Jump to content

  • Chat
  •  
  •  



Welcome to Formiculture.com!

This is a website for anyone interested in Myrmecology and all aspects of finding, keeping, and studying ants. The site and forum are free to use, and contain no ads for members. Register now to gain access to all of our features. Once registered and logged in, you will be able to create topics, post replies to existing threads, give reputation points to your fellow members, get your own private messenger, post status updates, manage your profile and so much more. If you already have an account, login here - otherwise create an account for free today!

Photo
* * * * * 3 votes

Nare's Simple Termite Farm Guide

termite termites reticulitermes zootermopsis farm setup termitarium

41 replies to this topic

#1 Offline Nare - Posted March 25 2020 - 10:34 AM

Nare

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 365 posts
  • LocationToronto, Canada

So if you've looked around the termite keeping community a little bit, you've probably heard of the Termitat. Unfortunately, this product only ships in the US, so for everyone else out there, professional, safe, nice looking termite displays seem to be off the table. In experimenting with DIY setups, I haven't found anything that's simple, functional, and looks nice, and I've found that test tubes and small containers just aren't very conducive to observation.

 

That leaves only the petri dish. In the past, I've tried keeping subterranean termites (Reticulitermes flavipes) in a petri dish setup, but it's never worked out well - either the dish dries out, or the termites just aren't visible. So recently, I decided to try my hand at a petri dish design once again, but I'd do it differently this time - more like a termitat. So far, this design's worked out super well, so I decided to share the design here with the hopes that others can improve upon it or come up with even better designs.

 

What you'll need

  • 1x petri dish (glass is probably best as plastic can be flimsy and scuff easily. A height of around 15mm has worked well for myself with both dampwood and subterranean termites. A larger diameter to your dish will mean more wood can be kept inside, so I wouldn't go with any dish smaller in diameter than 100mm - if you can find 150mm or 200mm dishes, even better. Additionally, ensure your dish isn't airtight - don't want the termites suffocating. Most dishes that have ventilation have gaps large enough to facilitate air exchange but small enough to prevent something like a termite from escaping.)
  • 2-3x binder clip (make sure the clip can spread wide enough to comfortably clip around the entire height of the dish, you don't want this thing flying off and sending termites everywhere)
  • 1x elastic band (make sure it can fit around the circumference of the petri dish)
  • 1x syringe (tip should be small enough to fit between the lid and the bottom of the petri dish to allow for watering of the setup)
  • Wood (I'll talk more about this at the end, so be sure to read that first before you start assembling the setup)
  • Scotch tape (optional)

qjIHHUJ.jpg

 

Assembling the Setup

 

1. Fill your petri dish with wood - if you're cutting a piece to fit perfectly into the dish, either cut its height to be slightly lower than that of the dish so that the termites aren't squished, or carve out chambers for your termites to start in.XMBx6MQ.jpg

 

2. Add substrate - if you're using pieces of wood, such as bits of wood collected from a rotten log, feel free to add substrate to the dish such as coconut husk, soil or sand (if you're keeping subterranean termites) so that the pieces of wood aren't freely bumping around. The dish should be full of primarily wood in any case - that's what the termites will both eat and live in. 5PsvK7J.jpg

 

3. Add the termites - I dumped mine right on top of the wood and they quickly ran around and found cracks and crevasses to hide in. If you've carved out chambers, try to dump the termites directly into the chamber. ybGSjTZ.jpgvUcF53P.jpg

 

4. Place the rubber band around the upper part of the side of the petri dish - if your dish doesn't fit extremely snugly with it's lid, add a rubber band to act as a gasket and prevent material and termites from falling out of the setup. If your rubber band is sealing off air flow entirely, I'd recommend using either a smaller band, or none at all - air circulation is still important. 5DKRjuq.jpg

 

