When we think of termites, we think of subversive nests and the damage they can do to our homes. In Costa Rica, I encountered a dissimilar kind of termite. Arboreal termites build large, dark colored nests on tree trunks or huge branches. They are also sometimes found straight on top of the ground.
Arboreal termite nests are made from a mixture of digested wood and termite feces. The mixture hardens into a strong, suspicious material. The termites use this same material to construct tunnels down the side of their home tree, over the ground, and to rotting trees which they use for food. These tubes serve up the same defensive reason as the mud tubes we are used to seeing with subterranean termites. Nests can be the size of a basketball or still larger, and colonies can enclose 55,000 or additional termites. Arboreal termites are common in the hot, lowland habitats of Central and South America such as rainforests, mangroves, and savannas.
The colony contains soldiers, workers, and one ruler. The soldiers can exude a sticky chemical from their jaws that is extremely exasperating to the skin within the nose and mouth of predators such as anteaters. The pictures beneath are of a nest that was right on top of the ground. If you look intimately at the picture on the right, you can see some termites on the shell.