Most people hear the word “termite” and instantly think turmoil. However, termites are pretty fascinating insects. In many ways, they are some of nature’s most complex creatures. How much do you actually know about these little monsters?
Termites are Beneficial Insects (just not to homeowners)
Ask any homeowner and they would disagree, but termites are actually extremely important to the environment. Most people believe they are nothing but pests and dollar signs, but the environment needs these insects. Termites are natural decomposers and are crucial to forests everywhere. They recycle decaying and dead trees by breaking down plant fibers and as they tunnel, they improve and aerate soil, creating new and healthy trees.
They’re Old as Dirt
Termites have been around for millions of years, dating back to the Cretaceous period. While they look similar to ants, they actually share the same ancestors as cockroaches. The oldest termite to date was found in fossilized amber at 100 million years old. Today there are over 2,700 species around the world, with 40 species living in 49 of 50 states in the U.S.
Male Termites Help Raise Their Young
Father of the Year award goes to the king termite. Unlike some insects that leave or die after mating, termite dads stick around and help the queen out with parental duties.
Termites Have Social Lives
Termites are a social insect and raise their young as a group. The king and queen can live for 10 to 30 years. A typical home with termites may have three to four different termite colonies, with as much as one million termites in each colony. Basically, an entire city of termites.
Workers and Soldiers are Almost Blind
Considering termites live in the dark, having eyesight would be seemingly useless. Most worker and soldier termites are in fact blind because they don’t need to see to perform their duties. Only the reproductive termites have eyesight to fly and find their mates and nests.
They’re Fans of Head Banging
When danger comes to the mound, soldier termites bang their heads against the tunnel walls, similar to something seen in a heavy metal mosh pit. The vibrations in the walls alert the entire colony to prepare for danger.
Termites Appreciate Good Grooming
They make a great effort to stay clean and spend a lot of the time grooming themselves and others. Good hygiene is surprisingly crucial to their survival, as it keeps harmful bacteria and parasites away from the colony.
They Never Stop Working
Termites work 24 hours per day and never sleep. As a colony, they consume around 16 grams of food a day, which is around 12.9 pounds a year. Good news homeowners – at this rate, it would take about 8,500 hours for a termite colony to completely consume the average home.
A Good Source of Protein
Termites have a tremendous amount of protein, and in some countries, they are often eaten as raw snacks, plucked directly off a tree or wood source. They taste like refreshing mint or carrots, depending on what type of wood they are snacking on.
While termites do have a place and purpose in the environment, they are no place for the home. Look for termite warning signs in or around your home to prevent an unwanted infestation. Have your local pest and termite control inspect your home regularly.