Nelson Ruiz No Comments

A Massive Art Exhibition Is Allowing Visitors To Explore Termite Habitats From A Termite’s Perspective

You probably have not heard many artists claim to have been inspired by insects, let alone termites, but one famous artist, Nicholas Mangan, is an exception in this regard. Mangan has recently contributed an art display to the Taipei Fine Arts Museum as a part of the museum’s exhibit titled: Post Nature–A Museum as an Ecosystem. Most of Mangan’s work highlights aspects of the ecosystem that many people are unfamiliar with. For example, Mangan’s latest exhibit focuses on the positive effect that termites have on the ecosystem.

Mangan is calling his exhibit Termite Economics, and it consists of 3D printed models of different termite habitats, including nesting mounds, earthen tunnel networks and dwelling chambers within blocks of wood. All of his 3D models were constructed from plaster, dirt, synthetic polymer paint, and plywood. In addition to the habitat models, Mangan also commissioned drone footage of particular regions of Australia’s arid landscape where termites are known to be active. This footage is played on a continuous loop in order to provide spectators with a termite’s point of view as it navigates terrain and approaches its nest. The footage is played on a computer that is situated amongst Mangan’s models. This exhibition was inspired by current termite research being conducted by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, or CSIRO.

Researchers working for CSIRO are currently studying how subterranean termites can lead humans toward rare mineral sources that are located far below the ground where they cannot be viewed by humans. Mangan believes that CSIRO research shows how social cooperation among termites allows the insects to achieve feats that are beyond human capabilities, such as complicated mound architecture, and in this case, mining, so to speak. Mangan’s exhibit allows people to understand how the mining and world-building capability of termites reflects manmade economic systems and social hierarchies. For Mangan, a termite colony is like a tiny universe that closely resembles human sociality.

Do you believe that termite sociality is similar to human sociality?

Nelson Ruiz No Comments

Are Homes Built On Concrete Slabs More Or Less Vulnerable To Termite Attacks?

Termites are easily the most destructive pests in the world, and it is well known that the insects inflict billions of dollars in damages to structures each year within the United States. Due to the increasing destruction being caused by termites each year in the country, more and more homeowners are choosing to have their houses inspected for the wood-eating pests on a regular basis.

Aside from the fact that termites enjoy eating structural wood, the average homeowner knows very little about termites. For example, most homeowners are not able to recognize wood that has been damaged by termites, and most homeowners would not be able to spot an active termite infestation within their home even if the affected area were within plane sight. This is understandable, after all, termites are among the stealthiest of all insect groups. Structural wood that has undergone years of termite damage can be hard to notice, as termites consume wood fibers beneath the surface of structural lumber where entire colonies remain invisible. Since the most destructive group of termites, subterranean termites, forage unseen beneath the soil’s surface, anticipating termite attacks on homes and other structures is next to impossible. Therefore, it would be wise for residents to recognize certain structural features that may make their home vulnerable to termite infestations.

Many homeowners believe that the concrete slab that their home is built on serves as a barrier that prevents termites from accessing their home’s structural wood, but this is not necessarily the case. When it comes to modern home construction, concrete slabs may be the norm, but they actually make homes more vulnerable to termite infestations in the long-run. This is because concrete slabs eventually develop cracks that termites can easily travel through in order to access structural wood above. In fact, termites have more than enough room to travel through concrete openings around plumbing in newly built homes, and the condensation that forms on the external surface of pipes serves to attract thirsty termites to the vulnerable area. A termiticide chemical barrier is often applied to a bare property before concrete slabs are laid in order to prevent termites from breaching the slab after a home is built.

Can you pinpoint any structural imperfections on your home that put it at risk of becoming infested with subterranean termites?

