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 Post subject: Insect: Termites
Unread postPosted: Tue Jan 25, 2005 9:10 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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When bwana and I went to KNP in October we noticed alot of termite mounds dotting the landscape between Letaba and Phalaborwa gate. Does anyone know why there are so many? Is this area favoured by termites and are they all inhabited by termites or have they been abandoned? I thought I read somewhere that termites are very territorial which is why I was very surprised at how many there were so close together.

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 Post subject: Re: Termite Mounds
Unread postPosted: Tue Jan 25, 2005 9:36 pm 
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I believe that, in those species of termites which are territorial (not all are) the spacing between the mounds is a factor.

Abandoned Termite mounds can normally be distinguished (unless very recently abandoned of course) by the growth of vegetation. Any mound which has vegetation (grasses, trees etc) growing on it can be assumed to be abandoned as termites are very particular about maintaining their homes and the constant digging out and cleaning of tunnels, chambers and the surface, prevents any seeds from taking root.
Mounds which have no vegetation on their surface can, therefore, be assumed to be inhabited.


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 Post subject: Termite mounds in Kruger?
Unread postPosted: Tue Jul 12, 2005 2:38 pm 
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When we drove into Kruger from Phalaborwa in the direction of Letaba we noticed that driving east at some point all termite mounds disappeared. Driving back the next day we confirmed that there seems to be a point to the east of which there were none while to the weat there were lots of termite mounds.

Does anybody know why this is?


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 Post subject: termite mounds
Unread postPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2005 8:19 am 
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The termite mounds you refer to are constructed by a species of termite known as Hodotermes. This termite typically builds its mound in sandy soils which drain more easily, and allow for better ventilation.Because of the easier working conditions and materials, the mounds can be built extremely tall. Further east the soil changes to clay soils, and it is more difficult for termites to build their impressively high structures as they are able to do on sandy soil.
The mound extends underground to a point where the humidity is 100 %. This is needed for the termites fungus gardens to grow. In sandy soils, such humidities are reached deeper down, and therefore the mounds are taller to accommodate the sand removed from below ground.
Did you notice that in general the mounds tend to point/angle northwards? This helps to keep the mound cool, as the bulk of the shade then falls on the mound. This is one theory. The other theory is that the termites respond to magnetic fields in the earth and this influences the direction in which the mound angles.

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 Post subject:
Unread postPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2005 1:24 am 
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Interesting indeed, but not entirely accurate.

Hodotermes are harvester termites. In the region of Kruger you find the Northern Harvester termite (Hodotermes mossambicus) whose nests are partially or totally underground and the foraging ports are often turreted soil dumps rather than 'heuweltjies'.

The Southern Harvester Termite does indeed create large 'heuweltjies' 20cm diameter and 2m high which collect sand and termite faeces creating fertile islands for plant colonisation. But these are not found in the Kruger.

Except for a few, most termite species do not possess the enzymes to digest the cellulose in plant cell walls. In order to obtain the energy stored in these chemical compounds they have to rely on other micro-organisms to do it for them. Harvester (Hodotermes) are in this category and lodge microscopic unicellular organisms called flagellates, in their intestines to aid in the breakdown of cellulose.

This relationship with the flagellates means that they do not need to cultivate fungus and can break down plant matter by themselves, storing the plant material underground for future eating. They forage in autumn and early winter for mature winged reproductives to be ready for dispersal before first summer rains.

So what is responsible for the termitaruims in kruger are infact Large fungus-growing termites (Macrotermes natalensis) which make use of a fungus that they cultivate to perform the breaking down of cellulose outside their bodies.

They farm the fungus and tend to its needs, the spyres are for ventilation to provide optimum humidity and temperature for the fungus to thrive.

Dont want to be contradicting but my prof would smack me if i didnt


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 Post subject: Who inhabits this hole?
Unread postPosted: Mon Aug 01, 2005 12:52 pm 
Image

Saw a number of these near Gharagab during our previous visit to Kgalagadi.
Would it be the home of an aardvark, porcupine or something else? The entrance itself cannot be seen on this photo but it was quite big.

This was also very puzzling:

Image

Does not look like it could be mud or ground – ground in this area is red.
Is this the “outside toiletâ€Â


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 Post subject:
Unread postPosted: Mon Aug 01, 2005 5:00 pm 
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That is not an outside toilet.

What you see is an excavated termite mound of the black-mound termite (Amitermes hastatus) They feed on decaying wood an humus and they use black digested pasted to construct their mounds. As you can see. The saliva of the workers is very dark and it even stains the queen a dark brown/black colour.

In the lower picture you can see the tunnels which radiate from the mound toward food sources typical of these termites.

