September 2021

The terrific termites

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The terrific termites

A termite colony is one big business. Termites have a specific role to play within the colony and together they create one of the most effective organisations on Earth.

The termite mound is their castle. It is built by worker termites which use a regurgitated mixture of sand and their saliva. Saliva acts like cement, which make the mound very difficult to break open. The mound looks solid from the outside but inside it is a maze of passages and chambers. The mounds have a cool air central channel and passage way, which are kept damp by the termites. Mounds come in many different shapes and sizes forming an integral part of bushveld landscape. 

The queen lies in the royal chamber and is so rotund with eggs that she can’t move easily. Her job is strictly to lay eggs - sometimes up to 30 000 a day depending on the chemical pheromone message passed on to her from the worker termites in the mound. She will produce either workers, soldiers or future kings or queens.

After heavy summer rains when the ground is soft thousands of termites leave the mound and take to the skies. These are the potential future kings and queens of new colonies. Once they have landed on the ground they shed their wings and look for a suitable nest site to begin a new colony.

Sipho Night Sibuyi
By Sipho Night Sibuyi
Field Guide