A Contribution of ICAR National Fellow Project

A Web-portal exclusively on Termite R&D Crossed One Million Mark Covering 81 Countries Across the WorldITMM in IYoM 2023: Integrated Termite Management in Millets


Q: What are termites?

A: Termites are essentially insects, they are social insects, live in community like ants. Some called them white ants, but it is not right. They belong to Isoptera (Insecta). We found winged termites (alates) attracted towards light sources in rainy seasons (first part of the season mostly). They are reproductives, the workers actually cause loss indoor and outdoor both. But only few species cause damage, and mostly termites are beneficial to environment and our earth. 

Q: When does swarming occur ? 

A: It occurs at different times

In  Anacanthotermes macrocephalus (Hodotermitidae) swarming occurs during nights of August in Rajasthan. Reports are there, Odontotermes assmuthi swarmed afternoons of April in  Dehradun and Calcutta, butduring day or night throughout the wet months in Karnataka(Basalingappa, 1974). O. feae swarmed between 5:30 to 8:30pm in August in Dehradun. O. obesus swarmed during dusk during monsoons. However, in Delhi we observed O. obesus swarming in morning hours (7.30-10.30 am) in July 2014.

Q: What to do if we find termite swarming?

A: Well, it is an early warning to the home owners to take necessary control measures indoor! Installing light traps for termites outdoor is a vague proposition for its control !! Follow appropriate mangement practices, 3B: bait-, barrier-, and borate- technologies.

Q: Where did the swarmers come from?

A: Swamers emerge from the colony and soldiers generally guard the exit-holes.

Q: What happens to these swarmers?

A: Majority (about 99%) fell to extinction en-mass due to various biotic factors (eg. predation by ants, lizards, birds etc.), and extreme abiotic factors. A very few lucky survived couples start a new colony as depicted in the picture.

Q: Whether killing swarmers solve the problem?

A: No, absolutely not! 
Termites follow r-K strategies. Survival of at least one pair can form a successful colony.

Q: Should we be serious on termite problem or leave this to nature to take care of as such?

A: Crores of rupees are lost due to termites mostly indoor. Known for xylophagy, termites feed on cellulose-based materials. They can even injure living trees and shrubs, but often are a secondary invader of woody plants those are sick. While constructions may be infested at any point of time, they are to be offered utmost importance in pre-construction phase. 

Q: How we know that our home is attacked by termites?

A: Finding termite alates (=winged) indoors indicates infestation warranting termite treatment. Winged termites may be confused with ants, which may swarm at the same time of year. However, termites can easily be differentiated by their straight antennae, uniform waist and equal wing-size. In contrast, ants have geniculate/elbowed antennae, constricted waists. The swarmers are attracted to light-source and are often seen around doors and windows. Termite swarmers emerging from tree stumps, woodpiles, and other locations outdoor are not necessarily cause for concern, and may not mean that the house is infested. But, if winged termites are seen emerging from the base of a foundation wall or adjoining porches and such structures, there's a fair chance the house is infested also and treatment may be resorted to. Typical termite signs are mud-galleries/tubes running over the walls, piers, sill plates, floor junctures, and such associated structures. Termites make mud galleries for their shelter and migrate between their underground colonies and the structure. To determine if an infestation is active, such mud tunnels/tubes may be broken open and verified for the termites. However, vacant galleries may not necessarily imply inactive infestation; as termites often abandon galleries and forage elsewhere.

Termites as cryptic creatures, infestation may go unnoticed for months together, concealed behind the floorings, walls, and such other obstructive features. Termite feeding and damage can even progress undetected in wood that is exposed because the outer surface is usually left intact. Confirmation of termite attack requires keen expert observation. Sometimes, even an experienced expert may overlook an infestation that is cryptic.

Obviouly, tackling termites is a tricky task!!

Q: Can we treat our houses ourselves?

A: No doubt, this is a specialized job for professionals. Nevertheless, spot or localized treatments can be done by us. Frequent monitoring and sanitation is the best way which we have to follow without fail. Building construction design and plan, is needed to look into to know the critical areas where termites are likely to enter. These entry-points are usually inaccessible. Termite control demands specialized equipments (eg. masonry drilling machines, large-capacity tanks, pumps, and treatment rods etc).

Q: Whether we should go for termite experts/professionals?

A: We should see, the company is licensed by competent authority. Consider calling multiple companies requesting inspections and estimates. Then decide to whom to outsource. Companies may offer various types of methods and warranties. If termites happen to reappear, we should see the company will retreat the affected areas at no cost. 

Q: In crops like maize, wheat etc. if insecticides like chlorpyriphos, phorate, carbofuran etc. are applied for control of other major insect-pests, are they sufficient to take care of termites simultaneouly?

A: Not essentially. Partially, termites may be controlled as theses are soil-insecticides. It is reported in literature that chemical control of borers’ and shoot fly in maize would have no effect on termites and vice versa. Therefore, termites should be controlled in maize apart from treatment for shoot fly and borer. Same fact is true for other crops as well.

Q: If I am using potent termiticides/insecticides for other insect pest control, whether additional pesticide is needed for termites?

A: Yes.

Application of chlorpyriphos, fenpropathrin, furadan and trazophos etc are done frequently for insect-pests like borers and shoot fly. Insecticides can have an effect on the population of the termites but may not prevent termites altogther as right dose and timing is the key factor. Additional application of chemical or other practices to discourage termites is, thus required.


Last Updated: 27-03-2024

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