Termite earth mound

Termites are a group of the cockroach order Blattodea that mostly feeds on dead plant material, in the form of wood, leaf litter, soil, or animal dung, and this recycling of wood and other plant matter is of considerable ecological importance.

Although they are commonly referred to as white ants, they are not related to the ants which are members of the order Hymenoptera, containing the bees, wasps, sawflies as well as the ants. However, like the true ants, termites are social insects living in colonies which contain many individuals of differing appearance and function.

The obvious colonies to be found in the Aranda Bushland are of two mound building species, Nasutitermes exitiosus and Coptotermes lacteus. Both species are deadwood feeders and their colonies contain two to three million nymphs, workers and soldiers and one king and one queen.

Termite clay mound

The Nasutitermes builds a low, 20 to 30 centimetre high domed mound covered by a thin earthen material. Inside the mound is a network of galleries made up of soil, saliva and faecal material. In the centre is a nursery area.

The Coptotermes mound is much higher, up to two metres high, and it is more robust being covered in a thick clay outer layer with a honeycomb like network of galleries inside. As with Nasutitermes, the nursery is in the centre.

Termite’s Dinner

Termite’s dinner

The two species of termites feed on dead trees, stumps and logs lying on the ground. Individuals travel between the mound and the food source by way of galleries or runways which are tunnels through the soil or, when at the surface of the soil or wood, they are covered over with a roofing constructed of a similar material to the mound itself. This affords protection to the termites travelling.

Chambers inside the mound

Mound Abandoned

Abandoned mound
Abandoned mound

As termites require a warm and humid atmosphere, the mound’s outer casing functions as a protection and an insulator, with the relative humidity being maintained above 95% within the galleries.

The Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeata) is a predator of termites, and occurs on Aranda Bushland.

Moss invading an abandoned termite mound
Moss invading an abandoned termite mound

The succession starts with new species entering.

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