Nelson Ruiz No Comments

Dampwood Termites In Arizona Can Attack Living Citrus Trees And Spread Fungal Decay

Arizona is home to a wide variety of termite species from the subterranean, drywood and dampwood groups. The most economically costly termites in Arizona, subterranean termites, have adapted to foraging below the hard and dry desert soil, and drywood termites, most notably the western drywood termite, is right at home in Arizona, as these termites, as their name suggests, both live within and feed upon single pieces of dry wood with low moisture levels. Unlike most termite species in the United States, Subterranean termites in Arizona and drywood termites in general do not require excessive amounts of water in order to survive. However, this is not the case when it comes to dampwood termites, as these aptly named termites only feed on wood sources with relatively high moisture levels. It is for this reason that dampwood termite species are particularly abundant along the rainy west coast, particularly in the state of Washington. It is often claimed that dampwood termites do not exist within Arizona and other parts of the arid Sonoran Desert, but this is false, as Arizona is home to three dampwood termite species. Unlike most termite species, dampwood termites in Arizona infest living trees, especially citrus trees, and some studies show that dampwood termites can facilitate the spread of fungal decay to new sources of wood.

One Arizona termite species, the desert dampwood termite, is a misnomer, as this species is actually a soil-dwelling subterranean termite species. The most widespread and damaging dampwood species in Arizona is the Arizona dampwood termite, while the Pacific dampwood termite and the Nevada dampwood termite are encountered far less often in the state. Dampwood termites are much larger than their subterranean and drywood counterparts, as swarming alates grow to be 2 inches in length, and soldiers and workers grow to be an inch and a half and an inch in length, respectively. Much like drywood termites, dampwood termites don’t typically dwell within soil, but they often infest damp wood that makes contact with soil, and similar to subterranean termites, dampwood termites often infest wooden posts at or below the soil’s surface in order to retain moisture. Although dampwood termites are not a serious concern in Arizona, they can annoy homeowners when they infest baseboards and waterlogged wood sources around homes. In order to retain the high amount of water they need to survive, dampwood termites extract water from the sap of citrus trees, which often damages the trees. Since dampwood termites prefer to feed on moist, decayed and waterlogged wood, they often consume wood that has grown fungi. After feeding on fungi-infested wood, it has been suggested that dampwood termites spread fungal spores to new wood sources.

Have you ever found wet wood that appeared to be damaged by termites?

Nelson Ruiz No Comments

How Arizona Residents Can Tell The Difference Between A Subterranean Termite Infestation And A Drywood Termite Infestation

How Arizona Residents Can Tell The Difference Between A Subterranean Termite Infestation And A Drywood Termite Infestation

Termite species are divided into three categories: Subterranean termites, drywood termites, and dampwood termites. Unfortunately, Arizona is home to termite species from all three of these categories. There exists a few termite pest species in Arizona that are classified as drywood and subterranean termites, but only one dampwood species is active in the state. The most damaging subterranean termite species in the state include the arid land subterranean termite and the desert subterranean termite. The two most significant drywood species in the state include the dark western drywood termite and the light western drywood termite. All four of the above named species attack structures in great frequency in most areas of Arizona, particularly within the southern half of the state. There exists many ways for a homeowner to distinguish between drywood and dampwood termite species and the types of damage these species inflict on a home’s structural wood.

Subterranean termites are larger than drywood termites in terms of body size, and this goes for both swarmers (alates) and workers. However, most residents who discover termite damage in their home are unlikely to see individual worker termites, as they are active beneath the surface of wood where they remain out of sight for nearly all hours of the day. Unlike drywood termites, subterranean termites must make regular contact with ground soil for nourishment. In order to travel back and forth between structural wood and the soil, these termites build mud tubes that are usually visible along one or more sides of a home’s foundation. Drywood termite infestations may be relatively more difficult to notice, as they remain within wood at all times, making mud tubes unnecessary for these termites. But unlike subterranean termite infestations, drywood termite infestation can normally be pinpointed by finding piles of dry fecal pellets near areas of structural wood. Subterranean termites do not leave behind these fecal pellets, as they expel liquid waste within soil. Although subterranean termites are typically more widespread and destructive than subterranean termites, this is not the case in most western US states where experts consider the dark western drywood termite to be the most significant termite pest in the region, especially in Arizona.

