Think you know all you need to know about termites? Read through these 15 facts and see if you learn something new.
1. Termites are typically blind.
Not only are termites typically blind — they’re usually not born with eyes.
While king and queen termites usually do have eyes, they are weak and not their strongest sense. Aside from kings and queens, most worker and soldier termites don’t have any vision or any eyes at all. There are several species of termite workers and soldiers that do have compound eyes, which pretty much just aid them with orientation and understanding day from night, but most worker and soldier termites don’t have eyes.
2. Termites have been around for a very long time.
At the very least, termites have been alive and gnawing wood for 250 million years. It’s likely been longer than that, too. They were on Earth the same time as the dinosaurs, and it’s most likely they were also roaming Earth before dinosaurs.
3. Termites fart (more than humans).
Termites don’t just fart more than humans — they fart more than any other animal on earth. Yes, they are small. And, no, you can’t smell their farts. But termite flatulence actually contains methane, an odorless and colorless toxic compound that constitutes a greenhouse gas and helps speed up climate change.
4. Termites eat each other’s feces.
Termites need to build up specific bacteria in their guts so that they can effectively ravage yours and your neighbor’s homes by way of gnawing the wood. To do this, termites engage in trophallaxis, the process of eating each other’s poop.
“Termites do eat each other’s feces, as it helps their stomachs effectively build up their digestive tracts,” pest and wildlife expert Paul Dube said.
5. Termites build their homes out of feces.
Dampwood termites actually use each other’s feces as mortar to build their nests.
“Yes, termites use their own poop to build their homes,” Dube said.
And while they do that, they are also feeding on the wood within the feces. Their feces isn’t smelly, but it’s feces nonetheless.
6. Termites use head-banging to communicate with their fellow colony members.
Termites may or may not like Metallica, but they use headbanging as a form of communication to let other termites know of distress. They make long-distance distress signals by bashing their heads into the ground rapidly and communicating with other termites.
7. Termites don’t sleep.
Termites never sleep. They are working — eating — 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
8. Termites are well-groomed.
Termites spend a significant amount of time grooming each other. (Must be easy when you don’t sleep!) This grooming is essential to termite survival; without their good hygiene, bacteria and parasites can infiltrate (and destroy) their colony.
9. Termites are good for eco-systems.
Termites break down tough plant fibers and help properly recycle decaying trees into new soil. They are crucial to the health of wooded areas, and they also help aerate soil by building tunnels, improving soil health that way as well.
10. Termites outweigh humans.
There are 1,000 pounds of termites for every person on earth. Let’s hope they don’t try to overtake us and feast on us.
11. Termites can live to be over 50 years old.
Termite queens typically live around 15 to 20 years but, can live up to as many as 30 years in the right conditions. There are also some African termite species where the queen can live up to 50 years. Typical worker and soldier termites only live for about two years, though.
12. Termite queens lay an egg every 15 seconds.
Termite queens lay many eggs every day — each one may produce between 20,000 and 40,000 eggs a day. “That’s part of the problem with termites, and why there are always so many of them,” Dube said.
13. In Asia, termite queens are used as medicine.
Termite queens (about two inches in size) have been eaten for many years in Asian countries, including in Singapore where they are believed to cure headaches and muscle pains.
“It’s true,” Dube said. “People have eaten termites for thousands of years in parts of Asia and Africa.”
14. Termites are food for humans in Africa.
There are an abundance of “big termites” in Africa that have become a popular food for animals and humans. Termites are incredibly nutrient-rich, which makes the case for eating them even more likely. It’s just about what your taste buds are looking for.
15. Termites can get big and so can their colonies.
The biggest termite nest on record was made up of more than 3 million termites. The largest queen on record was more than 10 cm long.