Termites (extended information)

Microtermies spp., Macrotermesspp., Allodontermesspp., and Odontotermesspp.

Description and life cycle

These soft-bodied insects, often referred to as “white ants”, occur in various forms. The sexual forms, the “queen” and her cohort, have four wings extending beyond the abdomen, which are lost after mating. Once the queen is established in a nest, her abdomen becomes enlarged, and she produces thousands of eggs, from which nymphs emerge. These either become soldiers, which protect the termite colony, or workers, whose function is to fee members of the colony. Both of those forms are sterile.

Mechanism of damage

Termites occasionally cause partial or total defoliation of maize seedlings but are principally damaging to maturing or mature plants. After about three months of plant growth, termites begin to attack the main root system, prop roots, and stems and eventually pack the stems with soil and cover them with galleries or tunnels made of thin sheets of soil. As plants mature the amount of damage increases rapidly and so does the likelihood of lodging, bought about directly by termite injury or by wind. Severely damaged plants may lodge and be completely destroyed by termites. The longer a field has been cultivated, the greater will be the yield losses caused by these insects.

Geographic distribution

Occur in savanna and semiarid zones in Africa and in India.