5. Put the lid on the dish - termites are fairly squishy, so you can place the lid gently ontop of the setup even if the termites are still wandering around ontop of the wood. You may see them squish if they're caught in a tight spot, but don't worry - this doesn't harm them. Don't press down on the lid, instead lift it and allow the termite to move to a more suitable position, or move it manually with a q-tip. You should get to the point where you can place the lid on and let it sit there without squishing any termites, then you can proceed to the next step. 3FuuKyX.jpg

 

6. Clip the binder clips to the sides of the dish. Binder clips apply a fair amount of pressure, which is why I recommend using a sturdier glass dish - my flimsy plastic dishes aren't the greatest for this purpose. Simply use the clips to clip the lid to the bottom of the dish. I would recommend using three clips each an equal distance away from eachother around the dish. MdK6rDh.jpg

 

7. Finally, stand the dish up on two of the clips - you're done!

bJes9xd.jpg

Y4oTM7R.jpg

 

8. Add water whenever the wood looks dry (once a week perhaps?) using the syringe. Simply fit the syringe between the bottom of the dish and the lid. Ensure that you don't add too much water - there shouldn't be loose water or condensation in the setup, as this poses a risk to your termites.

juFi1Mk.jpg

 

FAQ

  • Which kind of termite should I put in this setup? Will this work for every species of termite? Only use this setup for a wood dwelling species of termite. This includes species from the families Archotermopsidae/Termopsidae (dampwood termites), Kalotermitidae (drywood termites), and Rhinotermitidae (subterranean termites). Yes, you can put subterranean termites into a setup like this. Subterranean termites rely upon soil and substrate to travel between feeding sites (pieces of wood), but they do not live in, and are not dependent upon substrate. A wood based setup will work well for them. Species from the families Homotermitidae and Termitidae are not suitable for this type of setup, as they do not, for the most part, live directly in wood, at least not in the manner of this setup.
  • Which kind of wood should I use for this setup? Can I use cardboard or paper as well? The type of wood you use depends on the type of termite you intend to keep. Subterranean termites and drywood termites can exist fine in ordinary lumber as long as said lumber is not treated with harmful chemicals. You will need to water the setup for the former if you're using lumber, or provide substrate to hold moisture, as in my experience ordinary lumber does not hold moisture as well as rotten wood. Dampwood termites will need damp, rotten wood. Surprisingly enough, there are many different kinds of rotten wood, and dampwood termites can be very peculiar about which type of wood they inhabit. Using the Western Dampwood Termite (Zootermopsis spp.) for example, rotten softwood has been found to be preferred, though ensure that said wood is not resinous, like cedar. Alternatives to wood, such as cardboard or paper, are only really suitable for subterranean termites like Coptotermes spp. or Reticulitermes spp. Even then, I would avoid using cardboard or paper if possible, as wood should provide higher quality cellulose, and I have found that my colonies do better on wood than cardboard or paper.
  • How often should I water my setup? There's no formula or number for how often and how much you should water your setup, but make sure that the setup does not dry out. Condensation is a good indicator of moisture, so if you see condensation, it is likely that you do not need to add water. Loose drops of water or pools of water should be avoided, as they can prove fatal to termites.

Refilling the Setup

If you have a large species (such as Zootermopsis spp.), you may find that they eat all the wood in the petri dish within a few weeks or months. If your colony is too large for the dish, you may want to consider moving them into a larger dish or an actual container. However, if they're still small enough that they don't fill up the whole dish, you may want to consider simply adding more wood to the dish. Here's how I'd go about something like that:

  1. Empty out the dish - simply take off the lid, and dump the contents of the dish gently onto a large saucer or into a small container temporarily.
  2. If the termites have eaten most of / all of the wood in the dish, you will find that it is filled with termite poop - little hexagonal pellets with a soil-like consistency. You may wish to dump these into another container for safekeeping. Termite frass serves as good fertilizer, and also contains beneficial fungus spores that can inoculate wood and make it suitable for termite consumption.
  3. Refill the petri dish with wood - you may wish to clean the dish out with warm, soapy water first if the termites have plastered frass across the thing, which may happen. Ensure that the dish has been thoroughly rinsed and dried, and add more wood to the container in the same way as the farm was initially set up. Ensure there are pockets, cavities, and chambers for the termites to hide in. You may want to add some frass back into the container to cushion the wood and inoculate it with the aforementioned beneficial fungus.
  4. Add the termites back into the dish.
  5. Reassemble as seen above.

