Termites Can Communicate Through ‘Head-Banging’
Termites don’t seem like intelligent creatures. After all, termites are tiny, so they must have tiny brains. Termites can, however, communicate with each other, but their particular method of communication may not seem so intelligent. For example, several termite species that dwell within African savannas have been observed communicating with other colonies by banging their heads into the ground. This seemingly strange communication technique is mutual, and effective for transmitting complex information.
The Macrotermes natalensis species of termite is the insect that is most commonly found indulging in this form of communication. These termites often need to communicate with neighboring termite colonies in order to collectively protect themselves from predators. The Macrotermes natalensis species of termite is also capable of growing fungus in order to feed the colony. It is the large amounts of fungi produced by these termites that attract so many predators.
Using high-speed cameras, researchers dissected the large termite nests and recorded termite activity lasting over a period of several weeks. The researchers could clearly see termites from multiple nests banging their heads onto the ground on occasion. Apparently, the vibrations produced by the head banging are what was responsible for sending the proper message. These vibrations can travel long distances in order to warn other termites from far-away nests of a predator in the area.
The soldier termites have been recorded banging their heads against the ground at a rate of eleven times per second. Soldier termites that received the vibrations responded by assisting their nest mates, and worker termites retreated. There is more than just one type of termite that communicates in this manner. For example, termites belonging to the genus Odontotermes also send distress signals through vibrations in the soil. Once both of these termites signal all other colonies in the area, the soldiers from each colony will collectively bang their heads to the ground in order to sound an alarm. This alarm causes the termites in each colony to take the proper precautions against attack from predators.
Do you believe that there are other termites in existence that use different methods of creating vibrations to communicate with nearby termite colonies?