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How Do Termites Move Large Amounts Of Water For Mound Construction Purposes?

December 19th, 2018

Considering the vast number of termite species that have been documented by researchers thus far, it should not be surprising to learn that there exists a variety of different types of termite nests as well. For example, mound-building termites, as their name implies, build nests that protrude from the ground. Most subterranean termites construct cryptic nests that are located beneath the ground, but some subterranean termites construct nests that are both beneath and above the ground’s surface. Tree dwelling termites naturally build arboreal nests on tree branches. Although many different types of termite nests can be found in nature, all termite nests are built with premade building blocks, so to speak. To put it another way, termite nest construction requires a particular blend of materials and substances in order to create a durable structure. Much like how adobe houses are made with a mix of water and soil in order to create a durable structure, termites also mix soil and water to create their nests. In order for termites to do this, they must locate and transport large amounts of water, but it has not always been clear to scientists where, exactly, termites find vast amounts of water, not to mention how they transport all this water back to their nests. After all, termites are tiny creatures.

As it happens, water transport in termite colonies is pretty straightforward, as termites simply consume water from soil before transporting to their nests for building purposes or for fungal-crop cultivation. As a termite consumes water, its abdomen clearly swells as a result of consumption. This water can be shared with other termites in order to facilitate efficient and communal nest building. Termites carry water back to their nest site while also carrying soil particles. Soil and water is then mixed to create a slurry that they use as mortar for building their nests. This mortar-like material is composed of 30 percent water, which termites correctly calculate as the necessary amount for creating the most durable form of building material.

Do you think that there exists an insect species that could be considered superior to termites when it comes to constructing complicated nesting structures?

 

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