The need of the termites to protect their colonies from threats and attacks is not far from that of every country in the world. As nations equip their militaries with the most advanced weapons and technologies, termites also exhibit the same amount of efforts in protecting its "home", especially its queen, from any danger.
While termite soldiers are only a few centimeters long with bodies that are soft and not covered by any armor, termite soldiers are still considered to be one of the most efficient soldiers in nature's ecology. These soldiers are blind and they are not capable of complex thinking or strategizing; in fact, experts say that termites do not think at all. In spite all these, termite soldiers are always able to protect their colonies and in most cases they are successful in doing so for decades.
The Soldiers on Foot
Termites are highly social insects and like all social insects they follow a caste system. The Caste includes: the reproductive class (queen and king), the alates (winged class), the alternatives (the reproductive class substitutes), the workers and the soldiers. Each of these classes performs a specific duty in the colony; termites only duty is to protect the colony no matter what.
In most cases, termite soldiers have to defend its colony from other animals larger and stronger that they are. To compensate for their size and strength, termites have physical attributes that sets them apart from all other animals. For example, many termite soldier species have oversized jaws which are very sharp and effective in scaring and killing animals. Amongst these types of termite soldiers are the South American termites and the African termites.
Quite surprisingly, termites have suicide bombers too. But unlike its human version, termites do not need to use bombs because their bodies in itself are capable of exploding like a bomb. The Malaysian termite soldier uses this ultimate technique to drown its aggressor with the yellow fluid that its body excretes after explosion. The sacrificial nature of termites does not stop there. Termite soldiers also use their oversized head (with the jaw) to plug holes in their nest which might serve as an enemy entry point. As a result, the termite soldier can starve to death or get killed because of immobility.
Termite Biological Attacks
Apart from the normal physical features of termite soldiers (oversized sharp jaws), termite soldiers can also excrete certain chemical which help them in their battles. Similarly, human terrorists are also known to have developed the same technology which they can biological weaponry. In their very nature, termite soldiers can squirt a kind of poison that kills or paralyzes its enemy making them vulnerable during battles.
Experts agree that although termites are not capable of complex thinking (some even argue that they are not capable of thinking at all); their million-year existence had definitely led them to many discoveries which humans are putting much effort to re-create (gigantic architecture, biological weapons, etc.). According to science, through natural selection, termites were able to develop the ability to produce these types of chemicals in their bodies. Scientists found out that a certain organ inside the termite soldier's body keeps the chemicals safe, thus protecting the termite's body from poisoning itself.
(1) "Suicide" Bombing
It is very amazing how termites are able to attack in groups and not end up hurting their fellow termites in the battle field although they are all blind. Moreover, in the group of termites, one or two termites will have the "initiative" to climb up an enemy's body and explode thereby excreting a chemical that paralyzes the enemy, making it vulnerable to the other termite soldiers. It is difficult to imagine how termites are able to develop this battle strategy granting that they are blind, small and not capable of complex thinking.
(2) Poison Armor
Different termite species are also able to synthesize different types of strong poisons which they are immune to. The soldiers smear their bodies with this poison whenever they go into battle. The idea is simple: they would try to kill their enemies with all the strategies that they know of and in case they fail, their last weapon is their poisoned bodies; when their enemies sting or bite them, they will get poisoned. It is good to note that the poison inside a termite's body can reach up to 35% of its entire body weight. A single secretion is enough to kill thousands of attacking ants in an instant.
(3) Glue Bazooka
A quarter of all the termites species in the world (roughly 500) can spew a gooey substance that somewhat resembles that of glue. The chemical that termite soldiers spew only become glue-like the moment that the termites excrete it. But contrary to what a glue-like substance can obviously do (immobilize an enemy), this glue-like chemical that termite soldier's spit are actually strong enough to cause significant damage to metal and concrete! (Just imagine what it can do to ants and other insects) To larger enemies, termites use this chemical to cause temporary loss of consciousness. While the enemy is unconscious, the termite soldiers rapidly begin their attack to the enemy. It is quite impossible to survive after this type of attack.
Like the other chemicals that termite soldiers store in their bodies, this glue-like chemical is also kept safely without compromising the life of the termite. The excretion of this chemical is very similar to how the bazooka fires its ammunition, the distance reached by the bazooka attack is similar to the distance reached by the termite's spew relative to their sizes.
While it is very easy to hate termites because of the damage that they can do to our properties, it is also very interesting to understand the complex behavior of termites. The fact is clear and simple: termites do not intend to eat up your house; they happen to reach your house because of their insatiable need to feed their colony. I hope this fact guides you in the methods of termite control that you choose.
Michael Rozatoru :)
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