Termites—Amazing architecture and engineering skills


A termite's amazing mound.

If you have termites, likely you have little sympathy for their physical weaknesses.

They tend to be soft and weak, needing carefully controlled temperature and moisture.

It would seem that such insects could never survive in the harsh climate of the tropics.

Yet they thrive there.

How?

The answer is termite architecture and engineering skills.


Air conditioned termite mounds



Tropical termite nests are mounds of hardened mud that will make sparks fly from a hatchet.

Some Australian termites build a long, narrow, wedge-shaped mound that always points north-south, apparently giving protection against the hot midday sun.

Other species build mounds that look like human huts from a distance.

While the outside of a termite mound might be too hot to touch, inside it is a comfortable 85 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius).

How is the temperature controlled?

Thick walls help, but more is involved.

Some termites dig tunnels 130 feet (40 m) into the ground below the nest to obtain water, which they use both to cool the nest by evaporation and to maintain proper humidity, even in the dry, hot desert air!

Others build nests with a “cellar” and an “attic.”

For air exchange, the outside of the mound contains hollow channels that regulate the temperature and make sure there is plenty of fresh air inside the nest.

The termites are observed to be constantly at work on these channels, and by opening and closing them the air conditioning can be adjusted to perfection.