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Clicking Termites

One of the stranger noises we encounter as we walk through the forest is the rapid “clicking” sound of termites vibrating furiously.

You normally stumble across termites in their hundreds of thousands, spread in huge carpets covering the forest floor. Particularly in the middle of the day, these encounters are coupled with the rustling, buzzing sound that you can hear in this soundscape. At first we thought that the sound was just produced by their activity, the thousands of tiny movements rattling the dead organic matter on the forest floor. However, on closer inspection we noticed that they apparently took time out of their busy schedules to stand and “vibrate”. When they do this on top of a dry, dead leaf, it produces the sound that you can hear.

At first this was a mystery, but a little bit of research reveals that termites are in fact blind. By vibrating on top of a piece of wood or a leaf, the differing nature of the echo they receive gives them feedback as to whether it is a suitable thing to eat.

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