September 07, 2018

Credit: (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)

Termites get a bad rap. Ask pretty much anyone on the street, and they’ll likely say that termites are gross, and you definitely don’t want them in your house. And while it may be true that you don’t want them in your house, termites are also so much more than structure-destroyers. At least according to Lisa Margonelli, whose new book Underbug: An Obsessive Tale of Termites and Technology explores the surprisingly wild world of the much-maligned bug. Because it turns out, there’s a lot we can learn from termites.

Three Takeaways:

  • If you think every termite is dying to eat up the walls of your house, you aren’t looking at the whole picture. “There’s more than 3000 species of termite,” Margonelli says, “and only about 27 are invasive and eat houses.”
  • Termites actually transform the land they inhabit. They fertilize it, change the way the water system works, and make the environment much more resistant to drought. Margonelli points out that termites help create lush landscapes, essentially building it up from below.
  • Margonelli’s deep dive into the world of termites gave her a new perspective on the world: “When I see a landscape, I think: if I could see this from a termite’s scale, I would see it all moving. Because bugs are carrying every grain of sand around me. It’s being removed and modeled and turned into this useful bit of fertility.”

More Reading:

Green, environment, termites, Lisa Margonelli

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