First Rain of May (Unang Ulan ng Mayo)

May bridges the dry season and the rainy season. March and April are dry and hot and the parched soil welcomes the first rain that usually comes in May.

When I was a child , I learned that some insects grow wings when they catch the first rain of May. We called these insects lagaw-lagaw. They are attracted by light and they swarmed around our light bulbs or flourescent lights. Our old ancestral home didn’t have screen and the swarm of lagaw-lagaw sometimes could become a nuisance. My father captured them by filling a basin with water which reflected the light and attracted the insects to the water.

As an adult, I searched if that was just an old folks’ tale or if there is really a scientific basis for it. My search led me to alates – winged forms of ants and termites.

In entomology, “alate” usually refers to the winged form of a social insect, especially ants or termites, though can also be applied to aphids and some thrips. An alate is a winged reproductive caste from a social insect colony in its winged form. (Wikipedia)

Flying ants/termites swarm during the summer months when the temperature, humidity and wind conditions are just right. The main purpose in their life cycle is to enable them to fly and find a mate to reproduce.

Flying ants and flying termites often get mistaken for one another.

UH Termite Project - Alate Project - ID Guide
From University of Hawaii

Flying ants have a very distinct thin waist compared to their thorax and abdomen, whereas termites have a much thicker body shape.

Termites Info: Termites Do They Fly
From JP Pest Services
Flying Ants or Termite Swarmers. Do you know the difference?
From Walker Pest Management
Winged Termites or Winged Ants - Suburban
From Suburban Exterminating

So, some crawling insects do get wings when humidity, temperature and wind conditions are right. In the Philippines, this occurs usually when the rains start to come after the dry months and this usually happens in the month of May.

So, children, listen to your old folks, and old folks, teach the youngsters well , what you teach them form their early body of knowledge which they carry as they grow and mature.

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