Termites (Isoptera) and ants (Formicidae), however, they look similar, are from different insect orders: the first group falls into cockroaches’ order (Blattoptera), while the second one – into Hymenoptera. At the same time, ants seem to be the termites’ key enemies. The latest researches showed that such a situation was defined for these animals more than 100 million years ago.

In a new work, the scientists from The University of New South Wales and other institutions have analyzed the communication between Australian ants Iridomyrmex purpureus and termites Coptotermes acinaciformis. In the wild, these insects often come across each other. What’s interesting, though termites are blind, they can easily avoid ants’ inroad. The researchers placed the termites in boxes which were divided into sections with wooden partitions. And in the neighboring room were placed alive and dead ants or speakers playing the sound of ants’ clomping.

The analysis showed that the termites avoided the rooms with alive ants and rooms with speakers, but they bite through the rooms with dead insects. When termites heard ants’ clomping, they tried to bind the partitions with clay and stay put. In such event, the sound of their steps became almost 100 times quiet than ants have. According to the investigations, very often the termites managed to hide when predators were in some millimeters from them. 

Moreover, the scientists found that the termites can simulate ants’ clomping. In the context of imminent danger, they vibrate with their heads and beat them against each other. As a result, there’s a sound similar to vibrations of ants’ steps. In the researchers’ opinion, in such manner termites warn each other about the danger.

The details of this research are published in Ecology Letters magazine.