Termites are feared because of their ability to eat wood, but in truth, termites do not have the ability to digest wood. However, termites have protozoa and bacteria in their guts that produce enzymes that break down the cellulose in wood into sugars the termite can digest.
This form of mutualism between termites and protozoa and bacteria – a relationship where two organisms benefit from their association – is part of what makes termite biology so interesting.
Termite Biology: Introducing Protozoa and Bacteria to Young Termites
Termites pass protozoa and bacteria to young termites through liquid waste (feces) that the young termites eat. The protozoa and bacteria survive in the fecal matter until they arrive in the young termites’ digestive systems, where they take root to begin digesting wood fed to the young termite.
Formosan vs. Subterranean Termite Biology
Formosan termite biology does not differ significantly from native subterranean termite biology. Formosan termites cause greater damage to homes and buildings than native subterranean termites because they form larger colonies – not because Formosan termites have unique biology that leads them to break down more wood than other termite species.