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Termites Are Amazing

August 30th, 2015, by David Schwenk

Termites are Amazing

On a recent safari in Thornybush Game Reserve adjacent to South Africa’s Kruger National Park, our ranger stopped next to a termite mound. It was about 8 feet high and as big around. The ranger explained that the mound was twice as deep in the earth as it was tall! “Like an iceberg” he said. Astonishing! Now, I’ve never thought much about termites. (Except when I lived in Florida and didn’t want them munching on my house) But when he said the mound was twice as deep as it was tall, I was amazed.

Some mounds can grow to 90 feet high! The mounds contain millions of termites living underground. Deep Inside the mound is an extensive system of tunnels and conduits that serves as a ventilation system for the underground nest. There are also numerous gallery chambers. One chamber contains the queen of the termite colony. Our ranger said that one queen can lay up to 30,000 eggs a DAY!

The mounds termites build are extremely complex in there architecture. They might just look like a pile of dirt but they serve the insects well. The mounds surface at ground level is very porous. So, the outside air can penetrate the mound’s walls and cool the hot air rising from the underground chambers where the termites live. The mound acts as an “air conditioning system” keeping the insects cool in the hot African environment.

The mounds help to create biologically diverse habitat that helps the survival on many, many species. Ants are termite’s natural enemies. When they battle the dead from both sides provide nutrients for the soil around the mounds. A few times that I’ve seen cheetahs they also seem to be lying or sitting up on a termite mound. Cheetahs or leopards climb a tall termite mound to scope his territory for predator and/or prey. Other animals frequent the mounds including monkeys, elephant and mongoose. Their feces and scraps of food also add to the nutrients in the surrounding soil. This allows plant life to flourish and attracts animals. It is a never ending cycle of life around the termite mounds.

Nature is truly a wonder.

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