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With winter starting to hit, after a long dry summer, here at Murrays we’re starting to gear up for the termite season. So we thought it time to take a closer look at what termites actually are. After a bit of research we found a very interesting article here:
According to the Entomological Society of America, termites may actually belong in the cockroach order called Blattodea. In an article in ScienceNews.org they stated that:
“As of February 15, “it’s official … that termites no longer have their own order,” says Mike Merchant of Texas A&M University in College Station, chair of the organization’s common names committee. Now all termites on the list are being recategorized.
Termites are “nothing but social cockroaches,” Schal says. Various roaches have some form of social life, but termites go to extremes. They’re eusocial, with just a few individuals in colonies doing all of the reproducing. In extreme examples, Macrotermes colonies can grow to 3 million individuals with only one queen and one king.”
It’s kind of like Pluto being kicked out of the solar system. Bit depressing really.
One of the things that nature does really, really well, is force species to be ruthless to ensure survival. It’s at the core of Darwinian theory, and termites, as we well know, can some of the most ruthless. A study from http://rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/14/3/20180025 and the article posted here: http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/termites-put-their-elderly-on-the-front-lines-in-lifeordeath-battles-with-ants/
It seems termites have no issue putting their oldest militiamen on the front line in defense of caniverous ants.
“While it might seem counterintuitive, the strategy actually allows for the entire colony to get the most out of each little termite’s life cycle by sacrificing the older soldiers closer to death anyhow.
Termites are social insects whose colonies are comprised of different castes that work together to ensure the survival of the queen, who can lay an astonishing 30,000 eggs in one day. These eggs grow into workers, reproducers, and soldiers. The soldiers use their massive heads as the first line of defense against hungry ants by plugging any holes with their noggin – the ultimate self-sacrifice. If that fails, they use their enormous mandibles (jaws) to chomp down on the ants, who snack on the delicious and nutritious termites.”
This strategy is essentially called “age polyethism”, which refers to to tasks being allocated to termites based on age. In this case, the closer you are to death, the riskier tasks you are assumed to take on. In this case though, the researches didn’t necessarily find it corrrelated with better performance, with younger termite defending better.
So with termite season almost upon us, do you really understand what damage termites can actually do? We’ve seen the some of the worst, but if you think you can procrastinate on getting your next inspection, checkout some these crazy infestations.
It seems not all termites are bad. As posted in the Harvard Gazzette, the little critter may indeed provide us with some good, by helping us understand how to build better, greener, more efficient buildings.
In Namibia, SEAS researchers — led by L. Mahadevan — are studying how African termites use solar energy to heat, cool and ventilate their massive colonies.
— Harvard University (@Harvard) April 23, 2018