Click Free Pest Control Quote
to fill in a form to obtain a free pest control quote today.
To our surprise we found that termites used all materials as long as they were able to walk and chew on them.
A termite mound. Credit: pompi/pixabay
Bengaluru: Different animals build their homes differently and for varied purposes. Beavers build dams from logs of wood to access food. Woodpeckers drill holes in trees to lay eggs. And termites build mounds to protect themselves against the environment and predators.
Architects in a warming world have been inspired by such structures for the way they regulate temperature on the inside. Psychologists have analysed collective insect behaviour to glean insights about social interactions among humans. And designers have imagined efficient transport systems taking inspiration from birds. But very little is known about how the creatures decide which materials theyd like to build with.
In a recent study, scientists from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, found out how a particular species of termite chooses certain materials to build its mounds with, and how it plans the logistics and the construction itself. The scientists also unearthed some evidence to discover that different members of a termite colony utilise two distinct building blocks to construct a mound. The physical properties of these blocks determines how the mound is erected and over how much time.
Termites are social insects. A termite colony is usually started by a male and a female. They reside in a safe cavern, known as the royal chamber, that lies a couple of feet underground and the female termites only responsibility is to only lay eggs. All other termites in the colony, then, are their offsprings. They are divided into different castes: workers and soldiers, with a clear division of labour between them. Workers carry out all the chores in a colony: collecting food from nearby plant material, taking care of the queens eggs, grooming her, growing a garden of fungus inside the mound and building the mound itself. Soldiers are responsible for defending the colony from intruders, such as predatory ants.
In one species of termites (Odontotermes obesus), which Nikita Zachariah, a doctoral student at IISc, studied, the workers come in two different sizes. The bigger ones were called major workers and the smaller ones, minor. O. obesus is found across India. These termites build castle-shaped buttressed mounds standing five or six feet tall.
Termites build mounds by joining bricks just like we do to build houses, Zachariah explained. The bricks to the bugs are tiny rolled-up balls of soil. Many bricks joined together are called boluses. Termites make them by filling their mouths with moist soil and mixing it with their saliva, which acts as the cement for the mound. Termites carry these boluses, one at a time, and deposit them at the construction site.
Together with her advisor Renee Borges, Zachariah expected the difference in body and head sizes of the major and minor workers and the bricks they made to impact the eventual bolus size. To test this, the researchers, breached the walls of a mound occupied by termites. Whenever the worker termites sense a breach in the mound, they begin to repair it. Taking advantage of this, Zachariah placed needles on the mound wall and collected boluses that the workers deposited atop them while repairing the mound. The duo found that major workers made four-times more boluses than the minor workers by volume, indicating that differences in size determines the load they could carry.
In the natural world, termite workers encounter different kinds of materials. Soil and sand are granular. Root secretions are gummy. The plants leaves are fibrous.
Zachariah said, We wanted to test if different kinds of materials determine how easy the termites found these materials to handle. So she and Borges gave termites more than 20 options. The termites found granular materials red soil, sand, glass beads and crushed hydrogels easier to handle than materials that repelled water or were completely porous, like copper, paraffin wax, tissue paper, intact hydrogels and agar. The bugs also stayed away from materials that absorbed moisture, like salt, because it would dry their bodies up and kill them.
However, the termites didnt particularly prefer one granular option over another. They also couldnt work with smooth steel balls until the surfaces of the orbs were roughened. To our surprise we found that termites used all materials as long as they were able to walk and chew on them, said Zachariah. They did have their personal favourites [but they] loved granular materials over others.
Boluses out of crushed hydrogel were made faster than those with other materials. Between red and burnt soil, termites took almost twice as much time with burnt soil, likely because it is devoid of any organic matter. As a result, fewer burnt-soil boluses made their way into the construction than did red-soil boluses. The termites also preferred materials with some moisture in them as that helped cement the bricks together better. So the amount of time taken to make boluses also has a say in termites preferred choice of material.
