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Is It Ever Acceptable For A Homeowner To Treat A Termite Infestation?

All three groups of termites, subterranean, drywood, and dampwood, keep secretive habitats that are well concealed beneath soil and/or wood. Subterranean termites almost always nest within soil, but they construct mud tunnels that allow them to access the structural wood within homes. These termites construct mud tunnels in order to avoid the harsh climate, and to allow them easy access between the cellulose within wood, and water within soil. Unlike subterranean termites, drywood and dampwood species do not dwell naturally within soil; instead, these termites maintain a constant habitat within single and interconnected wood items, such as logs, trees, and structural wood within homes. Considering their well-hidden habitat, termites virtually never become visible to humans, with the exception of reproductive winged termites (alates) that swarm at certain times during the year. However, Texas happens to be one of very few states where a particular termite species can be found crawling above ground where it feeds on living and dry grasses and a variety of green plant species. This species is officially known as Gnathamitermes tubiformans, but they are more commonly known as “desert termites” or “woodlice.” These termites are most abundant within the arid southwest region of the state. If a Texas resident spots termites within his/her lawn, they are definitely desert termites, and luckily, they do not infest structures.

Desert termites are not considered pests, and therefore, spotting them near a home does not call for professional pest control services. However, the entire state of Texas is located within a geographic area where termite pest activity is most abundant, and the tremendously destructive and invasive Formosan subterranean termite is well established with the southeast to central portion of the state. If subterranean mud tunnels are found along the foundation of a home, then damaging subterranean termites have almost certainly established an infestation. Sometimes, old mud tunnels can be found on homes where termite infestations are no longer active, but mud tunnels degrade rapidly when they are not maintained by the insects. Treating termite infestations requires a particular license to handle certain termiticides, making an effective DIY pest treatment next to impossible.

Have you ever found subterranean termite mud tunnels along the foundation of a home?

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How Does A Queen Termite Instruct Her Workers During The Construction Of Her Royal Chamber?

Scientists have long been researching the nest-building behavior of termites in order to better understand how queen termites communicate with worker termites. Many termite species have worker termites constructing a royal chamber for the queen and king as the first stage of nest construction. Worker termites, of course, do not refer to any sort of blueprint for constructing nests; instead, the queen directs workers on how to construct the nest by emitting a “building-pheromone.” In addition to the building-pheromone, termite workers emit what are called “trail-pheromones” while foraging in order to provide additional workers with a scent trail that leads to a food source.Surprisingly, researchers have found that trail-pheromones are also essential for coordinating the nest-building behavior performed by worker termites.

It had been traditionally assumed that the building-pheromone was the only type of pheromone necessary for facilitating nest construction. However, A study conducted by British researchers revealed that trail-pheromones allow worker termites to construct architecturally challenging pillars within the royal chamber. During construction, worker termites were found to emit trail-pheromones along the path from the queen and her chamber to the soil source where the building materials are retrieved. Researchers showed that when worker termites are deprived of their ability to emit trail-pheromones during construction,they fail to complete the pillar formations.

Before worker termites construct the royal chamber around the queen,the queen emits building-pheromones in liquid form. A small amount of workers then proceed to rub this liquid pheromone on the queen’s abdomen for the purpose of grooming her. When the pheromone diffuses away from the queen’s body, worker termites sense the pheromone, which triggers their building behavior. The diffusion of the building-pheromone also creates a one to two inch zone where termites walk between a source of soil for building and the queen. As it happens, the soil source also contains what are called “cement pheromones.” These pheromones attract workers to the soil source before prompting them to deposit a soil pellet onto the royal chamber during its construction, similar to a brick being added to the wall of an unfinished house. This cycle repeats until the royal chamber’s construction is complete.While researchers now know that at least three different types of pheromones are involved in the construction of the royal chamber, pheromone messaging systems in termite colonies remain poorly understood by researchers.

Do you think that the queen is responsible for emitting the cement pheromones that attract termites to the soil used for constructing the royal chamber?

Termite Colonies Were Once Regarded As Perfect Societies That Should Be Replicated By Humans

Insect behaviors vary tremendously from species to species, and these behaviors have been a source of fascination among people for thousands of years. The peculiarities of their behavior have prompted scientists and thinkers of all ages into studying the nature of insects. Although insects do not stand in close relation to humans on the evolutionary tree, there are some species that closely resemble humans in their group behavior. Social insects, like bees, wasps, ants and termites, show a remarkable degree of group cooperation that seems incongruous with their primitive state. The similarities between insect colonies and human societies became a topic of inquiry among European naturalists during the early modern era. It could be argued that no other type of social insect has been compared to humans as much as termites have. The extraordinary feats in which termites are capable has been highly regarded by scientists and social theorists for hundreds of years.Waco Termite Control

In 1781, a leading natural scientist, Henry Smeathman, touted termites as being “foremost on the list of the wonders of creation.” Smeathman granted termites this high praise due to the human-like behaviors that the insects demonstrate. Smeathman described his high regard for termites in a report he wrote for the Royal Society. This report detailed the insects as having mastered industry and even government. It is no surprise that this report was written at a time in history when the unique abilities of mankind, such as thought and artistic mastery, were regarded with a newfound sense of reverence.

