The termitidae family has a subfamily known as the Nasutitermitinae, which includes several advanced termite species. This subfamily is subjected to ongoing scientific research because more Nasutitermitinae species are frequently found in different regions worldwide.
Nasutitermitinae termite species display impressive mound-construction skills, similar to other higher termites. Their temperature controlled nests can stand as high as 30 feet and house millions of termites. Soldier termites use both mechanical and chemical defenses to protect themselves from predators. Unlike simpler termites, Nasutitermitinae termites can repel even the most aggressive predators with their advanced defense mechanisms.
Nasutitermitinae termites are identifiable through their distinct physical characteristics, primarily their pointed snout or nasus. This termite species has a defense mechanism at the tip of its nasus. The defense mechanism is a glue-like aerosol repellent. The “frontal weapon,” as it was named by early Nasutitermitinae researchers 40 years ago, refers to this specific defensive apparatus.
The insect’s weapon on its front is composed of various parts, such as a gland, a pore, and other smaller structures. The pore is located at the end of the cone-shaped nose and is where the bug releases its chemical repellent. Surrounding the pore are many sensory bristles, which scientists do not fully understand the purpose of yet. These bristles are thought to be able to detect mechanical stimuli like pressure or vibrations, in addition to sensing chemicals.
Termite soldiers rely on their sensory bristles for locating enemies through vibrations in their surrounding environment. They also use chemoreceptor bristles to detect the speed, force and amount of repellent sprayed in defense. This repellent can both kill ants and alter the behavior of aggressive ants to disrupt their raids on termite nests.
To learn more about termites in Florida, check out our blog “Termites in Florida: The Complete Guide to Identification and Control”.