Termitarium Reveals Termite Habits

Gregg Henderson  |  6/2/2005 1:29:55 AM

The termites could be viewed from the top. The termitarium is located at one of the facilities of the Mosquito and Termite Control Board in New Orleans. (Photo by Gregg Henderson)

Swimming pool experts advised on how to anchor the underground containment to keep it from pushing out of the ground during heavy rains. (Photo by Gregg Henderson)

Gregg Henderson

To study the foraging behavior of soil-dwelling termites, LSU AgCenter scientists were involved in the building of a termitarium in New Orleans on the site of one of the facilities of the Mosquito and Termite Control Board. A termitarium is a large underground nesting chamber with a pair of sandwiched Plexiglas sheets for viewing two captive termite colonies while they forage both below and above ground. Being in contact with the soil, the termites placed in the large “farm” faced the natural fluctuations of soil temperature and moisture. A fine mesh stainless steel screen kept the termites contained inside in contact with the soil. Inside the aboveground portion of the termitarium was pine framing, which served as an attractive place for nest construction for Formosan termites. A roof constructed above the termitarium kept the unit from becoming too hot. Two times each day for a year, air and soil temperatures and observations of foraging were recorded. Aboveground foraging was found to be closely associated with ambient air temperatures.

(This article appeared in the spring 2001 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)

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