I think that's about it. I hope you enjoy your new termite setup - I keep both Zootermopsis nevadensis and Reticulitermes flavipes in setups like this, and have had a good view of both colonies, which is really a new thing for me as I've been keeping them in test tubes and containers before now. Let me know how the setup turns out if you make something like this, or if you have any suggestions for improvements / alternative setups.

 

Here's some pics of some of my colonies in this setup:

cASNa4E.jpg

OVdogBj.jpg

eGTppew.jpg

ZuPX1A6.jpg

9JHIgcT.jpg

OAO3mMv.jpg

 

Thanks for reading.


Edited by Nare, March 25 2020 - 11:00 AM.

  • Somethinghmm and antwall like this

#2 Offline ANTdrew - Posted March 25 2020 - 11:10 AM

ANTdrew

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 4,228 posts
  • LocationAlexandria, VA
This is amazing. Thank you! I suggest naming this the Terminareum.
  • Nare likes this

"The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer." Prov. 30:25   I <3 tiny ants


#3 Offline Nare - Posted March 25 2020 - 11:15 AM

Nare

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 365 posts
  • LocationToronto, Canada

This is amazing. Thank you! I suggest naming this the Terminareum.

:lol: very funny. Thanks for the kind words - I really hope more people try this, cause I love seeing other people's termites.


  • Ant_Dude2908 and Ants_Dakota like this

#4 Offline ANTdrew - Posted March 25 2020 - 11:23 AM

ANTdrew

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 4,228 posts
  • LocationAlexandria, VA
I will try this if I can get a petri dish. Would filling the dish with sawdust work? I have an abundance of sawdust after a tree was cut down in my yard.
  • Nare likes this

"The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer." Prov. 30:25   I <3 tiny ants


#5 Offline Nare - Posted March 25 2020 - 11:33 AM

Nare

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 365 posts
  • LocationToronto, Canada

I will try this if I can get a petri dish. Would filling the dish with sawdust work? I have an abundance of sawdust after a tree was cut down in my yard.

Yeah I think sawdust would work, especially since the only termites in your area are subterranean termites, who I feel would do well on the stuff. Dishes shouldn't be too hard to find - specialty supply stores like LCM have a good variety, though I suspect many of them only ship in bulk. Worst case scenario you can order some off of Amazon. That's what I did, and they work fine. Essentially anywhere you get test tubes from should have dishes.


  • ANTdrew likes this

#6 Offline ANTdrew - Posted April 8 2020 - 9:42 AM

ANTdrew

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 4,228 posts
  • LocationAlexandria, VA
Two ideas for terminareums came to me I wanted to run by you:
1) making one out of an old CD case (remember those things?) with the gaps sealed with mesh and silicone.
2) making one out of those round hummus containers with clear lids with holes made for ventilation and hydration. I’d probably fill most of the tub with hydrostone to make it a tighter fit.
  • Nare likes this

"The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer." Prov. 30:25   I <3 tiny ants


#7 Offline FSTP - Posted April 8 2020 - 9:48 AM

FSTP

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 936 posts
  • Location36.7378° N, 119.7871° W

I'm going to make one of these, there's a termite colony in a fallen rotton oak tree I know of I was going to collect some in there to see if I could ID them, or get an ID for them. This would be a perfect housing for them. 


