Chances are, you pretty much know one thing about termites: they eat wood. Well, they eat wood and they’re really creepy. Two things. Don’t worry: this blog isn’t about convincing you that those things aren’t true. In fact, you’re pretty much right on the money. That’s not all there is to know, however. It turns out, there’s actually a lot more to the creepy wood-eaters than you might expect. Yes, a lot of it is creepy, but some of it is fascinating. Getting to know what makes this pest tick might help you keep them away. Or at least you’ll have something interesting to freak your family out with over dinner. We’re not judging you on how you use these facts; we’re just here to deliver them. These are the 20 weirdest, wildest, most unbelievable facts about termites. Enjoy?
- Termites are rich in iron, calcium, fatty and amino acids, and proteins, making them a highly nutritious food.
- Termites never sleep. They build their colonies 24 hours a day, every day, until they die.
- The largest termite colony ever recorded contained over three million termites.
- Ants are termites' main competition and predators. Occasionally, termite and ant colonies near each other will even go to war over territory and access to food. These “wars” consist of organized invasions upon colonies conducted by both species’ respective soldier castes.
Move On Up
- Some species of termite build their colonies upward, creating building-like dirt mounds. In tropical areas such as parts of Africa, these mounds can become very large. Some measure over 30 feet high!
- Each year, termites inflict more than 5 billion dollars worth of property damage.
- Like ants, termites are “eusocial”, meaning they live in caste systems, where each caste has a different role. Only worker ants have the ability to destroy wood.
- Soldier and reproductive termite castes can’t feed themselves. They must rely on workers to feed them by regurgitated digested cellulose into their mouths.
So Fresh, So Clean
- Termites are extremely hygienic insects. Colonies spend a great deal of time grooming one another to prevent disease.
- Termite queens dictate which role her young will grow into by feeding them her pheromone-laden feces. The type of pheromone the queen secretes onto this waste determines the role the consuming termite will grow into.
- Termites secrete a wide variety of different pheromones from glands located on their chests. Different pheromones communicate a wide variety of information to other caste members, including where food is, where threats are, and more.
- Termites have sense organs located on their base of their antennae and tibiae that allow them to sense vibrations. Scientists have observed that some species choose which food sources to infest by sensing vibroacoustic signals emitted by various pieces of wood.
- Termites also use vibrations to communicate with one another. When soldier sense a threat, they tap or bang their heads against the colony’s tunnel walls, creating vibrations to warn the rest of the colony.
- Some varieties of termite species have existed on earth for over 250 million years.
- There are over 2,700 termite species in the world.
- Termites are so numerous that some estimations suggest that they make up 10% of all animal biomass and 95% of soil and insect biomass in tropical regions.
- Some termite species’ queens can lay 15 to 25 eggs per minute--and over 40,000 per day.
- Termite queens have the longest lifespan of any insect in the world. Some termite queens may live between 30 and 50 years, reproducing annually and founding numerous colonies.
- Queen termites from the Termitidae family can produce 10 million eggs per year.
- It’s been estimated that, if you put every termite on earth on a scale at once, their total combined weight would be 445 million tons. For reference, if you did the same thing with humans, we would weigh 350 million tons.