Social insects – like bees, termites, hornets and ants – build magnificent empires often hidden from human view. But within these minute organizations are the enslaved and oppressed, the rewarded and ruling.
Worker termites, Microtermes, are smaller than a grain of rice. They spend their days chewing up dead wood, carving through fallen branches, and making passageways between logs with soil and saliva. The bacteria in their stomachs transform swallowed wood into liquid nourishment, providing food for an entire colony that may number 20,000 individuals.
But this termite colony lives amongst the Matabele ant, a mighty predator twice their size. When these nearby ants grow hungry, they send out small armies to claim victims for a meal. The combined power of a raiding forces’ armored bodies, potent venom and strong jaws might kill as many as 4,000 termites during each battle. And these wars may occur three or four times in a single day.
European honeybees, Mellifera, gather pollen and make honey. But the colony serves a single queen, and a police force of bees patrol the hive frequently, checking suspect eggs to ensure only the queen’s offspring hatches. Outlaw eggs are destroyed, and offenders brutalized.
Discover more fascinating insight into insect empires by watching Insect Wars, Friday October 29th 10pm et/pt Nat Geo Wild!
Video Preview: A troop of gigantic hornets wipes out a hive of honey bees in a matter of minutes.
Photo Credit: Jodi Kendall