Termite Mound - Ant Hill

Strictly speaking, we should not call them 'ant hills', because they are not made by ants but by termites (mistakenly called 'white-ants').

Mounds (also known as "termitaria") occur when an aboveground nest grows beyond its initially concealing surface. They are commonly called “ant hills” in Africa, despite the technicalTermite mound - Ant hill incorrectness of that name.

Mounds may be very large, with an extreme of 9 metres (30 ft) high in the case of large conical mounds constructed by some Macrotermes species in well-wooded areas in Africa. Two to three metres, however, would be typical for the largest mounds in most savannas. The shape ranges from somewhat amorphous domes or cones usually covered in grass and/or woody shrubs, to sculptured hard earth mounds, or a mixture of the two. Despite the irregular mound shapes, the different species in an area can usually be identified by simply looking at the mounds.

The sculptured mounds sometimes have elaborate and distinctive forms, such as those of the compass termite (Amitermes meridionalis & A. laurensis) which build tall wedge-shaped mounds with the long axis oriented approximately north–south which gives them their alternative name of compass termites. This orientation has been experimentally shown to assist Termite mound - Ant hillthermoregulation. The thin end of the nest faces towards the sun at its peak intensity hence taking up the least possible heat, this allows these termites to stay above ground where other species are forced to move into deeper below ground areas. This allows the compass termites to live in poorly drained areas where other species would be caught between a choice of baking or drowning. The column of hot air rising in the aboveground mounds helps drive air circulation currents inside the subterranean network. The structure of these mounds can be quite complex. The temperature control is essential for those species that cultivate fungal gardens and even for those that don't, much effort and energy is spent maintaining the brood within a narrow temperature range, often only plus or minus 1 degree C over a day.

A female that has flown, mated, and is producing eggs is called a "queen". Similarly, a male that has flown, mated, and is in proximity to a queen is termed a "king". The king grows only slightly larger after initial mating and continues to mate with the queen for life (a termite queen can live for 45 years).
More info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Termite

Termite mound-ant hillTermites are very small insects, but the nests they build can be very large indeed. These nests rise up from the ground and may contain millions of termites. A termite nest is like a city, with houses and streets. The queen and king have their own house or chamber, it is the largest in the 'city'. The 'streets are busy day and night, with long lines of busy worker termites. They have to see that there is enough food. They must care for the eggs the new termites are developing. They must repair and enlarge the nest, The 'streets' are ventilated, or supplied with air, by a system of airconditioning. The air is never too hot or too dry.

Reference: Purnell's animals of the world - Africa

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