TERMES, in natural history, a-genus of insects of the order Aptera. Mouth with two horny jaws ; lip, horny, four-cleft, the divisions linear and acute ; four-feel ers, equal, filiform ; two eyes. There are ten species, in two sections : A. an tenna moniliform ; B. antenna setaceous.
T. fatale, or white ant, is brown above; thorax with three segments ; wings pale, with a testaceous rib. A most curious and wonderful account of this.insect is given in the Philosophical Transactions, of which we shall notice a few particulars. The ani mal of this extraordinary community, far exceeding in wisdom and policy the bee, the ant, or beaver, are inhabitants of East India, Africa, and South America. They build pyramidal structures, ten or twelve feet hi height, and divided appropri ate apartments, magazines for provisions, arched.chambers, and galleries of com munication. These are so firmly cement ed, that they easily bear four men to stand upon them, and, in the plains of Senegal, appear like the villages of the natives. With such wonderful dexterity and rapi dity they destroy food, furniture, books, clothes, and timber, of whatever magni tude, leaving a mere thin surface,, that in a few hours a beam will be eaten to a mere shell, not thicker than writing paper. Larva small, about a quarter of an inch long; six-footed; pale, with a roundish testaceous head ; eyes none mandibles short, strong, and toothed ; antenna as long as the thorax, and ovate abdomen. These only are the labourers, who build the structures, procure provi sions for the males and females, and take care of the eggs :.they are the most nu merous. Pupa larger, about half an inch. long, with a very large ovate polished testaceous head ; eyes none ; mandibles projecting as long as the beach forked, without teeth, sharp and black ; thorax and abdOmen These never work, but act as superin tendants over the labourers, or as guards to defend their habitations from intrusion and violence. When a breach is made in the dwelling, they rush forward and de tend the entrance with great ferocity ; some of them beating with their mandi, bles against any hard substance, as a sig nal to the other guards, or as encourage ment to the labourers ; they then retire, and are succeeded by the labourers, each with a burthen of tempered mortar in his mouth, and who diligently set about to repair whatever injury has been sus tained. One of these attends every six
or eight hundred labourers who are building a wall, taking no active part himself; but frequently making the noise above mentioned, which is constantly answered by a loud hiss from all the la bourers, wile, at this signal, evidently re double their diligence.
The male and female are alike, and furnished with four long horizontal head small, brown ; mandibles short, acute, toothed antennx yellowish; eyes globular, prominent, black ; thorax with three brown or dull testaceous margined segments ; abdomen ovate; the back brown, with white streaks ; legs. palish.
These are extricated from the pupa state, and Ay abroad in the night ; but.
soon after sun-rise, the wingsbecome dry, and they fall on the ground, and are de voured by birds, or sought after by the inhabitants, who roast and eat them with great avidity. A few that survive, are collected by the labourers, or larva', and inclosed by pairs in apartments made of clay, the aperture of which is narrowed so that they cannot migrate, and where they are diligently fed and attended by the labourers, whose bodies are small enough to admit an easy entrance.
After impregnation, the abdomen of the female grows to a prodigious bulk, exceeding the rest of her body nearly two thousand times ; it is then vesicular and white, with transverse brown spots, and an undulate or slightly lobed margin. In this state it contains an immense num ber of small round brown eggs, which are protruded to the amount of eight thousand in twenty-four hours. These are instantly taken up by the labourers, and conveyed to separate chambers, where, after they are hatched, the young are attended and provided for till they are able to shift for themselves, and take their share in the labours of the commu nity.
T. pulsatorius, is a very small insect, frequently found during the summer months in houses, particularly where the wainscot is in any degree decayed, and is remarkable for continuing a long con tinued sound, resembling the ticking of a watch. It is very common in collec lions of dried plants, which it injures ve ry much. It is of so tender a frame as to be easily destroyed by the slighest pressure, and is an animal of very quick motions. When this insect is first hatch ed, it bears a complete resemblance to a common mite, but after awhile casts its skin, and undergoes a complete change.