When the researchers breached a mound, they also recorded some peculiar behaviour: they found that major and minor workers repaired the breach working in tandem, in a coordinated manner. They think the termites do this by leaving chemical scents for others to follow, a mechanism known as stigmergy. Major workers would first deposit the bigger boluses and then minor workers would place their smaller boluses in between them. Thus, the workers repaired the breach by filling it from the edges and moving towards the centre. The researchers think this allows the mound to be repacked with greater efficiency and enhances its strength and stability.
Sanjay Sane, who works on the physics and neurobiology of insects at the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bengaluru, told The Wire, This study uses careful experimental approaches to show how termites can build these super-structures. According to him, Zachariah and Borges have improved our understanding of how insects behave, and the new knowledge could cascade into newer inspirations for architecture and civil engineering. Sane was not involved with the study.
All termites need is usable materials, favourable climatic conditions, along with water, to build mounds. This can help predict the geographical distribution of mound-building termites and provide reasons why they will not be found in deserts or marshes.
Vrushal Pendharkar is a writer at IndiaBioScience.
What to read next:
- Keep Termites Out and Know the Sure Signs of an Infestation - March 13th, 2019
- What should you do if you see termite swarmers? | Palmetto ... - March 2nd, 2019
- Termites: Beneficial Insects - Natural Organic Biological ... - March 2nd, 2019
- The 10 Best Termite Companies in Temecula, CA (with Free ... - March 2nd, 2019
- Termites - Havasu - March 2nd, 2019
- How to get rid of termites: 7 best termite killers in 2019 - March 2nd, 2019
- What you need to know about Termite Swarms - Turner Pest Control - March 2nd, 2019
- How to Identify Drywood Termite Droppings | Thrasher Termite ... - March 2nd, 2019
- The Termites - Costa Rica - March 2nd, 2019
- How to Kill Termites Naturally - Keep Bugs Away - March 2nd, 2019
- Drywood Termite Treatment: Get Rid of Drywood Termites - February 28th, 2019
- How do tiny termites make such massive mounds? - February 15th, 2019
- Flying Ants vs. Termites, Termite or Ant? - Orkin.com - February 3rd, 2019
- Signs of Termite Damage | Ehrlich Pest Control - January 31st, 2019
- Termite (Isoptera) - Animals - A-Z Animals - January 31st, 2019
- The Truth About the "Termites" | Psychology Today - December 28th, 2018
- Signs of Termite Damage|Termite Damage|Truly Nolen - November 1st, 2018
- Pictures of Termites | Ehrlich Pest Control - October 31st, 2018
- Termite Control - The Home Depot - October 31st, 2018
- How to Spot Termites: Termite Identification Pictures - October 31st, 2018
- Subterranean Termites Control | Do My Own Pest Control - October 15th, 2018
- Termites - Biology and Control - Browse Popular Publications - September 6th, 2018
- Termites Pest Control Information Perth - August 6th, 2018
- Termites - Nozzle Nolen - July 16th, 2018
- Termite - Field Guide to Common Texas Insects - June 17th, 2018
- What Do Termites Look Like? Signs of Termite Damage - June 2nd, 2018
- Termite Facts for Kids: Termite Information for Students - May 26th, 2018
- What Do Termites Look Like? Termite Identification - April 26th, 2018
- Termite Pictures: Photo Gallery with Images - April 21st, 2018
- Best 17 Termite Control in Fordyce, AR with Reviews - YP.com - March 4th, 2018
- Termites in Southwest Florida | Lenny's Bug Blog - February 28th, 2018
- End Of Termites | Terminator The best anti-termite ... - February 14th, 2018
- How to Get Rid of Termites - Pest Control Products - February 9th, 2018
