Termite Etiquette

Many animals panic when they perceive an emergency; not termites.

In a panic, humans, walruses, and ants try to escape pell-mell: pushing, shoving, even stepping on one another. In stark contrast, termites are unfailingly disciplined in their orderliness. To a termite, an emergency is no reason to panic. Workers establish single-file formations, with those in line following the ones in front. Meanwhile, soldiers get to either side of the worker flow, acting as protection to their sisters and brothers while moving along in an orderly manner.

If a termite slows down or stumbles, those behind stop and wait for it to right itself. No pushing please – we’re termites.

Termite etiquette owes to evolutionary history. Termites were the first animals to form societies 200 million years ago, some 50 million years before ants and bees cottoned to the benefits of large-scale eusocialism. Instilling social graces takes time.


Ishi Nobu, The Web of Life, BookBaby (2019).