Termites' powerful weapon against extermination? Their own poop
ORLANDO (REUTERS) - Scientists trying to understand why destructive wood-eating termites are so resistant to efforts to exterminate them have come up with an unusually repugnant explanation.
Termites' practice of building nests out of their own feces creates a scatological force field that Florida scientists now believe is the reason biological controls have failed to stop their pestilential march all over the world.
A nine-year study concluded that termite feces act as a natural antibiotic, growing good bacteria in the subterranean nests that attack otherwise deadly pathogens, according to the findings published this month in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
"When they make a poop, it's not like they can throw it away and say forget about this. And over the millions of years of evolution it somehow evolved to take advantage of the poop there," said Mr Nan-Yao Su, a University of Florida entomology professor and lead scientist and co-author of the study, along with Mr Thomas Chouvenc, a University of Florida research associate.