Have you ever witnessed a termite swarm near your home?

Nelson Ruiz No Comments

Are There Termites In Arizona That Infest Residential Trees Before Moving Into Homes?

Termites of the “subterranean” variety are easily the most economically significant wood-eating insects in the world. In America alone it is estimated that subterranean termites are responsible for inflicting around 80 percent of all insect-induced damages to wood-framed structures. In many northern states, the eastern subterranean termite is the only termite species that residents need to worry about. But in hotter southern states, the termite population is more diverse, making drywood and dampwood termite species a threat to many homes in the region.

In Arizona, subterranean termites are considered the most problematic, but many residents do not realize that two species of drywood termite also inflict significant structural damages within the state. These two species are commonly known as the dark western drywood termite and the light western drywood termite, and unfortunately, these termites often infest residential trees before accessing structural timber within homes and buildings.

The dark western drywood (DWD) termite species is the most economically costly drywood termite species in the western US, and they are particularly abundant in the Sonoran Desert region of Arizona. The DWD termite is well known for infesting homes, but these termites also infest a number of trees that are common in residential areas of southern Arizona. The trees most commonly attacked by this species include, Arizona cypress, sycamore, adler, cottonwood, willow, ash, walnut, poplar, eucalyptus and a variety of fruit trees.

All the way back in 1916, a researcher found that around 70 percent of black ash trees in Sabino Canyon had become riddled with both DWD termite damage and LWD termite damage. In addition to damaging the sapwood of these trees, these two drywood species even infested the heartwood, which is unusual for most termite species that are native to the US.

While both of these drywood termite species swarm between May and September all over Arizona state, the DWD species is generally found at higher elevations than the LWD termite species. Considering the frequency with which drywood termites infest residential trees before moving into homes, it is important for all Arizona homeowners to have the trees in their lawn inspected for a termite presence at least once a year.

Have you ever found a termite infested tree?

Nelson Ruiz No Comments

Why Is Phoenix Considered The Most Bug Infested City In The US?

Why Is Phoenix Considered The Most Bug Infested City In The US?

There are several pest control companies and websites that release annual reports concerning which cities in the United States contain the largest population of a particular insect pest species. Some of these reports list cities that are the most roach infested, bed bug infested or spider infested. Back in January of 2016, Thumbtack.com released a list of the “buggiest” cities in America, and Phoenix was listed at number one. However, this purported claim did not sit well with some residents who had never considered the city that they live in to be particularly “buggy”. But the not so scientific study may have been onto something, as representatives for the website found that Phoenix had the most pest control requests when compared to all other US cities.

After Phoenix was proclaimed the most bug-filled city in America by the website, even the “researchers” who had compiled the data for the list were surprised that Phoenix turned out to be number one. So what makes Phoenix a haven for bugs? One reason may be due to the fact that Arizona is home to high populations of certain insect and spider species that either don’t exist, or are not abundant within other states. For example, although California, New Mexico and Texas all contain many of the same scorpion species that exist in Arizona, the population of California and Texas is much higher than Arizona’s population, making pest control calls more common when taking each state’s population size into account. Arizona also sees swarms of Africanized bees, AKA killer bees, which attack residents on an annual basis. Africanized bees can be found all over the state of Arizona, but only a small portion of neighboring states see Africanized bee swarms. Many people living outside of Arizona assume that the air is too dry for mosquitoes, but the disease-spreading bloodsuckers are a serious public health threat in the state, and several pest controllers are called to homes in Phoenix to address mosquito issues. According to the website, cockroaches were the most common insect pests reported to pest controllers in the city, followed by spiders, ants and termites.

Have you ever needed to contact a pest control professional about a spider infestation within your home?

