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Termite mounds are impressive architectural feats, especially for tiny-brained bugs. Many termite species build large mounds that can protrude as high as ten meters from the ground. These mounds are built to be temperature regulated in order to keep termites cool in hot climates. Scientists are still asking questions concerning how termites are able to control temperatures within their mounds. Termites use these mounds for shelter, and they are ideal for raising termite offspring. Scientists have managed to locate several fossilized termite mounds, but have recently discovered a mound that is still standing after twenty two hundred years. This mound was discovered in Central Africa, and it is the oldest mound structure ever discovered.

The Miombo woodland area of central Africa is home to numerous termites. This area contains several mounds that are well over a century old. After the oldest mound was discovered, another nearby mound was discovered to be seven hundred and fifty years old. These termite mounds prove that termites have been building similar structures for over two thousand years. However, these mounds were especially important to termites that lived five to eight hundred years ago. This was during a time when the climate in central Africa was particularly hot. The termites that existed during this time required a cool shelter in order to survive the intense African heat. The termites that built these mounds are officially known as Macrotermes falciger.

Using carbon dating techniques, researchers found that modern termites inhabit mounds that are hundreds of years old. More specifically, termites will climb to the top of old mounds in order to build a new shelter. Researchers were surprised to find that termites will continue to build onto one single mound for hundreds of years. Some modern termites were found building onto mounds that were seven hundred years old. The oldest mound, which was over two thousand years old, became uninhabited only decades ago. It has been rumored that there are termite mounds as old as four thousand years are still standing in some parts of Africa. However, researchers disregard these mounds as being formations that resulted from soil erosion.

Why do you think that America is free of all mound building termites? Are mound building termites less likely than other termites to become invasive insects in other countries?


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