By Owen Jones

Termite mounds differ from species to species although to the amateur student of termites, many of them look alike. However, an specialist can often deduce the species simply by looking at the mound. Termites construct their nests in all sorts of locations. Some build theirs in living trees like wasps, others build them in dead upright or fallen trees. Tree stumps are a favourite of some other varieties of termite, which is why it is always recommended that you remove tree stumps in termite zones.

Then there are yet another sort of termite - those that like to live in or close to the soil. Those that live in the ground are called subterranean termites. As they mine their tunnels and excavate the chambers for their nests, they eat a lot of the matter and compact a lot more, but what they find superfluous, they carry to the surface. This sometimes forms part of the nest, but not a vital part of it. This makes a termite mound of sorts, but they are not the impressive ones that you see in films.

Those termite mounds, also erroneously called ant hills in Africa and Australia, are made by termites that live above ground, although most species will also have tunnels and chambers underground as well. These are the big structures that termites are famous for.

They are largely built by termites living in the dry savannas and dry wastelands of Australia and Africa. The biggest known to man is about nine metres (thirty feet) high, although the average is closer to a little over a metre (three or four feet) tall.

However, these termite mounds are not only remarkable for their height. They are also remarkably robust. Elephants sometimes use them as scratching posts. Imagine that! Two tons of elephant rubbing itself up and down on your earthen hut or even a wooden house. But the really intriguing stuff goes on inside.

The eggs and the nymphs (young) of some species can only continue to exist within a tolerance of plus or minus one degree centigrade. The Compass Termite accomplishes this by building a wedge shaped mound with the longest sides facing north-south. This allows the predominant drafts to be drawn in by the column of warm air rising from the base of the nest up to and out of the roof of the mound.

The termite mounds of some species are so beautiful and weird that they attract tourists, who regularly gaze in wonderment at the design and intricacy of the mound. Scientists too have been studying termite mounds for a long time and recently Australian engineers have joined in.

They are hoping that they will be able to learn termite technology in order to construct large buildings so that they are more self-regulating. They are actually constructing a man-made termite mound to try out their theories in the anticipation that they will be able to build them into future designs.

Therefore, in a few years time, if someone asks you what a termite mound looks like, you may simply be able to point at the civic offices and say: like that.

About the Author:

blog comments powered by Disqus