Termites have been eating wood for millions upon millions of years. These social insects, which can build taller mounds than men in Africa to destroy homes, are fascinating to study. Find out more about these decomposers.

1. Termites are good for soil

Termites are important decomposers. They are able to break down plant fibers and recycle the soil from dead or decaying trees. These hungry insects are essential to forest health. Termites tunnel underground, improving the soil’s aeration and quality. Termites are the food that gives rise to wood, which is how we build our homes.

2. Termites Digest Cellulose with the Help of Microorganisms In Their Guts

Termites can feed directly on plants or on fungus that has grown on the decayed plant material. They must be capable of digesting tough plant fibers or cellulose in either case. The termite gut is full of microorganisms that can break down cellulose. This synergy benefits both termites as well as the microorganisms that live within their insect hosts. The termites are responsible for harvesting the wood and storing the protozoa as well as bacteria. The termites’ cellulose is then digested by microorganisms.

3. Termites feed on each other’s feces

Termites don’t have all the bacteria in their stomachs. Termites need to have a healthy supply of microorganisms in their stomachs before they can begin the work of eating trees. Trophallaxis is when termites eat each others’ poop. The termite mound must also provide food for their own survival.

4. Termites lived 130 million years ago and have Cockroach-Like Progenitors

Mantids, termites, and cockroaches share a common ancestor. It is an insect that crawled on Earth around 300 million years ago. Fossil records indicate that the Cretaceous period is when the earliest termite specimen was found. The oldest instance of mutualism between organisms is also held by a termite. An old termite, 100-million years old, with a ruptured abdomen, was found in Amber. It also contained the protozoans that had lived in its stomach.

5. Helping their Young with Their Care Termite Fathers

In the termite mound, you won’t find any deadbeat dads. The termite kings stay around, unlike in bee colonies where the males are gone soon after mating. The termite queen stays with the king after their nuptial flight and fertilizes her eggs as necessary. The queen also has his parental duties, and he helps her to eat their predigested food.

6. Soldiers and termite workers are almost always blind

Nearly all termite species are blind, and both soldiers and workers in any given colony will be blind. These hardworking individuals do not require functional eyes because they live in a dark and damp nest. Only reproductive termites require vision because they have to fly to find mates or new nest sites.

7. Termite Soldiers sound the alarm

When danger approaches the nest, termite soldiers create the world’s smallest heavy metal mosh pit. Soldiers bang their heads against gallery walls to sound the alarm and send out warning vibrations throughout colony.

8. The majority of communication in the Termite Colony is guided by chemical cues

Termites use special chemical scents called pheromones to communicate with each other and control their behavior. Special glands on the chests of termites allow them to leave scent trails that can be used to help other workers. Each colony has a unique scent that is identified by chemical on the cuticles. Some species have the ability to control the growth and role in their young through feeding them pheromone-laden waste.

9. Flying Queens and Kings:

The winged wings of new reproductive termites allow them to fly. These alates are young kings or queens that leave their colony to find a mate. They often fly in large swarms. Each royal couple of queen and king emerges together from the swarm and seeks a new home to establish a colony. They shed their wings and find a new place to raise their children.

10. Termites Are Well-Groomed

It would seem strange that an insect that spends so much time in dirt would be so meticulous about maintaining its cleanliness, but termites do. Termites spend a lot of time grooming one another. It is essential for their survival that termites maintain good hygiene. This keeps harmful bacteria and parasites under control in the colony.

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