a village house in Hong Kong and had to fight with the termites for a long while. I tried pesticides and fumigators with no avail.

    Finally, the solution was to keep the house dry.

    After they swarm, they can dry very quickly so they look for some moist soil to burry themselves in and start their family.

  16. Good to see your videos again! I don't think you need to apologise for taking time away, or not maintaining a "regular schedule". Your good quality content shines through

  17. Welcome back. I am glad the break was helpful for you. I enjoyed the guessing game even if I came up with ants. Knowing their identity now, they look similar to the kind that build the giant mound nests in Africa and Australia. I’m no entomology. Just a Humanities/behavioral psych person.

  18. Hey, you're back! I've found you shortly after your last video and then watched everything you uploaded here. Nice to see some new content from you. 🙂

  19. We also have tons of those in vietnam. The name for it is "kiến gió" meaning "wind ants" so i thought they were some kind of ant.

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