Kid Zone Articles
Termites: God's Pint-Sized Builders
Used by permission, Alpha Omega Institute
Have you ever been to a large city and seen a skyscraper? A skyscraper is a very high building designed for people to work or live in. A well-designed skyscraper must be made strong enough to hold up in strong winds and earth tremors. It must be able to have the inside air circulated, and heated or cooled. A lot of special design goes into making a skyscraper.
Termite mounds (or termitaries) are the skyscrapers of the animal world. Some of these mounds are up to 20 feet high (some of the world’s tallest animal mounds)! The builders are termites. Most termites are tiny, soft bodied, white insects that must have a dark moist place to live. Some termites will die if left in the open air for more than a few hours. Most avoid light and can thrive only where there is warmth and high humidity. They must also have fresh moist air. Termites construct their mounds to meet these needs. Their mounds are built with a complicated ventilation system.
Termites use spit and mud to build the hard, thick walls. Very close to the surface of these walls are tiny tunnels. Air is heated by the bodies of the termites and their fungus. This warmed air rises, and tiny tunnels carry the rising warm air close to the surface of the mound. The termitary walls are porous, or have tiny holes. The tiny tunnels are so near the porous surface that cooled, fresh air can actually leak into the inside air and stale air, and other gases can leak out. Thus the mound acts like a giant lung and constantly refreshes the air inside. Amazingly these walls also keep the rain and the heat out!
This air moving system works so well that the temperature inside the mound is kept .at a steady 64° all year- no matter what the temperature is outside. Without ventilation and cooling, the termites would die within hours. Each huge termite mound is built by worker termites. Worker termites also repair the mound, take care of the king and queen, gather food, and tend the eggs. Amazingly, these tiny workers are blind!
The queen, king, and soldiers have eyes. Each mound has one queen and one king. The queen can lay more than 30,000 eggs a day! There are also soldier termites which defend the colony with their large heads and powerful jaws. They have such large jaws that they cannot feed themselves, but must be fed by the workers. Some termites grow fungus to eat, but others have to go outside for food.
Termites have a special smell (pheromones). When workers stumble into food they leave a scent trail for others to follow. Workers have a different smell than soldiers. If a lot of soldier termites are killed during a battle, there will be less of the soldier smell inside the mound. The queen, down in her egg laying chamber, can sniff the air, and somehow she knows that there are not as many soldier termites. So she begins to lay soldier eggs, to replace those that are missing!
Wood eating termites live on wood. Have you ever tried to eat wood? You can eat wood all you want, but it won't do you much good, because we cannot digest the cellulose in wood. Wood eating termites, like you, cannot digest cellulose! So how do they do that? They live in a symbiotic or mutual relationship with teeny critters called flagellates.
These wee creatures live in the intestine of the termite. Flagellates cannot live in the pen air. They must have a place with no free oxygen to live or they will die. These tiny flagellates make enzymes that break down the cellulose of wood and also supply protein. They digest the wood for the termite.
This symbiotic or mutual relationship between the termite and the flagellate can only be explained by Creation. With too much oxygen, the flagellates die and then so does the termite because he can’t digest his food. They need each other to live. Apart, they both die. How can evolution, a process of chance and accident, explain that? And how do termites know how to build? Did they learn by chance and accident or trial and error? How could they have survived before they learned how to build their complicated homes? Can evolution explain that? I don’t think so. Everything about the termite points to design--a design that had to work the very first time, and every time thereafter. The design of the termite points to God the Creator!