Magnetic Termites: Leading You Out of the Australian Outback

Magnetic Termites: Leading You Out of the Australian Outback


Hi Guys. I am Trisha with Insectopia here to talk to
you about magnetic termites. These termites build tall mounds that some
people say bear a resemblance to headstones. They build them in plains and they all face
the same direction. Mostly North-South, which is where they get
the name magnetic. But why in the world would they build a mound
that is 9-12 feet high with a North/South axis of 7 feet, and an East/West axis of only
3 feet? The leading hypothesis for their North/South
orientation is, temperature control. In the early morning the termites spend their
time on the east wall to warm up. By noon, when the day is hottest and the sun
is directly overhead in the Australian Outback, the termite mound is thin so the mound does
not have a large amount of surface area that the sun can heat. As the day is ending, the mound can pick up
enough heat to make it through the night. How does this help you? Well, now with the knowledge that the termite
mounds are built North to South. The next time that you are lost and wandering
around the Australian Outback and you run into one of these mounds, you will have a
50/50 shot at picking North instead of walking around completely lost. Before we dive into this mound, I want to
clear up a common misconception. Termites are eusocial cockroaches. Let’s try to clear this up a little, termites
are a kind of cockroach and are closer related to grasshoppers, praying mantids, and walking
sticks than they are to ants. This has to do with termites having an incomplete
metamorphosis and ants having a complete metamorphosis. Now, let’s look inside of this mound. In each mound there are varying ages of individuals
from eggs to adults and the individuals are specialized for different jobs. These special groups of individuals are called
castes. The 5 castes are: queen, king, soldier, worker,
and reproductive. The life cycle of a termite mound goes something
like this: The queen lays every egg in the colony and
is the mother to every individual in the colony other than the king. The eggs are cared for by the workers. In fact, the workers do all of the hard work
in the colony. They clean and repair the nest, gather food
and water, care for the young, construct the tunnels and galleries, and control the numbers
of soldiers and reproductives by killing and eating them based on chemical cues. The workers are very busy. Every single worker in the termite mound is
a nymph and most of them will stay nymphs for their entire life. These insects never molt into adulthood! It is as if most termites live in Peter Pan’s
Neverland. The lucky few individuals that come into adulthood
turn into either soldiers or reproductives. The soldiers have large mandibles and it is
their job to protect the colony. The reproductives gain wings and will wait
around in the colony until the external conditions are right so that they can go on a mating
flight. On a mating flight, a reproductive female
and a reproductive male will mate and become a king and queen. They will land on the ground and shed their
wings. The queen will find an ideal location to start
a colony. At that point, it is the king’s job to tend
for the colony and the eggs until there are workers to do these jobs. The king will stay by the side of the queen
in her chamber for the rest of his life. The queen will become as large as a human
index finger and lay an egg every 3 seconds. She actually becomes so large that she is
no longer able to move or leave the chamber that she is in. The workers will carry the eggs to another
chamber and care for them. This is how the cycle starts anew. These are real life pictures of the magnetic
termite’s mounds. This is what a termite looks like in real
life. On the left you can see an egg on the right
you can see a worker. On the left you can see a soldier and on the
right you can see a reproductive. On this final slide you can see a queen. Thank you for listening! If you have any questions about magnetic termites
or a thought on which caste you would be if you were a termite, let us know in the comment
section below! Make sure to like, comment, and subscribe
for more videos like this one. I will be posting videos frequently. Come and check out our next epic insect tale.

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