Bug Blog

Are Termite Nests Ever Attacked By Other Insects?

There are plenty of insects and other animals that make meals out of termites. Spiders, lizards and birds have all been known to feast on a few termites when convenient. Since termites are such small insects, these larger animals only feed on termites when they are available for consumption. However, many small insects wage war on other small insects, and this is especially true for eusocial insects that live within colonies. There must be some insects that wage organized attacks on termite colonies. Unfortunately, there is surprisingly little academic literature telling about these types of adversarial interspecies relationships. This is especially true when considering the termites that dwell within America.

Formosan subterranean termites could be considered an exception since these termites are not believed to be preyed upon by other insects dwelling in America. This is because Formosans are invasive. Most of the time, invasive insects are free to operate without the hinderance of natural predators. But what about other termites that dwell within America? Such as eastern and western subterranean termites, dampwood termites, and drywood termites?

According to Abdullahi Ahmed Yusuf, an entomologist at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, termite nests all over the world are vulnerable to raids conducted by different ant species. On the other hand, termites are not known to wage war on ants. In other regions of the world, such as Africa and South America, experts have learned a fair amount about the ants that raid termite nests. In America, however, not as much is known.

There is no doubt that black ants often fight with termites in North America. But, black ants are not believed to raid entire termite colonies. However, a telling study on termite defense strategies demonstrated that American woodland ants, will in fact, attack the nests of eastern subterranean termites. In most cases, the invading woodland ants killed all the termites in the study.

Interestingly, field experiments showed that when eastern subterranean termites used hard wood as opposed to softer sand for nesting, being attacked by large groups of woodland ants were far less likely. Eastern subterranean termites are the most common and economically damaging of all termites in America, so maybe these woodland ants aren’t so bad.

Have you ever witnessed an ant carrying the corpse of another small insect within its jaws?

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