Your home is no place for termites, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a place and purpose in our environment. Termites have been an important part of the earth’s ecological system for many millions of years. They infest dead and dying trees and speed up the natural cycle of deterioration—allowing for new growth to begin.

In many ways, they are among nature’s most fascinating and socially complex creatures. Here are some facts you probably would have never imagined about termites:

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Eat ‘Em

In Singapore, two-inch long termite queens are considered a yummy food treat. They are served live, dipped in alcohol, or preserved in rice wine. “Would you care for a glass of snail slime with your termite, sir?”

Pound-For-Pound Champion

It is estimated that for every human on Earth there may be 1,000 pounds of termites. That’s about the same weight as a full-grown cow!

Making a Mountain Out of a Termite Hill

Termites make hard mounds above ground in many parts of the world. In Africa, one mound was actually measured to be 42 feet high. That’s about as tall as a two-story house!

Leaning Tower of Termites

In some parts of the United States, termites build freestanding mud tubes in order to get to wood. One documented tube in a home was 12 feet long from floor to ceiling. It actually swayed with the light breeze from the home’s air conditioning.

Beware the Grim Termite

In one culture in the Amazon, people believe that a termite colony found in a home means the home’s owner will soon die. The only way to escape death is to eliminate the termite colony or abandon the home.

Big Momma’s Family

The queen of a species of African termite may eventually grow to five inches long, and lay up to 30,000 eggs a day. Chickens usually lay between 180-320 eggs each year!

Never to Bed, Never to Rise

Termites work 24 hours per day and never sleep. And you thought your work day was long!

Respect Your Elders

While the earliest human beings have been around for about four and a half million years, and dinosaurs existed no more than 230 million years ago, termites are believed to have appeared on Earth more than 250 million years ago.

One Hungry Bug

A typical colony of a particularly aggressive termite species calledFormosans could search an area about the size of a football field and damage the wood.

There Goes the Neighborhood

A typical home with termites may have three to four termite colonies around it, with as many as one million termites in each colony. That’s more than the number of people in most cities.

Children of the Night

Like bats and opossums, termites tend to stay away from light.

Now Available in 49 States!

Subterranean (underground) termites are found in every state except Alaska.

A Looong Way to Go for Carryout

Worker termites search for food up to 250 feet from their colony. That would be like you walking around four and a half miles to pick up lunch.

When in Drought, Try Termites

When there is not enough food from their crops and gardens, Macu Indians use termites for food.

Hungry, Hungry Termites

One colony of Formosan termites can eat 1,000 pounds of wood each year. That’s like eating around 650 little league baseball bats.

Egg-laying Machine

Termite queens are believed to live 15-25 years and can lay an egg every 15 seconds. That’s almost half as often as you blink!

A Very Varied Bug

There are over 40 species of termites in the United States, and over 2,700 species throughout the world.

Slipping Through the Cracks

Some termites can get into your house through cracks about as thick as a penny.

“Social Cockroaches”?

Although they look kind of like ants, termites are more closely related to roaches. Because of their complex jobs and roles they are sometimes called “social cockroaches.”

Micro Methane Machines

Scientists say termites may release over 150 million tons of air-pollution-causing methane gas into the atmosphere every year.

Indi-GES-tion? Try Protozoa.

Ironically, for a creature that lives to eat, termites can’t digest their own food. Microscopic bacteria and protozoa in their guts do that job for them.

A Seven-Truck Family

Some African and Australian termite colonies may contain enough termites to fill seven large pickup trucks.

Who Needs Flu Shots?

Some cultures in the Amazon believe inhaling the smoke from a burning termite nest can cure the flu.

Nothing to Sneeze At

In the Amazon, some cultures rely on a hot, sugar-sweetened soup of boiled termites to get rid of whooping cough.