Thursday, 16 January 2014

Termites: Minor Creatures of Mass Destruction

Since humans first became civilized and started buildings to house themselves in, there has always been one creature that has always served as a huge nuisance to humans despite its relatively small size: the termite. Indeed, one can only imagine the promises God had to make Noah in order for the latter to take the little creatures unto his ark along with all the other creatures he was tasked with saving. Whatever the case, it seems that we continue to be pestered by termites well into the present day as they chew their way through our homes and our appliances. More often than not, we need to call on the help of professional exterminators to get rid of them and sometimes even saturating the entire lot and building might not even be enough. One survivor, under the right (or more likely wrong) conditions, can restart the cycle, resulting in a huge headache for whoever owns the building.

Defining the Termite

The termite is an insect, a member of the phylum Anthropoda which goes on to include arachnids (spiders and scorpions), chilopods (centipedes), diplopods (milipedes) and crustaceans (crabs, shrimps and lobsters. Being insects, termites are different from the arthropods mentioned above as they have no more than six legs and some of them possess wings. Termites are well known for their eusocial nature that makes them very similar to bees, ants, and wasps as they are divided into castes including a queen, soldiers, workers, and even a king. However, they are also different from said eusocial insects in that they are believed by scientists to be more closely related to cockroaches and mantises rather than bees or ants.

Termites and Humans

Let’s face it. Just about every homeowner is afraid of his or her house somehow being infiltrated by termites. Not that they can be blamed anyway as given sufficient time, termites can quite literally eat a house away to its barest essentials, leaving the wood that used to compose a house just rotted husks that will fall apart the moment someone sneezes and makes any loud noises. People have taken many precautions to prevent them from infiltrating their homes and have resorted to a lot of dire solutions just to get rid of them. Nonetheless, they continue to be pests for modern Homo sapiens in many places and even with modern technology on their side, it seems that termites continue to be a huge problem for a lot of people despite, or almost in spite of being so small.

Termite Tenacity and Cooperation

Termites may be small. But they more than make up for this by being tenacious and surprisingly intelligent. Like other eusocial insects (insects with a caste system like bees or ants) termites possess what is called “collective intelligence.” This means that, unlike humans, termites become more intelligent when there are more of them together, allowing them to surmount challenges that would baffle even some humans were they faced with similar problems. Remember, these are otherwise dumb insects but their combined intelligence is more than enough to challenge even the minds of college-graduated humans.

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