How Can Termites Defend Against Ant Invasions?

December 11, 2018 | Posted In: Termites

How Can Termites Defend Against Ant Invasions?

Many people assume that termites and ants are mortal enemies. It may be true that ants and termites are not on the best of terms. And it is not at all uncommon for ants to kill termites. However, ants and termites are not necessarily engaged in an eternal war. It could be said that the animosity between ants and termites is overstated. The truth is that most ants are not aggressive predators of termites. Then again, there are many different ant species in the world, and they all approach termites in different ways. There are regions in Africa that contain some ant species that are relatively aggressive toward termites. In America this is not the case. When compared to other types of North American ant species, black ants may be relatively hostile toward subterranean termite species. But black ants do not actively hunt for subterranean termites. Of course, a colony of black ants can become dangerous to subterranean termite species if the ants are short on food.

The level of aggression that black ants show towards subterranean termites depends on food availability. When food sources are scarce, black ants may slowly invade colonies of subterranean termites. Since black ants are significantly larger than termites, termites do not stand much of a change of fighting-off invading black ants. But it is rare for black ants to be lacking in food sources. As long as black ants can find sufficient sustenance, subterranean termites will remain safe from black ant aggression. Luckily colonies of subterranean termites are not completely powerless against black ant invasions.

Termites are the earliest of all eusocial insects to appear on earth. Over the course of termite evolution, termites have developed many survival strategies. For example, subterranean termites have been building protective mud tubes for millions of years. These mud tubes are difficult for black ants to penetrate. When black ants do access termite colonies, they target the queen’s eggs. Once black ants succeed in capturing the eggs, which usually means killing the queen, they will transport the eggs back to their colony in order to distribute the eggs to colony members. However, termite colonies have many soldier termites that protect the queen and its eggs. Although black ants are larger in size than soldier termites, soldiers are often more numerous than invading black ant armies. This is why black ants will typically target relatively small termite colonies. Large termite colonies are very rarely invaded by armies of black ants.

Have you ever witnessed a group of insects attacking another group of insects? Have you ever witnessed a one-on-one battle between two insects after capturing them in the same container?