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Best Termite Substrates


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#1 Offline Connectimyrmex - Posted April 5 2018 - 9:13 AM


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Its been a while since I wrote anything on termites. After a 2 year long termite experiment with various genuses and different localities, I found that termites prefer to nest in certain cellulose-based substrates more than others. Here they are!


(ranked from 1 being the best and 5 the worst, even though these are preferable termite substrates)

[assume that all substrates must be dampened for termites, since they can only eat dampened sources of cellulose]

{for king & queen pairs and small worker groups, ant-setup test tubes are better, with a dampened piece of paper or cardboard fit to the lower half of the tube. Smaller diameter is better. The substrates listed are better for large colonies, satellite nests, or displays}


Subterranean (shy, common, and less likely to build mud tubes, like Reticulitermes)-

1. Coconut fiber mixed with aged aspen bedding

2. Native soils mixed with small pieces of oak bark

3. Coconut fiber (nothing else)
4. Coconut fiber mixed with native soils

5. Shredded rotting wood


Fast-spreading Subterranean (aggressive and more likely to build mud tubes, like Coptotermes. Nasutitermes probably would be able to survive with these)-

1. Large (1 inch or so) chunks of rotting wood mixed with coconut fiber

2. Native soils mixed with large chunks of rotting wood

3. Coconut fiber, native soils, and aspen bedding (fresh)

4. Dampened cork bark with coconut fiber

5. Coconut fiber & cardboard (fresh, but beneficial bacteria, such as the species sold in Tetra's SafeStart, could be added to help decompose the wood at the termites' natural feeding rate)


Dampwood (large and reclusive, like Zootermopsis. Mastotermes might be able to survive with these)-

1. Shredded rotting wood

2. Coconut fiber mixed with aged aspen bedding

3. Aged aspen bedding

4. Coconut fiber

5. Shredded cardboard & tissue


Drywood (small, reclusive, and bizarre, like Cryptotermes)-

1. Coconut fiber

2. Shredded cardboard

3. Cotton-based tissue

4. Rotting wood (but less damp than what is given to dampwood and subterranean)

5. Aged aspen bedding


Feel free to add some other good substrates that you've had experience with! There are many varieties of termites missing from this list, so adding a few would be great.




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#2 Offline LC3 - Posted April 5 2018 - 3:26 PM


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I'm just curious to what method you used to get this data. Captive set up or baits, and for how long? I'm a bit skeptical on cork or any sort of bark being a preferred food, as most termites seem to leave bark alone and cork is a bark, hydrophobic and waxy. 


Anyhow I would be weary to classify Nasutitermes and etc with higher Rhinotermitidae like Coptotermes since some Nasutitermitidae species tend to be more specialized in diet (e.g lichen).


Also M. darwiniensis, out of all the termites out there probably have the most versatile and flexible diet, being known to damage anything from leather and rubber to ringing trees. Even being able to live completely on starches to some extent. I don't think they would discriminate with any of the diets provided here.


I would also like to mention that Kellak once stated that termites prefer softwoods. On a related note at Vancouver Island, I found Z. angusticollis and R. hesperus in arbutus (Arbutus menziesii) and pine forests, although nearly every single fallen log in the arbutus forests showed termite damaged it at some point the two species were significantly more abundant in pine forests.


Regarding drywoods how much moisture specifically and on what species? Most journals here on drywoods (Incisitermes specifically) seem to conclude excess water being quite detrimental to them. (Wood in the Californian deserts contain around 7% moisture if I recall correctly).

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