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To live in Aardvarkia is a nightmare come true for the ants of Africa, and a double nightmare come true for us termites! We are not Magnetic Termites, but Cathedral Mound Termites who build immense mountains for homes. But the home in which I dwell is in the territory of Aardvarkia, where aardvarks made daily raids of our homestead. It is a constant struggle against death and fate, but so is survival in general, therefore it is not much different from living outside of Aardvarkia. It is irritating, though, to have walls which were worth days of work and clean tunnels being invaded by a sticky tongue. Therefore, I, the queen, in my laziness and ample free time, and desperation, racked my brains for a defensive plan. And though my brain is a very tiny one, I managed to formulate a plan. Immediately, I told of it to my husband, and he laughed at the ingenious stratagem. Then, with a cry, he gave orders to prepare it to the workers who attended our throne room. With a “hup”, they ran obediently off, and spread the instructions to the rest of the colony and altogether they excavated a few new passages and dragged a minute stick into the mound. Then, we all waited, quite patiently, until we heard the tramp of the approach of the aardvarks’ feet. After came the fateful messenger, and she informed us that the gluey tongue had appeared in one of the entrances. “ Good,” said I with satisfaction, “ Make sure the worker in the side passage is prepared. “ Indeed, that termite was, and by my orders, it tickled the intruder with a stick which was captive in her jaws. Immediately, the deadly follower changed course and pursued her, and she scurried off further into the tunnel. My plan was working perfectly! As I heard each act of it, my spirits rose a little higher. At length, she turned down another passage only to find at its end another aardvarkian fishing line! Surely, this was the end for the worker! Where could she go, with no more passages to the right or the left and two living traps coming towards her from behind and before?  Thankfully, it was still part of the plan, and right before the tongues took her captive she took another step, and plunged through a vertical pit, down, down, to the bottom of our colony home. There she landed, and bounced quite unharmed, and lived happily ever after. But the scouts who kept an eye on the situation outside saw that the aardvarks were not so lucky. There, below these loyal subjects, were two aardvarks side by side and each believed that they had caught an unusually large-sized prey, when in fact, they had caught – well, they saw what they had caught when, stung each in the bottom by those of my subjects positioned for the task, they pulled their tongues from out of the mound, toppling some of its wall and dashed off in pain, their tongues attached in the middle like a jump-rope. I am afraid many of the aardvarks were tripped by this apparatus, as reported by some scouts, and that no others were eager to be tongue tied. Therefore, they came never again. But if they did venture to do battle with me, the queen, again, they would not only become tongue tied, but would have to suffer a tongue twister too!

Cathedral Mound Termite
Macrotermes bellicosus

Though their habits are similar to those of ants, termites are actually relatives of the cockroach. This specific species lives in Africa and creates huge, extended mountain-like mounds, with separate rooms for young and food. These termites eat a fungus which they cultivate in one of these chambers, but they also eat wood and dried plants. The mounds of these termites have a ventilation system which uses the chambers and holes as ducts. This can be regulated for the comfort of the colony.

Orycter opusafer

A good digger armed with a long tongue, the aardvark is the predator of both ants and termites. It does, though, have poor eyesight and is the only survivor of the order Tubulidentata. These animals have exceedingly hairy noses to keep dirt from being breathed in while digging and an exceptional smell which it uses to track its prey. It has molar teeth, which curiously enough, are used to chew a certain species of ant only, while all other prey is swallowed whole.

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Wednesday March 13, 2024