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Termites Workers Become Suicide Bombers In Old Age

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[ Science]

I hope you never have the unfortunate experience of owning a house that’s infested with termites. The little buggers are hard to kill and they can eat through wood like nothing else. Need I mention that they are also pretty high on the “Kill it with fire” scale of terrifying insects. Well, it seems that scientists have found one more reason to be scared of the wood eaters.

Science Magazine is reporting that biologists in French Guiana have found that termites can explode. It’s a purely defensive measure, but holy crap, termites will totally become suicide bombers if their nest is threatened. Thankfully, not all termits are lit up and ready to go. The termite must be old and must feature blue dots behind their head to initiate the explosion.

Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about termits blowing up your house anytime soon. The explosion is actually pretty small and only serves to kill or knock out competing termite colonies or predators.

While the explosion is pretty awesome (and terrifying), it’s the chemical reaction that takes place that has scientists intrigued. As it turns outs, the blue dots in the termite’s head is a copper protein that reacts to salivary gland secretions to create a toxic substance. Not only are these termites exploding, but they also become a biological weapon in their own right.

The biologists note that warrior termites often do explode in defense of their nest, but the resulting explosion only creates a smelly fluid. This is the first time that they have observed worker termites exploding and creating toxins that kill potential threats.

Lucky for you, one of the biologists has uploaded video of the termite workers as they explode. It’s really impressive, if somewhat gross. If you have any problems with watching icky bugs, you should probably avoid the video:

[Image Credit: ScienceMag]

Termites Workers Become Suicide Bombers In Old Age
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