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Farmer Friendly Ways to Control Termites

Authors:
  • ICAR-Indian Institute of Seed Science, Mau (U.P.)

Abstract

Termite is one of the most damaging insects of agriculture, forestry and housing. Colonized living of this insect with all together makes its life more protected than other social insects. Owing to this quality, it has been very difficult to prevent this insect from damaging our agriculture. Though many measures have been suggested to control termites, integration of all cultural, physical and biological methods would be more effective. Adding organic material to the soil, crop rotation, physical barriers, encouraging predators, plant parts and plant extracts can be used effectively for control of this insect.
Farmer Friendly Ways to Control Termites
Kalyani Kumari
1*
, Kalyanrao Patil
2
and Shikha Sharma
3
1
Ph. D. Scholar (Seed Sc. & Tech.), B. A. College of Agriculture, AAU, Anand-388110, Gujarat
2
Assistant Professor, (Seed Tech.), B. A. College of Agriculture, AAU, Anand-388110, Gujarat
3
Ph. D. Scholar, (Pl. Patho.), Rajasthan College of Agriculture, MPUAT, Udaipur- 313001, Rajasthan
*Email of corresponding author: kalyani.kumari7@gmail.com
Termite is one of the most damaging insects of agriculture, forestry and housing. Colonized living of
this insect with all together makes its life more protected than other social insects. Owing to this
quality, it has been very difficult to prevent our agriculture from damage by this insect. Though many
measures have been suggested to control termites, integration of all cultural, physical and biological
methods would be more effective. Adding organic material to the soil, crop rotation, physical
barriers, encouraging predators, plant parts and plant extracts can be used effectively for control of
this insect.
Introduction
Termites are a group of insects belonging to
class Isoptera consisting of 2,500 species of
which 300 are considered as pests. Termites
are one of the most damaging pests in the
tropics and can cause considerable problems in
agriculture, forestry and housing. The most
troublesome type of termites in agriculture is
the fungus-growing termites. They feed on
dead organic material such as crop residues,
mulches and soil organic matter (humus).
However when this type of food is not
available they will eat live plant material
including crops such as groundnuts, millets
and maize. Termites can attack plants at any
stage of development from the seed to the
mature plant.
They are social insects that live
together as a colony in a nest. Colony
members belong to one of three interdependent
groups with specialized form and function
known as castes. The three basic castes present
in the colony are workers, soldiers and
reproductive forms. Workers and soldiers are
wingless, sterile and blind. Workers construct
the distinctive shelter tubes and collect food to
feed the young and other members of the
colony. The primary function of the soldiers is
to defend the colony, usually against ants,
which are their main enemies. The
reproductive caste is usually referred to as the
king and queen. They are responsible for the
production of fertilized eggs for the colony
and of specialized chemicals (hormones)
important for managing the inhabitants of the
colony. Mature colonies produce winged
reproductive forms or alates at certain times of
the year. After the dispersal flight, the alates
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attempt to find mates and found new colonies.
Utilizing cellulose as their food source and
living in colonized form, termites are the most
successful and long lived of all the social
insects. They depend entirely on wood, either
living or dead, or the woody tissue of plants,
intact or partially decayed and also in the form
of humus and dried animal dung.
Control Measures
A) Cultural method
Adding organic material to the soil:
Termites prefer to eat dead plant material.
Their attacks are thought to be related to
soils with low organic matter content. This
is because such soils do not contain enough
food for termites to live and they resort to
feeding on living plant material. Adding
compost or well-rotted manure to the soil
and growing green manures helps to
increase the organic matter in the soil.
Where possible, green manure crops can be
ploughed into the soil. Moisture plus
organic matter attract the termites and
prevent them from attacking the target crop.
Castor press cake can be incorporated into
the soil in order to control the termite
infestation. It is suggested to add it into the
opened furrow before sowing the crop.
Cultivating on ridges: Ridges are usually
made along contours and the soil is finally
shaped into a ridge form. In these
operations, termite colonies are destroyed or
