Monday, May 24, 2010

Harvester Termites

A couple of week ago we spent the weekend at Sleepy Hollow camp site just outside Port Elizabeth. After a night of soft rain we woke up to literally thousands of flying insects crawling out of holes in the ground and taking flight. They were non other than Harvester Termites.

The Harvester Termite doesn't build mounds, but nests completely underground. They collect grass and plant materials by night and on cool days which then gets transported underground into the nests. Winged "imagoes" (flying ants), which were what we were seeing that morning, emerges after rain. They fly short distances, shed wings and digs a chamber 25mm below the surface. The female would then attract males through pheromones and become the new queen of new colony.

She will eventually become too big to move and lay 20 000 eggs per day for the rest of her life. Majority of eggs develop into workers while others will turn into soldiers and imagoes. It was amazing seeing these flying termites pouring out the holes and flying away. The kids were all commenting that they looked like fairies.
Interestingly, termites are distributed world wide but Africa has widest diversity of termite species.

5 comments:

  1. Jonker, such an amazing experience to see the "fairies" emerge from their deep homes. They appear Huge. Great post!

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  2. Great photo of them in flight! I've never seen them flying in the morning, only at sunset. I hate them in the evenings as they come into the house towards the light then drop their wings.
    Have you ever seen them demolish a lawn? We had them years ago - one afternoon I saw the lawn 'moving' in waves and then they disappeared taking with them most of the lawn!! I went straight to the nursery for poison to pour down their holes that evening!

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  3. Yuck! After cockroaches, parktown prawns and praying mantises, flying ants are my least favourite thing. Strangely enough, I like most other things like rodents and spiders. Well, i like rodents so long as they are not rats and so long as those rats are not in my house. Mice are fine.

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  4. I just bet the birds were having a feast!! Great shots Jonker.

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  5. fairies!! I LOVE it!! children deserve this planet more than us adults!

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