You might only know termites as the pesky insect that can do significant damage to your home, but termites are fascinating creatures with complex social structures and an important role in the ecosystem. In an effort to get you thinking about termites and hopefully taking preventative steps to avoid any damage caused by them, here are ten fast facts that you might find interesting.
- There are over 3,000 unique species of termites around the world, 50 of which live in the United States. Africa has the most species of termites with over 1,000.
- Termites have a complex social structure involving a queen, king, workers, soldiers, and reproductives (future kings and queens that will fly away and start new nest sites).
- Termites never need to sleep. They are are able to work 24/7 until their deaths. Even though they are workaholics, they still live an average of 2-3 years, which is a long time in the insect world.
- Ants are the main predators of termites. They can provide some natural termite control depending on the size of the competing colonies. Other predators include some spiders, beetles, and wasps.
- Termites are important decomposers in the ecosystem. They eat various plant fibers and dead trees, turning them into soil. This is a crucial part of a healthy forest. They also naturally aerate and improve the soil with their tunneling.
- As part of their duty to protect, the worker termites will taste everything before giving it to the queen.
- Termites are one of the oldest surviving creatures on the planet. They are related to cockroaches and share a common ancestor. Termites date back to the Cretaceous period, at least 130 million years ago, and some scientists claim they could be as much as 250 million years old.
- To digest and break down cellulose, a termite’s gut is loaded with microorganisms (microscopic bacteria and protozoa). Since termites are not born with the right combination of bacteria, they engage in trophallaxis (eating each other’s feces), in order to get the balance needed.
- In many parts of the world, termites are eaten for food. They have good nutritional value and are high in fat and protein, so many tribes regularly consume them. In Singapore, queen termites are even considered a delicacy and are eaten plain or dipped in alcohol.
- Formosan subterranean termites are responsible for the majority of wood damage. They live in huge colonies, the largest of which can eat up to a pound of wood per day. While that may not seem like a lot, termite colonies will often go undetected for months and years, during which time significant damage can occur.
So, while we can agree that termites are pretty interesting little insects, it is also safe to say that nobody wants them in their home. Termite damage can be stressful and costly, but with proper inspection and treatment, termites need not threaten your home’s safety. At Midwest Pest Control, we are here to help you with your termite problems. Give us a call today to schedule an appointment with one of our trained professionals.