 

Nelson Ruiz No Comments

How The External Climate Influences Nest-Building Behavior In Termites

How The External Climate Influences Nest-Building Behavior In Termites

In regions of Africa, Australia, Asia and South America, termite mounds can be seen for miles across various types of landscapes. Since termite mounds are created by different termite species that are adapted to particular environments, there exists an array of different mound architectural styles. However, upon researching different types of mounds, researchers discovered that the interaction between external and internal mound climates directly affects mound building behavior in termite workers. Therefore, climate serves as a primary factor in determining a mound’s architectural style.

Researchers from Harvard’s engineering and evolutionary biology departments put their heads together in order to unravel some of the mysteries concerning mound building behavior in termites. The researchers discovered that the climatic conditions existing outside of a mound, such as wind speeds and daytime temperature fluctuations, alter the climatic conditions inside of a mound by changing the flow of pheromone odor signals. These pheromone signals are transmitted from a queen termite to workers in order to facilitate the mound building process. Since these pheromone odor cues are blown around by internal air currents, a mound’s internal climate could be an essential component to the ultimate mound-building behaviors exhibited by termite workers. The climate within a mound can be altered into many different forms, resulting in new building behaviors, and ultimately, different architectural mound styles. The study was ultimately showing how external mound climate can explain different mound structural styles.

This research study was exciting for researchers, as it marked one of the few times when researchers were able to demonstrate how environmental physics and animal behavior work together to produce complex structures that can be found everywhere in nature. This study also sheds more light on the topic of swarm intelligence in insects and it may even serve to inspire architects into designing more environmentally friendly buildings in the future.

Do you believe that nesting and shelter structures created by insects offer insights in the field of green architecture?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nelson Ruiz No Comments

Why Problematic Termites Are Beneficial In Times Of Drought

Why Problematic Termites Are Beneficial In Times Of Drought

Just about everyone is well aware of the fact that termites inflict significant damage to timber-framed structures, but fewer people are aware of the fact that termites consume wood in order to secure the nutritious cellulose that makes up all forms of plant material. Therefore, termites can also consume smaller wooden items, the paper in books or even champagne corks. Termite damage to structural wood is almost always inflicted by subterranean termites, while both dampwood and drywood termites are the most frequent culprits behind infestations found in smaller objects containing cellulose. Pest control professionals encounter subterranean termite infestations in structural wood far more often than they encounter drywood or dampwood infestations in smaller wooden objects. Subterranean termite damage to structures accounts for a majority of the economic costs of termite damage, which is around 5 billion dollars per year. While subterranean termites may be one of the most economically devastating insect pests that exist, they may also mitigate the negative effects of long-running droughts.

Scientists have long known that termites play an essential role in the health of the ecosystem, as they aerate soil with their subterranean tunneling activity and convert dead plant matter to fertile soil. But now, scientists have found evidence that termites allow soil to retain significant levels of moisture during times of drought. In a large forested area, researchers compared the moisture levels in soil that had been inhabited by subterranean termites with soil that had been free of termites. When droughts did not occur, moisture levels in each area of land remained the same, but during a 20 year drought, termite-inhabited soil retained enough moisture to allow for plant growth. Considering this finding, subterranean termites, although harmful to structures, can maintain a soil fertility during even the most significant of drought periods, thus allowing for the survival of economically valuable cropland.

Considering the above described study, do you believe that subterranean termite activity in crop-soil could be of benefit during dry spells?

 

Nelson Ruiz No Comments

Termites Can Monitor The Communication That Takes Place Between Termites Of Competing Species

Termites Can Monitor The Communication That Takes Place Between Termites Of Competing Species

While apex predators do exist, animals that exercise total dominance over a particular region’s resources are rare in nature. Unlike the very few apex predators that exist, most animal species are forced to indulge in frequent battles over resources, and these violent battles can be costly for species. It is for this reason that most animals dwell within particular locales that are free of other hostile animals. It is when animals forage away from their nests or shelters that they become faced with threats that could erupt into full blown battles. Considering the relatively small size of termites and the isolated and well fortressed nesting sites that they inhabit, the daily life of a termite clearly entails constant threats from other competing animals, especially ants. In addition to ants, termites face significant competition from other termite species. This is because most regions of the world, especially tropical regions, are home to a variety of different termite species, all of which are competing for the very same resources. Despite the naturally belligerent relationship that exists between most termites of different species, it is surprising to learn that multiple species often inhabit the same nesting site. As you can imagine, interspecies battles between termites occur frequently when they inhabit the same nest. However, by eavesdropping on their more dominant subterranean counterparts, drywood termites can escape from violent encounters before they occur.

