Termites are a large group of insects that have existed on Earth for more than 250 million years. 2600 species of termites are known. They live on almost every continent. Termites usually live in tropical and subtropical areas, but can survive in other climates as well. Termites do not exist in arctic regions because they cannot survive the low outside temperatures. Termites are insects of ecological value because they decompose (remove) large amounts of decaying plant material. Termites that live in close proximity to human populations cause great damage by destroying houses and wooden objects.
All termites are social insects and raise their young as a group.
Termites live in colonies which consist of nymphs (semi-mature young), workers, soldiers and reproductive males and females. They all differ in size, shape and function they perform.
The total weight of all of the termites in the world is more than the weight of all the humans in the world.
Termites look like ants, but they are more closely related to cockroaches.
Termite colonies eat non-stop, 24 hours a day, seven days a week!
Mound is a house where colony of termites resides. One of the largest known mounds was 42 feet tall (like a two-story house).
Termites have wings that they shed once they have found a good place to build a nest.
Mounds are very strong and stable structure made of mud, soil, digested wood, feces and saliva. “Workers” are in charge for building and maintaining of the mounds.
Termites are known as “silent destroyers” because of their ability to chew through wood, flooring and even wallpaper undetected.
Soldiers are in charge for the protection of the mound. In the case of danger, soldiers kick the wall of the colony (which produces vibration) to alert other termites.
There are about 2,000 known termite species in the world.
Both workers and soldiers are almost completely blind because they spend their whole life in the dark.
Each year, termites cause more than $5 billion in property damage.
Kings and queens can see because they need to find a mating partner. Female queen lives between 15 and 25 years and she lays one egg every 15 seconds, which results in 30 000 eggs per day!
Dampwood termites are normally larger in size than other termite species.
Termites are numerous because of the fast reproduction. Large mounds can host over 3 million termites.
Like drywood termites, dampwood colonies don’t have workers.
Some scientists estimate that for each human on the planet comes 1000 pounds of termites. 1000 pounds is the weight of an adult cow.
Dampwood termites like to feed on very moist wood.
Termites consume both decaying and live wood. They also eat fungus that live on the decaying trees.
Drywood termites form colonies of up to 2,500 members.
Termites cannot digest cellulose from the wood without help of the intestinal microorganisms. More than 100 species of bacteria and protozoa live inside their guts and help them in food digestion.
Drywood termite colonies are usually found in dry wood and they do not require moisture or contact with the soil.
Young termites are not born with microorganism in their guts. Before they start consuming wood, they need to eat feces of other termites to equip their intestines with required number of bacteria and protozoa.
Formosan termite colonies can be up to 300 feet long and there can be tens of thousands of termites in a single colony.
Tight interaction between termites and microorganism is called “symbiosis”, and it is beneficial for all of them.
Subterranean termite colonies can have up to 2 million members! Their colonies are divided into three groups: workers, soldiers and reproductives.
Termites are preyed by lot of different animals: anteaters, aardvark, aardwolf, pangolin, echidna, birds and large bugs… People in some parts of the world also eat termites as special treat.
Drywood termites can build nests and dig tunnels in buildings.