How Do Termites Survive Periods Of Heavy Rainfall?
Some of you may be curious as to how termites can possibly survive heavy bouts of rainfall. Rainfall is by no means infrequent during the spring and summer months. You would think that even modestly sized puddles would be sufficient for drowning out tiny termites. However, this is not the case as termites have evolved unique ways of surviving areas where water is abundant.
Researchers from the Louisiana State Agricultural College performed an experiment that involved submerging termites in water. The researchers took eastern subterranean termites and Formosan subterranean termites and dunked their entire bodies below the surface of water. The researchers did this in order to learn more about termite physiology. They were also curious about the ways in which termites travel along streams of water. For example, during rainstorms, termite infested tree branches sometimes break loose and fall into streams where they float for significant distances. The researchers wanted to determine whether or not these termites could survive and reinfest new regions later on.
Researchers assumed that termites, upon being forcefully submerged, would seek higher ground like fire ants are known to do. However, the two subterranean termite species entered into an immobile state during which they conserved oxygen for long periods. Amazingly, it took an entire thirty hours for ninety percent of eastern subterranean termites to die. Most of the Formosan termites died after sixteen hours. It turned out that these termites could hold their breaths for a long time.
History has also given researchers an example of how water can kill termites provided that they are submerged for a long enough amount of time. For example, in 1992 an area wide flood had lasted for an entire month. During this month long period, the soils surface was completely submerged. At the time, researchers discovered that the floodwaters had killed seventy seven percent of the region’s termite population. In other words, termites are hard to kill.
Have you ever encountered a live insect beneath water? If you have, what type of insect was it? Was the insect struggling to stay above the water's surface?