Termites are freaks of nature. Many of us don’t know what they look like, or even seen one. Yet these tiny wood-munching creatures are behind more than 5 billion Dollars in property damages each year. It seems like termites is a seriously expensive problem after all. But what else do we know about them that can raise the hair on our skin?
9. Termite queen
Every insect colony has at least one queen. Queens are vital to colonies as they continuously produce new offspring needed to keep colonies alive, and termites are not an exception to the rule. However, termite queen is, unlike any other insect queen, one of the most hideous creatures on the planet. About the size of a human index finger, her a head is of the same size as other termite. Yet, the rest of her body is a thirteen centimeter grub-like body which is thousand times heavier than the workers termites
The queen lives in a very tight space in the royal chamber surrounded by worker termites that spend the rest of their lives feeding and attending her. One termite queen can lay between 5,000 to a whopping 30,000 eggs a day, that’s 10,950,000 egg a years. Over her 20 year life span, she may lay 200 million eggs.
8. Majestic mounds
Not all termites dwell in human homes. Certain species of termites are known to live in deserts and grasslands where they build and live in massive clay mounds. These mounds, some which reach to 8 meters in high, are fascinating from architectural perspective. Besides withstanding wind, rain and erosion, these mounds also acts as huge air-conditioners that keeps the atmosphere inside of the colony within a livable degree. This cooling feature of termite mounds has fascinated scientists for many years, before they discovered the secret behind it which is the way the mounds are designed that allow air to flow and disperse inside them.
7. Cross-species inbreeding
There are two species of termite that are notorious for wreaking havoc in our homes, the Formosan and the subterranean Asian termite. A recent shocking discovery by researchers from Florida, US, has revealed that these two species have joined forces, creating a powerful hybrid via inbreeding. The researchers observed that the new hybrid has a tolerance for high temperature, thus it can live (and start colonies) in regions stretching from North Carolina to Brazil. The new hybrid not only can withstand heat but also grows and reproduces faster than any of its parent species.
Have heard of the Malaysian exploding ant? It’s a species of ants called camponotus saundersi that blows itself when threatened. Those of us who’ve heard of this bizarre defensive mechanism thought it’s something only ants (and terrorist) do. However, we were proven wrong. Self-destruction is a behavior that has been observed in termites as well.
A team of researchers from Czech Republic have noticed that the worker termites of the Neocapritermes taracua species carries blue pouches on their backs. When the researchers picked up one of these termites, they were surprised to find it burst, releasing a sticky toxic droplet along with fragments of internal organs and intestines. Yuk! After further studies, the researchers found that this unusual defensive behavior is only performed by old worker termites as a desperate move to fend off invading termites. One drop of the chemical released by these termites is toxic enough to kill any termite that come in contact with it.
5. Not only wood…
Termites are notorious for their vicious appetite for wood because it contains their primary nutrition, cellulose. Cellulose is one of the most abundant organic compounds on Earth, no surprise it can be found in things we use on daily basis from building materials, to furniture, to paper and even the food that we eat. Anything as long as it contains cellulose, it’s on the meal menu of termites.
Beside wood and plant fibers, termites also can chew through just about any material which is softer than their hardened mandibles. This includes drywall, foam, plastics and even lead.
4. They are blinds
Nearly all termite species, both the workers and soldiers are blind. These sneaky creatures spend most of their lives in the confines of the dark and damp colony nest. Therefore, evolutionarily they have no need to possess functional eyes. Reproductive termites, nonetheless, require eyesight, because they need fly to find mates and new colony locations.
3. Alternative fuel
Termites have bacteria in there abdomen that help them digest wood and other plants. Interestingly, scientists have discovered that this bacterium release certain amount hydrogen gas, the most demanded and expensive option for alternative fuel. Although they aren’t sure how these bacteria can do it, the scientists believe that they might be a way to cultivate the bacteria on a scale large enough to produce sufficient amount of hydrogen needed to power cars, homes and hopefully replace fussel fuel.
2. Termites vs. ants
Most people easily confuse termites and ants. That’s because most of the termite species we spot in our homes look quite similar to ants. Nonetheless, with a good eye and a little bit of knowledge of the anatomy of these insects, you can spot the differences.
When it comes to body, a termite has two distinct body segments with a waistline closer to the head than the tail. An ant, on the other hand, has three distinct body segments with two waistlines nearly equidistant from each other. When comparing their wings, termite swarmer wings are very long and thin, and spans their entire body length. Ant wings, however, extend just slightly past the end of the body. Their wings also tend to lie at a slight angle to the body, pointing away from the body at the bottom.
1. Home insurance not covered
Most of the people concerned about termites are likely to ask this question: Is termite damage covered by insurance? Unfortunately, termite damage is generally not covered by an insurance policy and there is a viable reason for that. Standard homeowner policies often provide coverage for damages that are sudden and accidental, such as an earthquake or fire. They’re not specified to cover (gradual) damages from termites and other pest infestations that are preventable via proper home maintenance and consultation of a pest control professional.