Just when you thought that you knew everything about termites, it turns out that they can literally blow themselves up. That does not sound possible, but a group of researchers traveling through French Guiana have discovered this bizarre termite-ability first hand. After a scientist spotted a nest of termites, many of which had blue spots located on their backs, the scientist used a pair of forceps to pick a blue-dotted termite up, but it quickly exploded right before his eyes.
This group of researchers discovered later on that only blue-dotted termites exploded. It turns out that these blue dots are actually tiny explosive crystals. Also, only the oldest members of the termite nest possessed these blue dots, which indicate self-sacrifice for the good of the group.
The researchers eventually made it back to their home-lab where they could observe and run the proper tests on these suicidal termites. The researchers quickly discovered that these blue-dotted termites will self-destruct while engaged in battle with an enemy, similar to a suicide bombing. But that is only the least of it as these explosions are more than just explosions.
When a blue-dotted termite does explode while engaged in battle, the explosion will emit a secretion that paralyzes termites from a competing colony. However, after these blue crystals were removed from the termites, the termites could no longer secrete its paralyzing substance.
According to biochemist Robert Hanus of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, the termites that had the blue dots on their backs also had jaws that appeared to be older and more worn out than the jaws belonging to most other termites, which is a clear indication that the blue-dotted termites were senior members of the colony. Hanus then analyzed the blue substance and found that it was non-toxic. However, Hanus theorized that the blue substance likely reacts with other substances to create a toxic substance. More studies are needed before experts can explain the true purpose of these blue crystals.
Why do you think that only the oldest members of a termite colony had the explosive blue dots, and not the younger members?