I think I saw a termite

Recently I split a bunch of firewood, and needed to stack it. I always have trouble finding the right material for the bottom of the stack as I don't want to put the wood directly onto the ground (it will rot). I've tried using older logs for the bottom, but that always results in the fungi moving off those old logs onto my firewood. I've tried using bricks, but it's hard to use those on the uneven ground. Metal poles (electrical conduit) are too small. So I decided to use one of the boards from the raised bamboo bed I recently disassembled -- I'd keep it off the ground with some bricks.

This wood has some obvious insect damage, but when I first saw it I thought it was due to ants. The boards have been stacked together since I pulled that box apart, and I found out that ants were probably not involved.


Lifting the top board off the stack, I saw a termite.

Ok, I saw hundreds, or thousands of termites!

I've seen termites before in the garden, but never this many, and never while actually burrowing into wood. They're usually just in mulch or in the soil.

It's pretty fascinating. It's obvious where the boards were touching each other, which is where the insects were able to make the widest "trail". There were several smaller trails branching off of the main trail too:

Where the boards were not touching, the termites built their own tunnels:

I'm not sure exactly where this tunnel leads -- probably down into the ground -- but there was not much traffic going through it, so maybe it's how the termites got up here in the first place:

Most species of termites build tunnels like this to provide protection from predators and to prevent the loss of moisture. Apparently many termite species do not survive long when exposed to open air -- they like things moist.

This looks a lot like a termite whirlpool:

I'm not sure if that hole goes very deep, or if it's just a depression in the wood. They seems to be concentrated in this area... I wonder why? I wish I knew more about termite behavior!

Most of these are workers, but you can see a few "soldiers" as well:

The one with the larger, darker head is the soldier.

After taking these photos I carefully put the boards back together in as close to their original positions as I could, then moved them into the woods. I certainly don't want these guys chewing on my house (or bamboo) but they're a necessary part of the garden ecosystem.

I should probably move them closer to my pile of half-rotten logs and tree stumps -- it would be nice to have those broken down for me.

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