When you think of the word “termite,” you may find yourself imagining all the squeamish things associated with the term “insect.” However, if you consider all the wild things there are to know about the little creatures, you’ll find they’re nothing short of fascinating. For millions of years, termites have been munching on wood and other substances to build and feed large colonies taller than two-story homes. Termites are decomposers that never sleep — in fact, their whole lives are dedicated to hard work!
We’ve compiled a list of 15 of the wildest facts about termites. Learning more about the pests may help you prevent them from infesting your home — plus, you may just find the pests to be more intriguing than you imagined.
15 Unbelievable Facts About Termites
First things first, let’s define what termites are. Although many people associate termites with ants, they are actually a social kind of cockroach. These insects are often called “white ants,” and their bodies are divided into distinct sections: head, thorax and abdomen. While other insects possess the ability to see, termites are blind, except for the kings and queens.
One of the most common facts people know about termites is that they eat wood — but to be clear, termites eat other things besides wood. There is also a multitude of other interesting facts to know about the insects:
- Termites have been around for millions of years: It’s estimated that the earliest termites lived about 250 million years ago. To put this into perspective, the earliest dinosaurs lived approximately 230 million years ago!
- There are three basic types of termites: Each termite colony has a king or queen termite (or many), soldiers and workers.
- Wood isn’t the only thing they eat: Some termites have been known to eat plastic, fabrics and wallpaper.
- They build enormous mounds: Termites build tunnels in mud to get to and from their nests and the wood they eat. Their nests can be large as 12 inches across. A mound discovered in Africa was 42 feet high, which is approximately the height of a Brachiosaurus!
- Termites are incredibly fast: Termites hold the record for the fastest movement in the world of animals and insects alike. Panamanian termites can clap their mandibles shut at 157 miles per hour.
- Termites eat a lot and produce large amounts of gas: As termites break down the wood they ingest, they release significant quantities of gas. According to scientists, termites release as much as 150 million tons of methane gas every year.
- Each termite is a gold mine of microbiomes: In their hindgut alone, termites can hold as many as 1,400 species of bacteria.
- Termites use vibrations to communicate: When soldier termites sense a threat, they bang their heads on the walls of the colony. This creates vibrations to warn the rest of the termites in the mound and nest.
- Some people eat termites as a delicious snack: In some parts of the world, people eat termites to cure sickness or use them as a nutritional staple to their diet. In Singapore, people eat termites dipped in alcohol or rice wine or even live termites. Amazonian peoples breathe the smoke of burning termite nests to get rid of the flu.
- Most termites aren’t pests: Out of the 2,800 termite species in the world, only 28 have an interest in eating your house. Other species are known to aerate the soil with tunnel systems, clear dead wood and bolster plant growth.
- Termites build their own air-conditioning system: Termites architect tall, above-ground mounds that sit above their nests. The structures act as enormous lungs, and breath air in and out as the temperatures inside and outside their underground nests fluctuate.
- Termite queens pre-determine the role her young will grow into: Termite queens feed their young pheromone-laden feces. The type of pheromone the queen secretes dictates the role the termite will grow into.
- Queens are egg-laying machines and can live up to 20 years: The queen in an African termite colony can lay up to 40,000 eggs per day, and the average queen can lay an egg every 15 seconds.
- Termite colonies are founded by a king and queen: Most termites born wingless and blind. However, termite kings and queens have functioning eyes and wings and will fly away from their colonies at some point in their lives to find a mate. A mated pair of termites will look for a new colony and will shed their wings when they begin reproducing.
- Termites outnumber people: If you put every termite on the planet on a scale at once, it’s estimated their total combined weight would be 445 million tons. If the magnitude of this number isn’t registering, imagine doing the same thing with humans — we’d only weigh 350 million tons! For every person on the planet, there are 1,000 pounds of termites. Also, the largest termite colony ever recorded consisted of over three million termites.
Contact Pestech for All Your Termite Questions
At Pestech, we don’t just know a ton of facts about termites — we’re here to stop them, too. If you have questions about how to prevent termite invasions or sighted some already, we’re here to help! Termites are masterminds of architecting their homes, laying eggs and avoiding light and people, and infestations almost always require the help of a professional.
We have over 30 years of experience when it comes to controlling pest problems like termite infestations in homes. We’re known for our speedy response times and reliable service and will respond to any email or phone inquiry within 24 hours. We provide pest solutions to both residential and commercial establishments across the entire state of New York. Contact us to schedule an inspection today.