Termites would make terrible dinner guest because of their preferred choice of diet; they would rather leave the food and eat the table underneath the food. Termites feast on wood, and many of them prefer the wet and moldy wood. But if they find comfort in homes, they can be very destructive. The four things they need for survival are food, shelter, optimal temperature and moisture, which can be provided for in any home regardless of the construction type. When they invade, they destroy, and it won’t be very long before you realize why they earned the nickname “silent destroyers.”
The following is a list of facts about these interesting insects:
• Termites are made to destroy.
According to research, in the US alone, termites cause a damage of approximately $5 billion to homes each year. Colonies that exist in huge numbers such as the subterranean termites and Formosan termites are the most destructive and account for about 90% of these damages.
• Termites are actually of ecological benefit.
They are important decomposers because they infest and feed on dead and decaying trees and recycling them into new soils, therefore, speeding up deteriorations’ natural cycle. This act allows for the new growth of plants to begin. Also, while digging their tunnels, they aerate and improve the soil in the process. This is great, but we just don’t want them in our home!
• Termites have been around for the past over 100 million years.
Termites existed even during the era of dinosaur and even though they look like ants, their ancestor was a cockroach-like an insect. They are closely related to the cockroaches and mantids. According to fossil records, the earliest termite specimen dates all the way to the Cretaceous period.
• Termites can digest cellulose with the help of microorganisms found in their guts.
The plants and fungus that termites feed on contain tough cellulose that the termites must be able to digest. They have microorganisms thriving in their guts that can break down the cellulose. What’s interesting is that the termites are actually not born with the microorganisms but rather feed on each other’s feces so as to get all the bacteria in their guts before they can begin the tough work of eating wood.
• New kings and queen termites can fly.
Known as alates, these new reproductive termites are winged and when ready, they leave their home colonies and fly out in search of a new place to build their colony. They usually pair up together and then land while searching for a suitable location to build up their home, and then they break off the wings once they settle down.
• The termite queen lays millions of eggs in her lifetime.
In the very early stages, the queen will only lay about 10-20 eggs a day. In several years’ time, the number increases to 1,000 eggs a day. The queen, at maturity, has a much-distended abdomen, for example, a species of African termite can grow to up to 5 inches tall and can lay as many as 30,000 eggs a day, and get this, queen termites can live to up to 50 years, so you do the math.
• Termites are edible to humans.
Termites have a lot of predators that find them delicious like the anteaters, large bugs, aardvark, aardwolf, birds, pangolin, and echidna. Humans from some parts of the world are included in this list of predators and they eat these termites as special treats. For instance, in Singapore, those large termite queens are served live while dipped in alcohol or preserved in rice wine. Some parts of Africa also enjoy fried new kings and queen termites that fly out in search of new places to thrive.