During the early 1900’s, Russian thinker, Peter Kropotkin, referred to the efficiency of a termite colony as a model for the ideal communist society. For Kropotkin, the willingness with which termite workers labor for the greater good of their colonies should be mimicked by human laborers in a communist state. However, some modern thinkers have referred to termites negatively when describing the possible consequences that could result from the blind obedience of the great majority within communist societies. For example, during the 1920’s, an American entomologist, William Wheeler, believed that selfless state-servitude could ultimately reduce humans to unintelligent, yet efficient, beings, much like termites. Wheeler believed that humanity would not be able to evolve beyond such a societal state. If humans were to become selflessly compliant to the needs of the state, in the same way termites serve their colony, then the greatest human achievements, such as art and scholarship, would cease to exist. Nowadays, it would seem unthinkable to regard termites as virtuous models of what human beings could be become.

Have you ever found anything in a insect’s nature that is worth emulating?

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Termite Activity In Soil Was Once Regarded As “Ecological Magic”

Termites may be relatively boring insects, but people have marveled over the size and intricacy of termite mounds for thousands of years. In the west, most people consider termites to be insect pests that can inflict expensive damages to buildings and houses. While this attitude may not be unfair, people living in Africa view termites a bit differently. Africa contains the greatest abundance of termite species, and it is somewhat commendable to see how African people have made use of termites over the centuries. Not only are termites valued for their nutritional quality in Africa, but the awe-inspiring beauty of tall and equally spaced termite mounds within spacious African fields cannot be denied by any visiting westerner. In fact, termite mounds are considered one of the most fascinating features of African safaris. In addition to being tall and castle-like in appearance, termite mounds are made of uniquely fertile forms of soil that allow for the growth of edible mushrooms and many different forms of vegetation. Considering that termite mounds provide the only forms of edible vegetation and fungi within otherwise excessively barren and dry deserts, it is no wonder why so many African people have, and still do, consider termite mounds to be an example of “ecological magic.”Waco Termite Control

Not all termite species build mounds. Only the termite sub-family known as Macrotermitinae can create mounds. These termites gather various forms of plant matter for sustenance, and this plant matter is stored within specific chambers contained within their mounds. In order to make this plant matter easier to digest, termites wait for fungi to grow over their stored piles of collected plant matter. This fungi grows significantly after bouts of rain. It does not take long for the fungi to grow through the tops of termite mounds, making them clearly visible. This type of fungus is known as the Termitomyces mushroom, and this mushroom has been consumed by African natives for centuries. The food-providing capacities of termite mounds have long been considered a form of magic by female shamans. The African religious cults of Santeri, Renuka and Yellamma worship an earth goddess known as Roen or Santeri. This earth goddess is illustrated on religious emblems as a five-hooded serpent emerging from a womb. These religious cults call this emblem “Nagakashtha.” Many religious scholars believe that the Nagakashta originated from the image of immature mushrooms protruding from the tops of termite mounds. This is one of many reasons why termite mounds serve as symbols of female fertility in African cultures.

Do you think that the American attitude toward termites would be more positive if mound-building termites existed in the United States?

 

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Why Do Some Modern Eastern Cultures Continue To Worship Termites In Spite Of Their Pest Status?

In the past people may have regarded termites as nothing more than undesirable pests. However, now we know that termites provide essential ecological services that humans could not live without. Therefore, while termites will always be structural pests, everyone in the world can agree that they are not all bad. It is hard to imagine anyone liking termites for any reason other than their ability to convert dead plant matter into soil-enriching particles. However, in many parts of the world, termites are highly thought of as having spiritual or religious value.Waco Termite Control

Some of you may know that past cultures considered termites to be good omens. Rarely were termites thought of as evil entities, like snakes and many insect species. This is not necessarily hard to believe, as centuries ago, mass home construction projects and large scale residential areas were not yet a thing. In other words, when termites were accorded spiritual value by past cultures, there were no homes for termites to destroy. However, it is hard to reconcile modern people worshipping termites considering their long association with property and crop destruction in just about every corner of the world. Also, given the state of modern scientific understanding, it would seem silly to associate termites with positive notions of spirituality. Despite, our current understanding of how termites function in nature, many modern groups of people living in various Asian nations continue to apply ritual significance to termites and termite mounds.

It is hard to blame some modern cultures for not abandoning their spiritual beliefs concerning termite mounds, after all, termite mounds can reach thirty feet in height, making them awe-inspiring structures. The largest groups of people who treat termites with spiritual or religious significance live in Asian countries. Some modern people living in Thailand, Malaysia, China and Singapore worship termite mounds to this day.

