How Are Termites Helpful to Humans?
Termites are most well-known for their ability to chew through foundations and other building materials, but the insects are a foundation of the natural world. Termites have the ability to support and sustain plant growth, and are a staple in traditional medicines.
When found in mounds located away from homes and other structures, allowing the mound to remain undisturbed is recommended. The following benefits are just a few of the many ways that termites are helpful to humans.
Termites eat all types of exposed wood, but prefer the soft, decomposing wood found on the forest floor. Termites turn this rotting wood into rich, organic soil that promotes new plant growth. The ability to turn wood into soil may help reduce forest fires.
Termites also digest nitrogen, turning it into a form that plants can use. The production of fixed nitrogen encourages new plant growth while supporting existing growth for stronger, healthier forests. In fact, without the termites ability to recycle decaying plant matter, forests, including tropical rainforests, wouldn’t exist.
Some termites live underground, where they form long tunnels to house the colony. The tunnels are beneficial to both would plants and crops because they aerate and loosen the soil. Extra oxygen in the soil, along with the naturally beneficial guy microbes from the termites, helps crops grow. Additionally, loose soil preserves underground moisture more effectively than compacted soil, which keeps plants healthy in dry weather.
Termites and their mounds are used medicinally among a wide range of people, including Aboriginal Australians, to treat and prevent illness. Several termite species have antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties, and the clay found in some termite mounds is rich in iron and other necessary vitamins and minerals.
The clay is often used topically, or on the skin, to deliver vitamins and minerals to the body. Termites are also used as a form of internal medicine in many regions, including some parts of India and the Americas. The traditional folk medicine has been used to treat illnesses that range from the common cold to step throat, and the insects offer much promise for future medicines.
Insects are a traditional food source for people around the globe. While you may not want to have a termite dish anytime soon, these tiny insects are packed with vitamins and minerals, including iron, vitamin A and vitamin C. The insects also contain a variety of micronutrients that are essential for maintaining good health.
A traditional cooking method is to fry winged termites in hot oil with or without plantains to create a crisp dish that is packed with nutrients. This ancient food source may not be as widespread as it once was, but millions of people in developing nations still include termites on the menu.