Positive Aspects of Termites-a Fine Line Between Your Yard and House

by Nate on August 7, 2011

Positive Aspects of Termites-a Fine Line Between Your Yard and House

It seems contradictory to say that termites are good. People are horrified of them, and home buyers who are looking for homes will ask the seller if there are termites in the house or if there are signs of termite infestation. Most times a “yes” answer will make buyers think twice.

The truth is, termites are bad news, not only because they’re crawly pesky creatures, but also because they could ruin an beautiful home over many years if they are left to fester and multiply. If you know something about termite colonies and how they’re formed, the number of colonies they establish inside and outside homes is mind-boggling!

The Universe of Termites

Before discussing the reasons why termites are good – especially when we refer to ecological considerations – let’s take a peek into the universe of these creatures. Some facts are worth noting:

One, termites are social insects (sometimes too social). Their habitat is the so-called “colony” and each colony can contain thousands of them. These colonies are established under the soil and spread throughout soil; imagine a row of townhomes in several blocks of a booming neighborhood.

Two, termites have a hierarchical structure. Some are born to be leaders, some to be followers.

Termite experts and insect scientists say that each colony is characterized by three types of castes: workers, soldiers and reproductives. Each of these castes carries out specific tasks in their milieu.

Three, termite workers constitute the largest population. They’re the ones that eat wood, roam around for food and water and build shelters. Termite soldiers in turn take care of defending colonies. Termite reproductives, as you may have already guessed, produce offspring and usually take over when something happens to the king or queen.

Positive Aspects of Termites

Many people will probably give you a puzzled look if you say that termites are beneficial because 99.9% of the population will say that they are destroyers of homes. They crawl their way into the warm spots of your home and will devour your wood.

When detected indoors, termites need to be eradicated and controlled through pest control programs because the damage they cause to structures can cost billions of dollars annually. However, when we look outside our homes and think of flora and fauna and the rest of nature, they bring about significant ecological value.

You’re probably wondering, in what ways are they ecologically valuable?

Benefit # 1: because they eat wood and are quite skillful at it, this means they have the capability to break down wood. By breaking down wood, they return nutrients to the soil. Also, by eating wood, dead trees are not left to pile one on top of the other over the years.

Benefit # 2: termites contribute to plant health. By recycling wood and feeding the soil with nutrients, they make the soil more porous.

Benefit # 3: again, by the very nature of their wood-eating activity, termites produce nitrogen and distribute it to the ecosystem. Their value is especially evident in forest ecosystems. Scientists explain this by saying that termites are somehow related to bio-geo chemical cycling of nutrients. Bio-geo chemical cycles include carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, sulfurus and other compounds. When termites forage for food, they also build tunnels that can be conduits for bacterial and fungal activity. Fungi are also known to have the capability of releasing nitrogen, iron, calcium, zinc and other elements.

Benefit # 4: as a corollary to benefit # 2, scientists Wood and Sands (1978) say that termites have the ability to influence their structural and chemical environment, and this influences vegetation in a significant manner because of their nitrogen-giving nature.

Benefit # 5: entomologists in Australia and other countries point out that termite activity is critical for regulating soil processes such as water and nutrient distribution and maintenance. By performing this role, termites contribute to biodiversity. They make it possible for creatures like reptiles and frogs to have a steady food supply.

So before you condemn these hard-working creatures and subject them to pesticides and other chemicals, think of what they do to balance the elements of nature and how they feed and nourish other living organisms. We need healthy and lush vegetation. An increasing number of people are turning to organic and everything soil-grown instead of buying processed food in the supermarket. Thanks to termite activity, our soil is able to produce food.

If you find termites in your house, then by all means get rid of them. They do damage homes, but you need not consider them as pests that have to be banned completely

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