Though this species is mostly found in fynbos restio type habitats the two related species A. messinae and A. undentatus are found further north and could be responsible for that particular areas termite mounds as they all are very dark in colour, as apposed to the other termite species.

The excavation could have been done by a number of termite feeding diggers, aardvark is a good candidate considering the size of the hole you described. These excavations then become home to several species including warthog and porcupine (often sharing the same den but alternating shifts)

I have a practical to clear up so Ill try elaborate when I get home this evening

-other suggestions welcome


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 Post subject:
Unread postPosted: Tue Aug 02, 2005 10:31 am 
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Sorry for the late reply, was a busy day.

Had a better look at the mounds and deduced that it is infact a mound of Trinervitermes. Which is in the same subfamily as the Amitermes just the size of the holes in the mound made me rethink slightly. They both exhibit blackened mounds and soldiers are characterized by a snouted long pointy conical head capsule which secretes a deterrent fluid upon harassment. Which groups both in the subfamily Nasutitermitinae (if you care)…

Right so the mounds are made from digested paste as I mentioned earlier. The Trinervitermes are unlike the Macrotermes [ which i mentioned in another thread about who is responsible for the large termite hueweltjies/towers found in kruger] as they do not require to cultivate fungus to break down their cellulose rich plant material diets like the macrotermes.

They contain enzymes within their hindgut and saliva which enable the breakdown of cellulose. This is a direct resilt as being in a symbiosis with unicellular eukaryotic flagellates often making up 1/3 of the termites mass. These gut flaggelates are often colonized by prokaryotic bacteria. Endomicrobia are a lineage of bacterial microbes which is present in, and often restricted to hind guts of certain termites and wood-eating cockroaches. These bacteria (often referred to as TG-1 [termite group 1] bacteria) are capable of cellulase production and therefore cellulose digestion.

The particular termite species happens to do all this with dark pigmented chemicals persisting to the digested material 'waste' which gives its saliva, and therefore mound (and old queen) its colour.

Now queens are housed in elaborate chambers underneath such visable mounds to offer a certain degree of protection. These colonies grow very slowly and take about a decade to reach maturity. Like an ice-berg 95% of the mound is under the surface. Making digging to get there quite an incentive.

Predators such as aardvark are specialized to get past such protection as they are increadibly capable earth moving machines and have evolved for just such porposes. They dig into the mound and have a feast.

The holes are as ecologically important as the mounds themselves as many species use them for shelter. As I mentioned above Warthogs can dig, but are lazy creatures and would rather modify existing aardvark burrows. Few African species are as diurnal (strictly daytime) as the warthog. This is useful as Porcupines are nocturnal and use such holes during the day for shelter and sleep. When the warthog gets up in the morning to start a day and leaves the den, the porcupine is just coming home. When the warthog comes to sleep, the porcupine goes out foraging.

This is a great setup, except warthog have tusks on the front. So for protection they backup down the hole ready to fend off trespassers with their only weapons. Porcupines on the otherhand have spines on their backs. So they move down head first leaving the most protected rear wall of spines facing outwards to fend off intruders.

I have more than once seen warthog with quills stickin in their porcine posteriors for coming home early, backing up down their hole and not seeing the porcupine still sleeping in the hole. Recipe for disaster :D prick in the bum and an uncomfortable few days for the warthog.

AWD's do not dig their own dens. Which results in aardvark burrows playing a very active role in their conservation, as AWD need dens to litter pups. Spotted hyena often utilize such dens as do ground squirrels and serval.

Sorry if I went into too much detail I just have the pleasure of working with probably the top entomologist in South Africa. Who recently (2002) played a huge part in describing the new insect order mantophasmatodea, the first new order since ice crawlers in 1914, bringing the total insect orders to 30, and the first to note them as far south as namaqualand here in Sunny SA…my inspiration to mouth off big words hehehe
enjoy


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 Post subject:
Unread postPosted: Tue Aug 02, 2005 9:53 pm 
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Wow, great stuff SAHGCA-UCT! I have copied this into a word doc to digest and research properly later. Can you tell us the name of the entemologist? - I have had a curiosity about mantophasmatodea since the order was discovered. Thanks!


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 Post subject:
Unread postPosted: Tue Aug 02, 2005 11:14 pm 
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Tabs the man in question is *drumroll* Dr Mike Picker, a senior lecturer in the UCT Zoology department heading the entomology department. Most remarkable person, great mentor and very friendly to boot!

Dr Picker is responsible for the ecological and life history components of the study, and well as the systematics of mantophasmatodea and AFAIK before he came around there were 4 extant species, 3 in namibia and 1 in tanzania. His research has described a further 8 new species in South Africa. He is in the South African Mantophasmatodea Project with Klaus Klass, Jakob Damgaard, Rheinhard Predel and Steffen Roth,- international entomologists.

