Termites Don’t Just Use Dirt To Build Nesting Mounds

Formosan TermitesIt is impressive that termites are able to build such tall dirt mounds given their tiny size. Termites are about the same size as the crescent-moon shape of your exposed fingernail tip. They also have translucent exoskeletons that are vulnerable to the light of the sun. In fact, the sun can be quite damaging to termites, and this is why they prefer to dwell underground, or in dark dirt mounds that protrude from the surface of soil. An individual termite may not be capable of much, but a large group of termites can be considered nature’s greatest architects. Termite mounds can reach an astounding ten meters in height. Surprisingly, termites build mounds by moving one tiny speck of dirt at a time. However, according to a recent study, termites may be able to build their mounds out of far more materials than just dirt.

Termites of the species Odontotermes obesus can use a variety of materials to build their nesting mounds, such as wax and glass beads. When choosing the proper building material, the most important factor is moisture. For example, if a particular piece of dirt, or potential building “brick”, is too moist, then termites can not crawl over them. On the other hand, if a building brick is too dry, then the termites cannot mix them with saliva. Termites can often get around this moisture problem by resorting to red soil for nest building.

Red soil is a unique type of dirt in that its red color results from a mixture of organic and inorganic materials that have been broken down. Red soil has a moisture level that measures in between fifteen and sixty percent. Also, it has been demonstrated that termites are able to use the most unlikely of materials to build mounds, including brass, stainless steel and various other materials that are not found in the natural environment. As a result of this versatility, scientists believe that mound-building is a hardwired behavior among termites, and termites will use any material put in front of them.

Have you ever found a termite mound in the wild?



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