In Malaysia, where termite mounds are abundant in residential areas, some religious groups believe that spiritual guardians build and reside within inactive termite mounds. One mound-dwelling guardian is known as “Keramat.” In some neighborhoods, locals will protect inactive termite mounds from destruction by building shrines around them. In the Hokkian dialect, Keramat is known as “Datok Kong.” Worshippers of Datok Kong pray to termite mounds in order to attain good health, protection and good luck, sometimes with the hopes of winning the lottery. Interestingly, Chinese villagers acquired their belief in Keramat from previous settlers that practiced Islam. It is likely that Islamic mystics inhabiting China during the 16th century also prayed in front of inactive termite mounds for similar reasons.

Are you surprised that termite mounds are so highly regarded in urbanized areas where termite infestations must be a problem?

Researchers Discover Why Termite Queens And Kings Live Unusually Long Lives

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When considering all animals, it is generally understood that animals with rapid reproductive rates live shorter lives, and animals that are less fertile live longer lives. This is almost always the case in the animal kingdom, but it seems that termites may be exempt from this biological rule. Termite queens and kings, as many of you already know, reproduce at incredibly rapid rates. Given this fact, a termite reproductive’s lifespan should be very short in duration. However, a termite colony’s royal pair actually live as long as twenty, thirty or even forty years. Amazingly, royal termites from some colonies are reported to live for as long as fifty years. So why is this? Recently a group of researchers set up several experiments aimed at finding an answer to this question.

Researchers have recently published a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that has shed some light on the genetic peculiarities that allow royal termite pairs to live for several decades. The researchers from the Zoology Department at the University of Freiburg, chose to study one of the most reproductively successful termite species as a model in their study. This species is known as Macrotermes bellicosus, and they are actually the most reproductively successful terrestrial animals that exist. Macrotermes queens lay around twenty thousand eggs per day, which makes them highly fertile to say the least. Despite the Macrotermes queen’s high reproduction rate, these queens live to be around twenty years old. According to Ph.D. student Daniel Elsner and Dr. Karen Meusemann, Macrotermes workers and queens possess identical genomes, but workers only live for five years at most.

After comparing the specific genes between Macrotermes queens, kings and workers, researchers found that queens and kings appear genetically identical, even when they are years apart in age. However, the workers, although much younger than the royal pairs, had an added genetic mechanism that makes them age faster than royals. The workers possessed what are called “jumping genes”, which are genes that replicate automatically. When genes replicate, mistakes can occur, and mutations are common. Obviously, reproductive queens and kings are responsible for breeding every individual termite in a colony, so they cannot afford to risk genetic mutations that result from jumping genes. If the royal pair possessed jumping genes that cause mutations, then a colony would become genetically compromised, resulting in colony death. Luckily, for termite queens and kings, the absence of jumping genes has the added benefit of preventing aging.

Have you always wondered why termite queens and kings lived unusually long lifespans?

What Makes A Particular House Attractive To Destructive Termites?

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Termites are well known for damaging a variety of different types of homes. Termites can attack homes in poorer neighborhoods just as easily as they can in wealthier neighborhoods. Obviously, termites are attracted to and feed on wood, but even homes that are constructed from non-wood materials can become infested with termites. Of course, there are several factors that make homes more or less vulnerable to damaging termite activity. For example, many neighborhoods within the termite hotspot of New Orleans have fallen victim to large-scale termite infestations. New Orleans and many other regions along the Gulf Coast are plagued by damaging Formosan subterranean termites solely because the region’s subtropical climate is conducive to their existence. Therefore, just about any type of home is at risk of sustaining termite damage in this large region of the United States. To put it simply, no matter how well-protected your home may be against invading termites, infestations can sneak up on you.

Although you may have your home regularly inspected for termites, some of the most obscure imperfections to your home can serve as access points for termites. For example, cracks on concrete slabs can become large enough for termites to fit through. Small hairline cracks commonly develop on concrete. The smallest hairline cracks will not allow for termite-access, but larger ones can provide an opening for termites. When considering a termite’s tiny body, it may seem impossible for termites to fit through cracks in cement, but termites commonly access homes through this route.

Inadequate property grades can also be an issue when it comes to protecting your home from termites. If rainwater flows through your lawn and collects in a large puddle on your property, the resulting water can trickle down through the soil, thus diluting previous chemical anti-termite treatments. Replacing soil insecticides with large amounts of fresh water will only attract more thirsty termites to your property. You can also help keep termites off of your property by regularly unclogging your gutters in order to properly divert water from your lawn and by being more mindful about where you place your lawn sprinkler.

Do you think that if more people were aware of how desirable water is to termites, then reports of in-home termite infestations would drop?