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Many Insects Are Welcome Guests Within Termite Colonies

January 3rd, 2018

Many Insects Are Welcome Guests Within Termite Colonies

It is well known that termite nests vary in size and overall appearance. Given the vast amount of termite species living in the world, it makes sense that there are a variety of different types of termite nests. Termite nests consist mostly of workers who are responsible for building nests, repairing nests, and grooming the queen’s eggs. The defenders of a nest, the soldiers, only account for around five percent of a termite colony’s population. But this figure varies somewhat from species to species. Most people would assume that no other insects dwell within termite nests. This is understandable as insects are generally territorial creatures that do not respond well to foreign invaders. However, relative to most other insects, termites are hospitable hosts to some types of insects. Insects that invade termite nests are normally seeking refuge from the hostile outside environment. Surprisingly enough, even some common enemies of termites take up residence within termite nests. Of course, termites are not welcoming to all insects, but some insects manage to dwell unnoticed within the intricate inner chambers of a termite nest.

Termite nests are also referred to as “termitaria”. Many termite nests are not even recognized as such. For example, some termite species are content with making homes out of rotting logs. Termite colonies that inhabit dead pieces of timber do not contain the enormous amount of individual termites that some other nests contain. Some nests appear to be made of stone and can reach more than thirty feet in height. These types of nests can be found in Africa and Australia. There are only two types of termite nests that exist in Europe. One of these European nests is made by the Kalotermes flavicollis termite species, and the other nests are made by the Reticulitermes lucifugus species. Both of these nests are found in trees. Oddly, termite nests are never found more than fifty degrees north of the equator.

The larger termite nests found in African and Australian savannas can contain numerous other insects, such as centipedes, moth and fly larvae, millipedes, different types of true bugs, bristletails, springtails and even entire colonies of enemy ants. Many of these insects are smaller than termites.  Bristletails and springtails are only around two centimeters in length. Obviously, smaller insects feel safer hiding within termite colonies than they do risking their lives in the wild. Ants will conquer certain chambers within termite nests, and they will coexist as long as termites do not disturb them. Wars between ants and termites can sometimes occur within termite nests, but ants almost always get their way.

Do you believe that some insects invade termite nests because invading insects instinctively know that termites are relatively timid and unthreatening?

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