  • Nare and ANTdrew like this

#8 Offline Nare - Posted April 8 2020 - 9:58 AM

Nare

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 365 posts
  • LocationToronto, Canada

Two ideas for terminareums came to me I wanted to run by you:
1) making one out of an old CD case (remember those things?) with the gaps sealed with mesh and silicone.
2) making one out of those round hummus containers with clear lids with holes made for ventilation and hydration. I’d probably fill most of the tub with hydrostone to make it a tighter fit.

Yeah I'm finding that my Reticulitermes are really hidden away in the dirt, so either a thinner container or plaster/grout/hydrostone is definitely in order.


I'm going to make one of these, there's a termite colony in a fallen rotton oak tree I know of I was going to collect some in there to see if I could ID them, or get an ID for them. This would be a perfect housing for them. 

Be sure to keep us updated.


  • ANTdrew likes this

#9 Offline Ants_Dakota - Posted April 8 2020 - 11:52 AM

Ants_Dakota

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 1,516 posts
  • LocationSioux Falls, South Dakota

I would do it, but we have no termites up here.  :(


Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. -Proverbs 6: 6-8

My Journal Here

My Shop Here

Attention Ant-Keepers in South Dakota! Join the SoDak(Society Of Dakotan Ant Keepers)

Learn about our website AntsDakota, and help us develop and publish it

Join our Discord, where you can discuss your anting ideas in peace, and learn more about AntsDakota


#10 Offline Nare - Posted April 8 2020 - 11:59 AM

Nare

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 365 posts
  • LocationToronto, Canada

I would do it, but we have no termites up here.  :(

It's legal to ship Reticulitermes flavipes and hesperus workers between state lines now. I'm sure if you ask nicely, someone would gladly send you some, maybe for a small price or any of the shipable ants if you have them in your area  :)


  • Ants_Dakota likes this

#11 Offline ANTdrew - Posted April 8 2020 - 12:29 PM

ANTdrew

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 4,228 posts
  • LocationAlexandria, VA

I would do it, but we have no termites up here. :(

Nare taught me how to set up termite traps, so I may have an abundance soon. I could look into sending you some if they work.
  • Ants_Dakota likes this

"The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer." Prov. 30:25   I <3 tiny ants


#12 Offline AntsDakota - Posted April 8 2020 - 12:35 PM

AntsDakota

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 3,675 posts
  • LocationSioux Falls, South Dakota

I would do it, but we have no termites up here.  :(

It's legal to ship Reticulitermes flavipes and hesperus workers between state lines now. I'm sure if you ask nicely, someone would gladly send you some, maybe for a small price or any of the shipable ants if you have them in your area  :).
But these don’t develop into reproductives, right?
  • Ants_Dakota likes this

"God made..... all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. (including ants) And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:25 NIV version

 

Join our fledgling but growing AntsDakota Discord community! https://discord.gg/vkwjYzz

 

We're also excited about our new rising franchise: AntsDakota.com
 


#13 Offline Nare - Posted April 8 2020 - 1:06 PM

Nare

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 365 posts
  • LocationToronto, Canada

 

 

I would do it, but we have no termites up here.  :(

It's legal to ship Reticulitermes flavipes and hesperus workers between state lines now. I'm sure if you ask nicely, someone would gladly send you some, maybe for a small price or any of the shipable ants if you have them in your area  :).
But these don’t develop into reproductives, right?

 

They do. Workers can and will develop into reproductives. Which begs the question as to why restrictions exist on shipping reproductives if workers can be shipped. I asked this question during an AMA with (if I remember correctly) one of the scientists who worked on the change of rules, but it was specifically passed over.

 

Anyways, point is, termite workers are on the list of shippable insects, seemingly no strings attached. What happens to said workers after they arrive doesn't seem to be a concern of the law, so you can legally have termite workers shipped to you and allow them to develop into reproductives and thus reproduce.

 

If you'd like evidence, you can find Reticulitermes flavipes and hesperus on the list, though I can't be bothered to dig around for it right now.


