The Wildebeest's guide to South Africa

Common Fungus-growing Termite

Afrikaans name: Swamkwekertermiete

Common Fungus-growing Termite

Photo © Steven Herbert

Odontotermes badius

The Common Fungus-growing Termite is well-known to many of us as the 'white ant' that destroys wooden structures in our homes. They have a passion for eating wood, but they do also feed on dead grass, leaves and animal droppings. When they are feeding on objects above ground, they typically cover it in “cement” made out of soil and, presumably, saliva. This cement allows them to conduct their activities underneath it without exposure to the sun and predators.

They build their nests underground which are given away by a slight mound above the surrounding ground. These mounds are often covered in grass. Over time a large colony may build a hive up to 6 metres in diameter. When they reach this size, you may well find trees and shrubs growing out of the mound.

Each colony has a queen, and she is kept confined inside a chamber within the hive. Here too is where the fungus is grown.

These termites are extremely common in Africa and Asia and pose a threat to agriculture.

References and further reading

Pocket Guide - Insects of South Africa - Author: Mike Picker & Charles Griffiths - Published: 2015 - Page: 25

Insects of Southern Africa - 1st edition - Author: Clarke H. Scholtz and Erik Holm - Published: 1989 - Page: 60

Field Guide to Insects of South Africa - Author: Mike Picker, Charles Griffiths and Alan Weaving - Published: 0 - Page: 56


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