Although bees respond to fields, magnetic sensing has been falsely ascribed to other insects. One of these is a special breed of magnetic termites that exists in tropical northern Australia and is restricted to small areas just south of Darwin, at Arnhem Land, and at the Cape York peninsula. These termites are named for their construction of clusters of 100 or more tombstone-like mounds up to 6 ft (2 meters) tall, oriented with their long axis aligned approximately 10° east of a geographic northward direction (Figure 2.31).
Because a magnetic compass declination of those regions is a few degrees east of north, it has long been thought that those special termites were satisfying some special magnetic orientation sense. Only in recent years have Australian CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization) scientists found that magnetism plays no role in the magnetic termite
constructions. All the cemetery-like mounds are restricted to regions of seasonally flooded alluvial plains. Unable to escape to the more uniform temperature of underground galleries during the wet season, these termites deal with the large daily above-ground temperature fluctuations with a mound orientation that keeps the eastern face of each mound near an optimum temperature, allowing it to rapidly warm after sunrise following a cold night. In shaded regions (with more trees or regular cloud cover) or regions with locally prevailing winds, the mounds are oriented on a more north-south axis, increasing the eastern-face warming by the morning Sun.
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