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Termites feed through good vibrations

observed. However, the signal from the termites feeding on large blocks had this characteristic frequency plus other signals indicating the presence of other termites in that "large block", so they chose to feed on the large block without termites. Thus the termites showed that they have the "cocktail party effect".

This social information had another important effect: limiting reproduction potential. Most termite workers are sterile; they don't breed. However, in drywood termites, workers can become fertile and develop into breeders when they are isolated from their colony. Few workers developed into breeders in the experiments when they were broadcast the termite sourced signals, whereas many workers developed into breeders when artificial signals were broadcast, or when no signals were broadcast.

Scientists are hoping to find ways to interfere with the termites' ability to select wood in order to reduce the economic impact of termite damage. "There is a common perception that termites are voracious and indiscriminate eaters, consuming all the wood that they find," Dr Evans says. "But the reality is that termites are selective feeders and choose their food very carefully. The palatability of the wood species and hardness is important as are defensive chemicals made by the plant. But our work shows that this is not the only method of assessment. There are many accounts of termites not consuming a piece of palatable wood."

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Listen to termites walking and chewing pine http://www.csiro.au/audio/termite_Feb05.mp3

Termite pictures: http://www.scienceimage.csiro.au/index.cfm?event=site.image.detail&id=2583
http://www.scienceimage.csiro.au/index.cfm?event=site.image.detail&id=2584


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Source:CSIRO


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