30+ Interesting Facts About Termites

  1. Termites have various similarities with ants and are commonly known as “white ants.” But they have no relation to ants. The closest relatives of termites are cockroaches. (Source)
  2. There are more than 2,500 species of termites on earth. More than 1,000 of these species are present in Africa. They build mounds up to 5 m (17 ft) high. A termite colony consists of a queen, a king, workers, and soldiers. 10% of all biomass in the tropics is composed of termites. (Source)
  3. Apart from the king and queen, there are (primary and supplementary) reproductives, workers, and soldiers in a termite colony. Workers and soldiers can be male or female and are sterile. Reproductive can replace king and queen in case of their death.
  4. All nymphs in a colony are genetically similar. Queen can assign any role to them according to the requirement of the colony.
  5. King, queen, and reproductives have weak eyes, while workers and soldiers are blind. All members in a colony communicate through pheromones (chemical signals), vibrations, and moisture-sensing receptors in their antennae. (Source)
  6. A few species of termite queen can live for up to 50 years, the longest of any insect. Other termites live for 1 to 2 years. Most of the other insects live for not more than a few months.
  7. Old-age termite soldiers take more risks while defending the nest than young soldiers. Old soldiers fight at the frontline, while younger ones act as royal guards. (Source)
  8. More than 180 species of termite cause damage to buildings, while 83 cause significant damage. The damage caused by these termites is worth more than $1.5 billion annually in the USA, according to a study in 1994. The culprits for most of the damage are subterranean termites. (Source
    Subterranean termites
    Subterranean termites are the most destructive

  9. Plant extracts with methanol have excellent termiticidal properties. Studies show that methanolic extracts at 1,000 ppm can destroy tunnels of subterranean termites. (Source)
  10. Termites mainly eat cellulose, which they get from plants, wood, cotton fiber, paper products, etc. Special bacteria and protozoa in their gut assist termites in digesting wood and other material, which is indigestible to other animals. Drywood termites eat dry wood; dampwood termites consume moist wood, while subterranean termites like eating soft fibers of springwood. (Source)
  11. Termites are eaten as food in both rural and urban areas of Sub-Saharan Africa. They have high levels of proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals. These insects contain no or negligible amounts of anti-nutrients and harmful elements. (Source)
  12. More than 45 species of termites are used as food (for humans and livestock) and medicine in at least 29 countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. (Source)
  13. There are several natural predators of termites. These include mammals (bats, mongooses, moles, shrews, anteaters, etc.), reptiles (lizards, frogs, and snakes), insects (beetles, flies, wasps, spiders, nematodes), and birds (sparrows, swifts, doves, chicken, etc.). Several types of ants also prey on termites. Battles between colonies of ants and termites commonly take place. (Source)
  14. Termites play a vital role in recycling litter and dung of herbivores in the tropics. More than 126 species of termites recycle the dung of 18 mammals. Termites enrich the soil with nutrients during this recycling process. (Source)
  15. Termites are responsible for 1 to 3% emission of global methane, a greenhouse gas. But termite mounds act as biofilters and mitigate half of the methane produced by termites. (Source)
  16. Few species of termites cultivate fungi. These termites build their fungus garden from chewed grass and wood. The fungi produce a crop of large edible mushrooms. Termites use fungi to break down cellulose and lignin into a nutritious component for their food. (Source)
  17. Unlike most other animals, termites never sleep. Like few other insects, termites move into a state known as diapauses during low body temperature. In other conditions, they will work continuously.
  18. Termites need nitrogen to survive, but they get very little nitrogen through the cellulose they eat. Nitrogen-deprived termites in the wild fulfill their requirement by eating the exoskeleton of other termites. In extreme cases, termites may eat injured or healthy termites to meet their nutritional needs. (Source)
  19. The first-ever proof of pollination by termites was discovered in 2017. A termite fossilized in amber around 15 to 20 million years ago was present with pollen grains of milkweed flower. (Source)
  20. Termites use dirt, chewed wood, fine clay, saliva, and fecal matter to build and strengthen their nests.
  21. Few species of termites build their nests above the ground, known as mounds. Other species construct their nests inside the ground or in trees. 
  22. A vast complex of 200 million termite mounds, spanning over an area of Great Britain, is present in northeastern Brazil. This gigantic complex is nearly 4,000 years old. (Source) 
  23. Few species of termites are harmful to crops and indigenous trees. The damage to crops and forestry is usually caused by the fungus-growing subfamily Macrotermitinae. (Source)
  24. Scientists have developed a few robots that can construct large structures following the procedure adopted by termites. They can do so even without knowing the overall plan. (Source)
  25. Termites connect their underground colonies to the ground surface through mud tubes made from soil, wood, and termite saliva. These moist tubes protect the insects from predators and dry air. 
    Termite mud tubes on a tree
    Termites use mud tubes to reach earth's surface

  26. The termite queens can lay 40,000 eggs per day for 40 years. (Source)
  27. Panamanian termites can shut their mandible at the velocity of 157 mph (70 m per second). It is the fastest “mandible strike” ever recorded. (Source)
  28. Mounds of fungus-growing African termites are one of the most sophisticated animal-constructed structures. They are the best example of thermoregulation (ventilation) in animal buildings.
  29. Only alates (flying termites) have wings, and they fly during their reproductive age. These termites lose their wings after reproduction.
  30. Termites can’t tolerate extremely high or low temperatures. They can’t survive temperatures above 100 F (37.8 C) and below 25 F (-3.9 C).
  31. Termites are present in all continents except Antarctica.
  32. A large termite colony can have 60,000 to 1 million termites.
  33. Macrotermes bellicosus Termite is the largest known termite on earth. The length of its workers is 1.4 inches, while the queen can attain 4.2 inches in length. 

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