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Discovery Magazine 11/1/2004

The Wood – Eating Machine

In the story of Hansel and Gretel, the two lost children came upon a house in the woods made of candy, cakes, and all kinds of sweet things to eat. Do you remember seeing pictures of this house in fairy-tale books, and thinking how tasty it looked? If you turned a classroom full of fourth graders loose to eat their fill on a house like that, it wouldn’t take long until the house was gone!

Did you know that there is an insect that thinks every house made out of wood is a wonderful, delicious feast? That’s right—the termite. Most animals and insects cannot digest wood. But God designed the termite perfectly to be able to digest the hard substance. This is good for many reasons. Wood is a difficult substance to decompose or break down. If there were no termites, piles of old wood would be lying everywhere. Also, the termites turn the wood into nutrients, and then other animals like birds, anteaters, or other insects can eat the termites, and use the nutrients from the wood.

Most of the time, however, when we think of termites, we do not think about the benefit they bring. We think about the damage they do to houses. It is true that termites cause hundreds of millions of dollars of damage every year in the United States, but that is only because we build our houses out of their food. If we built our houses out of juicy meat steaks, how much damage would dogs do?

When we look at a termite’s life, we can easily see God’s design. He designed termites to live in a caste system, which means each termite has a specific job. Some are worker termites, others are kings, queens, or soldiers. Each group does something different. The queen lays eggs all day. It is thought that some queens can lay 1 egg every 15 seconds, and can live over 15 years. The workers take care of the queen and king, and the soldiers protect the mound.

God created this planet perfectly. He made wood, designed the special termite to decompose dead wood, and gave humans the ability to understand the process and protect their houses. We should be thankful to God for all of His wonderful creations, including the termite!

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*Please keep in mind that Discovery articles are written for 3rd-6th graders.

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