Chic African Culture Africa Factbook

Inside Giant Termite Mounds of Africa

Mound building termites of East, Central, and Southern Africa can serve as an oasis in the African desert to plants by replenishing the soil.


Mound building termites of East, Central and Southern Africa can serve as an oasis in the African desert to plants by replenishing the soil.
Giant African Termite Mounds

About Giant African Termite Mounds

Queen termites can live up to decades under ideal climate conditions. Giant mound-building termites are a group of termite species that live in mounds and look like whitish brown grains of rice with big heads and hedge-trimmers for mouthparts.

According to the New York Times “Researchers at Princeton University and their colleagues recently reported in the journal Science that termite mounds may serve as oases in the desert, allowing the plants that surround them to persist on a fraction of the annual rainfall otherwise required and to bounce back after a withering drought.

”By poking holes or macropores, as they dig through the ground, termites allow rain to soak deep into the soil rather than running off or evaporating. They’re the ultimate soil engineers,” said David Bignell, a termite expert and emeritus professor of zoology at Queen Mary University of London. Termites all belong to the phylum Arthropoda, the class Insecta, and the order Isoptera. There are over 2,000 different species of termites. 

Termites are extraordinary engineers, capable of building mounds standing as tall as 40 feet high and 60 feet wide and continue to build on the same mounds for centuries. Termite mounds can take four to five years to build from the termites’ saliva, dung and surrounding soil.

Inside the termite mound is an extensive system of tunnels and channels that serve as a ventilation system keeping the internal temperature relatively constant. Like most social insects such as ants and bees, termites live in societies where the collective power of the group surpasses that of the individual termite.

Mound-building termites live in Africa, India, Australia, and South America. Only a few of them 3,000 or so known termite species are pests to people moreover, the mound-building termites of East, Central, and Southern Africa can serve as oases in the desert to plants by replenishing the soil.

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