How Termites Are Able to ‘Hear’ Trouble
Termites normally keep to themselves, working on building a colony. They don’t really focus on starting fights with other neighbors. But when danger approaches, these termites only do one thing – bang their heads on the walls.
Slamming your head against a wall may not seem very helpful, but it’s actually the vibrations that the banging does which alerts the rest of the colony. The noise travels downwards throughout the tunnels at approximately 430 feet per second, meaning that an average 3 foot tall mound would be alerted almost immediately. Termites ‘hear’ these vibrations through their legs. The leg closest to the vibration picks up the sound first, and the farthest leg picks up the noise last. It was found that termites were able to tell which leg felt the vibration first, which allowed them to learn which direction to head to.
Scientists began to wonder exactly how short the gap could be for termites to feel the vibration in between their legs. The answer? 0.20 milliseconds. In literally less than a blink of an eye, termites were able to decipher which way they should be heading – whether it be to battle, or to hide. Soldier termites would immediately head towards the vibrations in order to protect their horde, while worker termites would begin to retreat back down into their cave system in order to protect themselves. When all is said and done, the remaining termites either go back to working on their nest, or begin constructing a new mound, had they lost the battle.