It may seem odd that competing termite species may dwell within the same nest, but sometimes, having access to the resources that a nest provides outweighs the risk of falling victim to a violent encounter with an enemy species. However, researchers have long been confused by the presence of drywood termites in pieces of wood that are dominated by a far greater number of subterranean termites. Drywood termite colonies grow to contain a few hundred individual termites, but subterranean termites dwell within colonies containing millions of individual termites. Considering this, it would seem that drywood termites are at a tremendous disadvantage, but how do they continue to survive within such a hostile environment? As it turns out, the Cryptotermes secundus species of drywood termite is blessed with the ability to recognize the vibro-acoustic communication signals that take place between their nearby subterranean enemies, the Coptotermes acinaciformis species. The drywood termites of this species are attracted to their own vibration signals, but they are repelled by the vibrations produced by subterranean termites. In fact, as a cohabitated piece of wood becomes smaller as a result of constant feeding, the drywood termites become progressively more repelled by the vibration signals produced by their subterranean enemies. This makes sense considering that the chances of falling victim to a subterranean termite attack increases as the piece of infested wood becomes smaller. To put it simply, these drywood termites indulge in espionage in order to gain an advantage over their more powerful subterranean enemies.

Do you think that subterranean termites are capable of differentiating between their own vibration signals and those of other species?

 

 

Nelson Ruiz No Comments

Termites May Have Infested The Primitive Dwellings Built By Ancient American Indians

Termites May Have Infested The Primitive Dwellings Built By Ancient American Indians

Termites are among the oldest of all insect groups, so these destructive pests must have been known to ancient humans. It can be assumed that ancient peoples dreaded termites just as much as moderns do. In fact, there exists evidence to suggest that termites may have infested the primitive homes constructed by Native Americans thousands of years ago.

It is not uncommon for archeologists to recover ancient termite fecal pellets from dig sites. Back in 1984, an entomologist correctly identified a mysterious and tiny object that had been unearthed in Arizona. This object was a prehistoric fecal pellet, and it originated from an area of Arizona that contains remnants of ancient living structures that had been built by Native Americans at least ten centuries ago. Although this termite pellet, and many others, were well-preserved, it was determined that the pellet had been burned, possibly as a result of burning firewood that contained termite colonies. It was also determined that the fecal pellets had been expelled by either drywood or dampwood termites.

Unlike subterranean termites, which dwell within soil, both drywood and dampwood termites live out their entire lives within one single piece of wood. For these termites, their home is also their food source, therefore, foraging is not necessary for these termites. The drywood termite pellets found within the ancient structures did not exactly resemble the fecal pellets that are expelled by modern wood-dwelling termites in Arizona. While this finding is peculiar, researchers are more interested in how the drywood termites came to be associated with ancient Native American dwellings. One theory states that ancient Native Americans burned and stored firewood that contained termites. Another theory states that termites infested certain wood and plant materials that were used to construct ancient structures.

In Snowflake and Phoenix, Arizona, termite fecal pellets were unearthed from ancient fire pits. Pueblo and Anasazi Native American tribes were known for using wood and plant materials for constructing the side walls and roofs of their largely mud-constructed homes. Many of these woody plant materials likely contained termites before they were collected as construction materials. However, researchers have not yet found direct evidence of ancient termite infestations within the woody plant materials contained within ancient prehistoric homes unearthed in Arizona, but a termite presence within ancient firewood seems certain.

Do you believe that termites have been viewed as pests for as long as humans have been using wood to build homes?