In some areas where wooden houses predominate, termites have become a nightmare, but actually they are very useful creatures. They play an important role in maintaining the ecological balance. They carry dead plants, dead insects and animal waste into their underground nests. This is very important because otherwise there would be countless numbers of dead insects littering the ground. But as if with a silent hand, termites and other creatures quietly and quickly dispose of these dead insects. In this way, the ground is cleaned of excess material.
If the ground were not cleaned by termites and other insects, it would become a continually growing waste dump, and every day it would be more difficult for the sun and minerals to reach the soil.
Termites have another use apart from cleaning the ground. They are among the rare creatures that can digest plant material; and as they decompose the cellulose in plants, they help in the formation of methane. As the protozoa in the termite’s digestive system decompose the cellulose, they release methane gas. In 1932, a scientist by the name of Cook first discovered that termites produce methane. Later in 1982, another scientist by the name of Zimmerman was able to calculate the amount of gas they produce. 47
Dr. Roger Gold, an entomologist, said that “Cellulose is a very inert ingredient in the environment that is hard to break down . . . and if it were not for termite flatulence, then we could not be able, as human beings, to survive on this planet.” 48
Scientists who have studied this matter say that termites are a source of atmospheric methane. Methane (CH4) makes up a considerable part of the atmosphere; it plays a role in the atmospheric absorption and chemical interactions occurring in both the stratosphere and the troposphere. All of these things exert an influence on the Earth’s climate. 49
To summarize termites’ contribution to the production of methane gas: First, a study of the geographical distribution of the total weight and population (biomass) of termites throughout the world was made; then the relation between the general distribution of the termites’ gas and their biomass was studied. The result showed that termites produce 4% of the methane and 2% of the carbon dioxide in the world’s atmosphere. 50
Besides this, termites cause nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur and other minerals to be released into the soil from the plant material they take into their nests. These minerals mix with the soil and become available for other plants and animals in the area.
And as termites enter and exit their nests, they turn the soil over and aerate it, allowing oxygen to enter. They also allow penetration by the suns’ rays and by the moisture that’s so important for the countless organisms that live under the ground.
Do you not see that everyone in the heavens and Earth glorifies God, as do the birds with their outspread wings? Each one knows its prayer and glorification. God knows what they do. (Surat an-Nur: 41)