- Termites - All About Termites - domyown.com - February 6th, 2018
- Termites | Dreamworks Animation Wiki | FANDOM powered by Wikia - February 3rd, 2018
- How to Treat Termites on Trees | Home Guides | SF Gate - February 3rd, 2018
- Prevent and Treat Termites to Avoid Damage to a House ... - January 21st, 2018
- Termites in Pennsylvania - Philadelphia, Pittsburgh ... - January 5th, 2018
- Termites in Potted Plants | Home Guides | SF Gate - January 3rd, 2018
- Subterranean Termites - extension2.missouri.edu - December 29th, 2017
- What Kinds of Termites do we Have in Georgia? - December 27th, 2017
- Signs of Termites: How to Detect Termite Evidence - December 17th, 2017
- What Are Termites? - December 15th, 2017
- Lewis Terman - Wikipedia - December 4th, 2017
- Termite Facts - Softschools.com - December 3rd, 2017
- Termites | Horticulture and Home Pest News - December 3rd, 2017
- Termite Facts for Kids - December 3rd, 2017
- Are Termites Harmful to Humans? | Termite Treatment And ... - December 3rd, 2017
- Termite Identification | Termite Control DC, MD And Northern ... - November 26th, 2017
- What "Wood" a Termite Prefer To Eat? - November 25th, 2017
- Termites - All About Termites - DoMyOwnPestControl.com - November 25th, 2017
- Termite Inspection | Truly Nolen - November 24th, 2017
- Best 30 Termite Control in Villas, NJ with Reviews - YP.com - November 18th, 2017
- What Do Termites Look Like Exactly? Find Out How! - November 17th, 2017
- Subterranean Termites - How To Kill and Get Rid of ... - November 17th, 2017
- The Signs of Termite Infestation - Florida Pest Control - November 17th, 2017
- 9 Signs of Termites Infestation | Kill Termites Guide - November 17th, 2017
- Termite Control Cost Muskegon MI - Pest Control - ESFS - November 16th, 2017
- 4 Best Termite Control, Inspection Services - Waterbury CT ... - November 4th, 2017
- 3 Ways to Protect Your Home from Termites - wikiHow - October 16th, 2017
- How to Kill Termites: Best Ways to Get Rid of Termites ... - October 7th, 2017
- Termite Fast Facts: What You Need To Know - The Spruce - October 1st, 2017
- Formosan Termites - How to Kill and Get Rid of Formosan Termites - September 23rd, 2017
- Giving air to earthworms and termites - Farm Weekly - September 6th, 2017
- Meet the 'Terminator' of sanitary waste - Oherald - September 2nd, 2017
- UCA bear battling termites; options studied - Arkansas Online - August 31st, 2017
- Four hidden threats many homeowners miss - KTAR.com - August 31st, 2017
- Tracking Guelph's 2017 termite zones - GuelphMercury.com - August 31st, 2017
- How To: Get Rid of Flying Ants - BobVila.com - August 31st, 2017
- Termites nibbling away at Bismillah Khan's citations | Varanasi ... - Times of India - August 29th, 2017
- Alan Root, Oft-Bitten Wildlife Filmmaker, Dies at 80 - New York Times - August 29th, 2017
- Termites eat into village, locals flee - Times of India - August 28th, 2017
- Termite outbreak empties out Almora village - Times of India - August 27th, 2017
- Faith Lift: Termites - The Baytown Sun - August 26th, 2017
- Termites Springfield VA | Termite Control & Treatment - August 26th, 2017
- OP: A little less you're either with us or against us and a little more the enemy of my enemy is my ally - Western Herald - August 26th, 2017
- Top tips to protect your home against termites - The Standard - August 22nd, 2017
- Termites, damp, asbestos: Craig Reucassel's 'winning' home trifecta - Victor Harbor Times - August 19th, 2017
- On the termite 'brick' trail - The Hindu - August 19th, 2017
- Maintenance man Adam Titcombe dines on termites and a tarantula in fundraising challenge for Downham Market care ... - Norfolk Eastern Daily Press - August 13th, 2017
Click Free Exterminator Quote
to fill in a form to obtain a free exterminator quote today.