Cool Facts About the Common Fungus-Growing Termite
- Common Fungus-Growing Termites are fascinating because they grow their own food. That’s right, these insects are farmers of…yep, you guessed, Fungus.
- The giant mounds of dirt scattered across southern Africa will typically belong to our featured termite and are usually found in woodland areas, in case you were wondering.
- For the Common Fungus-Growing Termite colony to survive, it must have one and only one queen at any given time.
The Termite Farm
We can’t call these termites farmers without explaining their process, can we? Remember those large dirt mounds I mentioned? Well they serve as agricultural greenhouses. Instead of growing fruits and vegetables, these termites actively cultivate macrofungi, some of which are even edible for humans and produce large mushrooms that can later be collected and sold. In order to grow their macrofungi food source, worker Termites collect decaying plant material and spread it on the many underground levels of the mound.
Because termites cannot digest the cellulose found in plants, they must form a symbiotic relationship with the fungi they grow so that the fungi can break down the plant material for the termites. A paste by-product forms as a result of this relationship, which is harvested by the termites and used to feed the colony. The fungi also benefit from this relationship because the termites perpetuate their life cycle by constantly bringing additional decaying plant matter. Isn’t it cool to think that there are other animals farming?!?
Packed Up And Ready To Go
You know what is even cooler…okay, maybe it is just as cool. These insects are forward thinkers. What do I mean by this? Before the winged termites leave the colony in search of a new home, they collect fungus spores and store them in a special cavity in their thorax, so when they finish relocating, they have a head start on beginning the food creation process again. It kind of reminds me of the stereotypical hobo that has a stick with a handkerchief on it holding all of their possessions. The termite just keeps his bindle (that is what the bundle at the end of the stick is called) in the middle of this thorax, which seems like a much safer place if you ask me.