  • AntsDakota and OhNoNotAgain like this

#14 Offline AntsDakota - Posted April 8 2020 - 1:11 PM

AntsDakota

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 3,675 posts
  • LocationSioux Falls, South Dakota

Are these R. flavipes? I am assuming some of these workers will molt into gynes, right? 

 

Termites, Workers, Living, Pack of 100 | Carolina.com


"God made..... all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. (including ants) And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:25 NIV version

 

Join our fledgling but growing AntsDakota Discord community! https://discord.gg/vkwjYzz

 

We're also excited about our new rising franchise: AntsDakota.com
 


#15 Offline Nare - Posted April 8 2020 - 1:28 PM

Nare

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 365 posts
  • LocationToronto, Canada

Are these R. flavipes? I am assuming some of these workers will molt into gynes, right? 

 

Termites, Workers, Living, Pack of 100 | Carolina.com

Probably and yes. They're a tad expensive though, and you'd likely want more from my experience. Though I guess if you keep them in a wood setup you might be able to get a colony going with a population this size. I'm not sure.



#16 Offline AntsDakota - Posted April 8 2020 - 1:32 PM

AntsDakota

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 3,675 posts
  • LocationSioux Falls, South Dakota

I guess the website says that they won't reproduce.......... do you have any company suggestions?


"God made..... all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. (including ants) And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:25 NIV version

 

Join our fledgling but growing AntsDakota Discord community! https://discord.gg/vkwjYzz

 

We're also excited about our new rising franchise: AntsDakota.com
 


#17 Offline Nare - Posted April 8 2020 - 1:37 PM

Nare

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 365 posts
  • LocationToronto, Canada

I guess the website says that they won't reproduce.......... do you have any company suggestions?

I'd ask around on the forum. Ward's and Carolina are the only sources for Rets I've found. Alternatively you could buy this which comes with Zootermopsis and a setup. If you want subterranean termites though, again, I'd ask around on the forum.


  • AntsDakota likes this

#18 Offline AntsDakota - Posted April 8 2020 - 1:40 PM

AntsDakota

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 3,675 posts
  • LocationSioux Falls, South Dakota

Yeah, Termitat is a little expensive too, though. I guess I've already spent at least a couple hundred on ants in the past couple weeks........ if I do decide to get termites, I'll probably buy from Carolina, as theirs' are the cheapest.


  • Ants_Dakota likes this

"God made..... all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. (including ants) And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:25 NIV version

 

Join our fledgling but growing AntsDakota Discord community! https://discord.gg/vkwjYzz

 

We're also excited about our new rising franchise: AntsDakota.com
 


#19 Offline AntsDakota - Posted April 9 2020 - 1:25 PM

AntsDakota

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 3,675 posts
  • LocationSioux Falls, South Dakota

Are these R. flavipes? I am assuming some of these workers will molt into gynes, right? 
 
Termites, Workers, Living, Pack of 100 | Carolina.com

Probably and yes.
Um, these https://www.google.c...iw=1024&bih=643 diagrams all claim that mature nymphs develop into reproductive castes, not workers.

"God made..... all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. (including ants) And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:25 NIV version

 

Join our fledgling but growing AntsDakota Discord community! https://discord.gg/vkwjYzz

 

We're also excited about our new rising franchise: AntsDakota.com
 


#20 Offline AntsDakota - Posted April 9 2020 - 1:32 PM

AntsDakota

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 3,675 posts
  • LocationSioux Falls, South Dakota

And is there anywhere I could get nymphs from?


Edited by AntsDakota, April 9 2020 - 1:32 PM.

"God made..... all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. (including ants) And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:25 NIV version

 

Join our fledgling but growing AntsDakota Discord community! https://discord.gg/vkwjYzz

 

We're also excited about our new rising franchise: AntsDakota.com
 






Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: termite, termites, reticulitermes, zootermopsis, farm, setup, termitarium

0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users