The Machan is an eco-friendly resort in Lonavala set in a recovering forest ecosystem in the hills of the Western Ghats. Its forests are home to one of nature’s best builders that are often only looked at as domestic nuisances. When you think of termites, probably the only thing that comes to your mind is that they’re wood eaters. However, termites or white ants are fairly interesting creatures with more than 2,000 known species in the world, and there is a lot one can learn about them.
Termites are blind
Termites are small ant-like insects that live in mounds or nests on the ground. An interesting fact about them is that most worker and soldier termites are blind by virtue of not having eyes at all! They have sense organs located on the base of their antennae and tibiae that allow them to sense vibrations. Scientists have observed that some species choose which food sources to infest by sensing vibroacoustic signals emitted by various pieces of wood. They also use vibrations to communicate with one another.
Termites versus Ants
Although their social structure resembles that of ants, termites are the descendants of cockroaches while ants are the descendants of wasps. Unlike ants, termites are strictly vegetarian and feed on dead wood, moss, and lichens. Ants are in fact the number one enemies for termites. Occasionally, termite and ant colonies that are near each other will go to war over territory and access to food.
The construction of a mound begins from under the ground and has the same height below ground as it has above. The worker termites are responsible for building these mounds by mixing soil and their saliva. Due to its architecture, the mound is essentially air conditioned and remains seven degrees cooler than the temperature outside. Each nest or mound easily houses millions of termites in hundreds of chambers.
The queen and mother of all termites
The inner sanctum or the queen’s chamber is the most guarded chamber of the mound. The queen is the mother of these millions of termites. A healthy female can lay more than 30,000 eggs in a day. She is attended by the worker termites responsible for feeding her, grooming her, and carrying her eggs into another chamber for hatching. Out of these eggs, nymphs are born that grow up to be workers. Termite queens have the longest lifespan of any insect in the world. Some termite queens may live between 30 and 50 years, reproducing annually and founding numerous colonies.
The height of the tallest termite mound recorded is 42 feet. It is found in the Republic of Congo. Although they are considered pests in houses, they play the role of ecosystem engineers in a forest. This is because they decompose all dead material from the forest floor.
The Machan is dedicated towards the preservation of all the species in its ecosystem. If you think these creatures are interesting, you should explore our naturalist series and find out interesting facts about more commonly seen insects like butterflies and spiders to name a few. Our nature paradise near Mumbai is open for you to take a trail and explore every species from frogs and squirrels to thrushes and monkeys.
Have you watched our previous video on the love story of frogs? Click Here