Termites are much more than house-eating pests. They're
interesting animals and their interactions with humans can be
quite unexpected. How about termites infesting an aircraft
and reducing the pilot's ability to control it? Well, it
really did happen once! Rats! That link's dead now
In Australia, in the early days of telephony, it took hundreds of boundary riders to fight termite attack on the posts, and even now engineers planning subterranean electrical cables are urged to remember how much damage they can do and special no-chew cables have been developed.
Termites as a flood risk? In China, a special radar was developed to detect termite nests in dykes and dams.
Termites are a part of our culture, they appear in carto ons and jokes . There's a band called The Termites ( sound clips). Another band, the Templebears have a song called "Once more into the termite mound" And there's something out there called the termite queen. Not to forget Beck's strange piece "Time is a piece of wax / melting on a termite / he's choking on the splinters". Stretching back at least 40,000 years, termites have been helping create the didjeridu, a hollow wooden tree trunk that is a wonderful musical instrument. People think about termites in a philosophical sense and use them for political analogy. Some imagine human forms in termite nests as in this picture entitled "Mother and Child" near Darwin. There's even a suggestion as to what to give a termite for a Christmas present! The most dangerous and feared animal in the Australian bush is the termite according to the writers of an arty radio show. Back to aircraft again, there's a new avionics system that's called Termite. They appear in fiction as well. Check out the best seller "Brother Termite". People with supercomputers to play with have even been known to delve into the world of the termites' mound. Apparently, as Grant's Scripture References tell us, even The Book of Mormon includes termites (but you'll have to search to find it). There's even a site that links termites to Qur'an, claiming that they are examples of Allah's "flawless design".
Termites' interaction with mineral industry goes back a long way, soil from termite mounds was used in early ironmaking furnaces in Africa, according to an article in American Scientist.
In Australia, we have people who transport termite mounds,
to place in museums (there was a huge one in the foyer of the West Australian
Museum in Perth), to decorate outback-style boutiques in
airport lounges and as ornaments in gardens! The
Dählhölzli Museum in Bern, Switzerland has its
own (live) African termite mound with over a million
termites. Perhaps the weirdest artificial mound is the work
of sculptor Yvonne Dorward in Mataranka a six-foot high talking termite mound in the
Dr Gary Hurd of Saddleback Community College has put up a web page with photos of termite poo. Fresh and 1,100 years old! (Stranger even, is that pest controllers can sometimes tell the species of a termite by the shape of its poo).
I bet you didn't know/remember that the original movie script of Monty Python's Holy Grail, in the bit about swallows and coconuts mentioned termites.
Around the world, lots of people eat termites (it isn't as crazy as it sounds, winged termites are very nutritious , and especially when lightly fried, reasonably tasty). Termites are important in the diets of many ants, lizards and birds and there are quite a few specialist feeders such as aardvarks, aardwolves and numbats, but did you know that they are also eaten by lions and gorillas? Usenet news seems to always have a mention somewhere of our close relative the chimpanzee's habit of using a twig tool to fish termites from their galleries. Fish, especially salmonids, are big predators of flying termites. Termitphile anglers can get their own backwith this neat design from the Goulburn Valley Fly Fishing Centre.
Thinking of what termites eat, consider their role in banking. Gracie Scruggs of the US Treasury says that termites eat more paper money than do dogs, horses and pigs.
Just thinking about productivity, I doubt if anything can
match the output of a mature African Macrotermes
queen who it is said, can lay 50,000 eggs a day and lives
for around 30 years. That's more than 25 million offspring! I
find it hard to believe. Some researchers put the maximum
rate at around 20,000 per day. Even then, that's 24 hours,
24x60=1440 minutes x60=86,400 seconds or one egg every 4.32
seconds. Sure beats chickens!.
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