After digesting this information if you find any irregularities please let me know, i am no entomologist, mammology is my true love but have a great passion for all natura decorus


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 Post subject:
Unread postPosted: Tue Aug 02, 2005 11:17 pm 
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Interesting one there, that would be an aardvark foraging burrow. That phasmatodea sounds like in between a mantis and stick insect, is it ?

Anyway, well done on that Order description.

Cool,

w


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 Post subject: termite mounds
Unread postPosted: Sat Jul 01, 2006 10:45 am 
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Hi to you all

I live on a small holding at Bapsfontein and have a major problem. fungus-GROWING TERMITES have invaded my house.
They are pushing out soil on the carpets. in the cub boards, on shoes, behind the dog kennel on the stoop,in the garden and around the house.

I have read Johan Gerber's book " The Garden Guardian's guide to environmentally-responsible garden care." He describe termites as SAHGA-UCT did.

I have tried, Kamikazi, various other insecticides to no avail. We have had almost double our normal rain fall with the last rain season. It seems that termites were not effected by all the rain. They are still happily pushing out soil in the house.

I Have to be care full with what I use , as my wife is "asthmatic" and cannot use any chemicals as to prevent an
asthma attack. If she does have one I have to put a drip on her and get her to a doctor or hospital as fast as possible which is 30 km away from us. Not a nice experience if you drive at 160 and above, she cant breath and you have to carry a halve unconscious women into the trauma unit.

My dogs though, enjoys eating the termites. It is great fun for the family collecting termites and feed it to the dogs when the termites start flying after we have had rain. It is a frantic jumping in to the air catching termites, running back to one off use collecting the termites that we caught and then off catching their own termites.

Maybe SAHGCA-UCT can advise me how to terminate the nest. Any advice will be welcome.

I have heard that "tobacco dust is very effective, is it?


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 Post subject: Re: termite mounds
Unread postPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2006 6:29 am 
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Pieter Steyn wrote:
I have heard that "tobacco dust is very effective, is it?


Hi Pieter, I don't think the forum is the right place to ask questions about pest control. I suggest you get a company in like "Pest Control" or so to come help solve your problem.

Tobacco dust is absolutely a no-no as it kills "EVERYTHING" else too.

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 Post subject: Re: termite mounds
Unread postPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2006 9:13 am 
wildtuinman wrote:
I suggest you get a company in like "Pest Control" or so to come help solve your problem..


As painful as it has to be, I have to agree with WT for a change. :twisted:
Also had a big problem end of last year …tried Kamikazi, did not work and I believe it is dangerous to use with animals etc around. Eventually got “Pest Control” and the problem is now solved inside the house…still have nests around the house in the garden, but that is not a issue…they are actually great in the garden…fertilize soil and attract birds. :wink:

The following photo of Hodotermes ? Termites at work was taken in Biyamiti. They were busy building a mound in front of unit 6/7. Stephen erected a wooden fence around to mound to protect it from people walking over it. Unfortunately the hornbill population in the camp got hold of the termites and they eventually deserted the mound.
If I read Fevertrees’ post I suppose the termites chose this spot because of the more sandy soil next to the river?

Image


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 Post subject: Termite moulds
Unread postPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2006 5:35 pm 
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Hi WT and Jambo

I beg to differ from your gays stating that the forum is not the right place to ask about pest control.

I did not ask any question about pest concontrol , I wanted to know if there is anybody whom can advice how get rid of them.
(meaning with out chemicals), I have also mentioned that I have to be carefull with what I use due to the fact that my wife is Asthmatic. I deffinitely do not want to course her having
an attack.

The way that I see it termites play a vital roll in the eco system. I actually enjoy watching them. Having said this I also have to protect my house.

I also believe that we have many skilful forum members and hoped that somone could give me advice, without using pest control. Using chemicals is deffinatly my last resourse.

U proberly have read about the about the masive sinkhole at Babsfontein. The hole happens to be about 500 meters from my place. To explain to you gays why and how sink holes occure will take a couple of pages.

I have 7 small sink holes in a radius of 3m from the house, so if I pump a lot of liquid into a manmade opening next to the house I might couse another sink hole. (The chemicals might also filter into my borehole)Thus creating another hole that I have to warry about and monitor on a daily basis as I presently do with the ather holes.

I did not think it to be necessary to saddle anybody up with my problems as I did now. I mererly wanted advice on what to do.

That is also the reason why I have said that maybe SAHGCA-UCT can help.

Maybe I should contact him directly?
:cry:


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