Termites - Interesting Facts
- A gourmet delight in Singapore is 2-inch long termite queens. For only a few dollars you can have them served either live (YUM!), dipped in alcohol, or preserved in a fine rice wine.
- Pound for pound, the weight of all the termites in the world is greater than the total weight of humans.
- The Queen of a species of African termite may eventually grow to 5 inches long, and lay up to 30,000 eggs each day.
- There have been documented cases of the Queen of a termite colony living for over 50 years, and some scientists believe it is possible they may live to be 100 years old.
- An “insect specialist” in India is promoting the idea that eating live termites will improve a person’s sex drive. He suggests popping them into the mouth and allowing them to slide – alive and wriggling – down your throat. He currently sells huge queen termites for $10 each. For those unable to “stomach” the idea of swallowing the termites in this manner, Mr. Michael Chia allows a person to swallow them along with a gulp of red wine.
- Termites make hard mounds above ground in many regions of the world. One from Australia was measured to be almost 20 feet across. One in Africa was actually 12.8 meters high – 42 feet!
- Some African and Australian termite colonies may contain over 3 million individuals:
- that’s enough to fill 7 large pickup trucks
- placed end to end they would stretch 100 miles
- Scientists estimate that, worldwide, termites may release over 150 million tons of methane gas into the atmosphere annually. In our lower atmosphere this methane then reacts to form carbon dioxide and ozone – two of the notorious “greenhouse” gases.
- It is estimated that for every human on Earth there may be 1000 pounds of termites.
Termites cannot digest their own food. Instead, within their gut they have colonies of microscopic bacteria and protozoa, and it is these tiny creatures that digest the wood and then excrete carbohydrate, which the termite is able to convert to its own energy. More than 100 species of bacteria and protozoa live in the gut of termites.
- In some parts of the United States the subterranean termites, which must maintain a path back to the soil, will erect free-standing mud tubes in order to get to wood. One documented tube was leading from a floor to the ceiling 12 feet above it in a home, and actually swayed with the light breeze from the home’s air conditioning.
- In the Amazon rainforests there are over 200 different kinds of termites. In one culture they are referred to as “cupins”, and if a colony is found in the home it is foretelling the imminent death of the owner of the home. The only way to avoid death is to eliminate the termite colony, and if this is not successful the home must be abandoned.
- Other Amazonian cultures look upon termites for their usefulness:
The termites serve as food in times of crop shortage for Macu Indians.
The Kayapo tribe also eats termites, fried in their own juices, while the Maue tribe prefers to barbecue them. The termites are first ground into a paste and then roasted over the coals.
The Uaica Indians grind up the mounds of termites and chew on the pieces.
The ancient Kayapo Indians used the powder of crushed termite mounds as a condiment.
They serve as therapeutic remedies for a variety of illnesses:
- Bronchitis – grind the nest, boil in water, serve as a tea
- Influenza – grind the nest, mix with tree fibers, burn and inhale the smoke
- Constipation – chop and dry termites and eat them (this also works for rheumatism, by the way)
- Dog bite and rabies – catch and kill the offending dog, mix its hair and blood together and pour it over a termite mound.
- Goiter – grind the nest, mix with water and drink it hot.
- Influenza – set fire to the termite nest and inhale the smoke.
- Pneumonia – crush the termites, cook with sugar until thick, and serve hot.
- Rheumatism – dry the termites and eat, or serve them as a warm broth
- Sores, boils, ulcers – burn a termite nest and place the ashes on the sores
- Whooping cough – remove the outer covering of an aerial termite nest and boil it in water. Filter off the water and sweeten with sugar and drink while hot.