What is a “white ant” or Termite? In most tropical countries, if one digs a rotting tree trunk, one can see a large number of whitish insects with soft bodies, circulating in galleries of wet wood. Although they superficially resemble ants (they are often called “white ants”), they are termites.
Termites and ants are insects living in a society whose members are divided into castes each with a particular role. Biologically, however, they are profoundly different insects, and if examined more closely, they do not look alike. The antennae of termites are straight, those of ants curved, and the two main parts of the body of ants (thorax and abdomen) are separated by a thin “size”, which does not exist in termites. Social insect, xylophagous, with grinding mouthparts, with two pairs of equal wings that can be detached by autotomy.
Breeders represent the third caste. Termite colonies usually have a royal couple, a king, and a queen. The king and queen from another colony have large eyes, although they do not serve them much as soon as the nest is built, because afterward the royal couple never leaves their underground home. Those who replace the founders have smaller eyes.
The Queen Termite Insect
The queen, who occupies a royal chamber in the center of the termite mound, is by far the largest member of the colony: the king, who mates with her, the workers, who feed her, and the soldiers, who defend her, are smaller. It can live for decades, which is a record among insects.
The Caste of Soldiers
In several species, soldiers are also blind and wingless. Soldiers, who usually have large heads and powerful jaws, defend the colony from ants and other invaders. In some species, they launch, thanks to a rostrum, a viscous substance that coats and kills intruders. Soldiers sometimes use their wide flat heads to plug the holes in the termite mound and stay that way until repairs are made by the workers.
A Termite Mound Is an Air-Conditioned House
If the sheer size of a termite mound is impressive, its interior is just as amazing. Passages in the walls let in the air conditioning: the hot air rises cools and descends.
Are Termites Really Blind?
A termite colony has up to one million insects, 95% of which belong to the working caste. Like larvae, the workers, wingless and blind, use their sense of smell, taste, and touch to explore their field. Although apparently disabled, they build and maintain the most elaborate and largest animal homes in the world. They also collect food for themselves and other castes.
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