exposed to predators such as birds.
Healthy plants for transplanting: Plants
which are suffering from disease or lack of
water are generally more susceptible to
termites than healthy plants. It is therefore
important that plants are kept healthy and
watered. In dry areas it is recommended
that seeds should be sown at the beginning
of the wet season to give the plants a chance
to establish themselves and remain healthy
in the field. Only healthy plants should be
transplanted into the field. Great care
should be taken during transplanting and
pruning (leaves and roots) as termites may
enter plants through scar tissues. If there is
a polythene bag around the root of a tree
seedling, it is recommended that it should
not be completely removed when
transplanting as it can act as a barrier
against termites.
Crop rotation: Planting the same crop on
the same land year after year reduces soil
fertility and structure. Crops growing in
such conditions will be weaker and
susceptible to termites. Crop rotation can
play an important role in reducing termite
attack. This can prevent pest and disease
buildup and also help the soil to recover
nutrients. In some parts of India, farmers
cultivate castor (Ricinus communis) crop in
severely termites infested field and doing so
they found that the termite infestation has
substantially been decreased in the next
cropping season. (HDRA Report, 2001)
Irrigation: Irrigation is also used to
minimize the effect of the termites. When
the farm is regularly irrigated, the activities
or damages of termites are reduced.
Timing of harvesting: Crops are more
seriously damaged towards harvest than
earlier period of the season. Therefore
prompt harvest is recommended.
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Avoiding plants from termite attack: In
general indigenous crops are more resistant
to termites than exotic crops. Annual crops
are attacked towards harvest time while
perennial crops are attacked most
destructively during dry seasons or in early
stages of growth. It may be advisable to
establish small plantations in the field prior
to larger scale plantations in order to
discover if the crop is attacked to termites in
local conditions.
Furthermore, some organic agriculture
practitioners spread dry leaves, farm litter
and other waste in the field and spray water
on it. By doing so they are in opinion that
termites will then eat these materials and
thus prevent it from spreading to the crops.
B) Physical Control
Mechanical Destruction: It consists of
breaking the mounds of the termites and
removing the queen and the king.
Sometimes termite mounds are destroyed
manually in order to get rid of these pests.
This method is labour intensive, as the
building material of the mounds is very
hard and many mounds have considerable
dimensions. The success of this measure
depends on eliminating the queen, who may
be hidden deep inside and is not easily
found. Mechanical destruction of termite
mounds can be recommended if they appear
close to storage structures. (Akutse et al.,
2012)
Physical barriers: Physical barriers are
substances (e.g., sand or gravel aggregates,
metal mesh or sheeting) that exclude
termites through the impenetrable material
act as a physical/mechanical barrier to
prevent termite penetration and damage to
building and creation of a zone of poisoned
soil under and around the structure to
prevent termites entering from the ground.
(Nyeko et al., 2005)
Magnets: Placing strong bar magnets in the
soil next to a new termite mound can
prevent a mound from growing. This
disturbs those species of termite which
build their mounds in a north-south
direction along magnetic lines.
C) Biological control
Biological control measures against termites
are generally difficult because of their social
nature and secure enclosed environments that
protect them against most antagonists.
Entomo-pathogenic fungi, nematodes and
bacteria are some of the biological control
methods of termite.
Fungi & Nematodes: Preparations based on
insect-attacking nematodes and the fungi
Beauveria bassiana and two species of
Metarhizium, however, are effective,
especially when introduced into mounds.
Fungi spores can act as repellents. A fungus
Metarhyzium aniospliae (Bio Blast) is
another biological termiticide. Nematodes
caused high mortality of Reticulitermes
flavipes (Kollar) termites in laboratory tests.
Encouraging predators: Termites have
many predators because they provide a
source of protein. Insects that eat termites
include spiders, beetles, flies, wasps and
especially ants. Other predators including
frogs, reptiles, birds and mammals such as
bats and monkeys. Encouraging this kind of
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wildlife will help to reduce the number of
termites.
D) Use of botanicals
Botanical pesticides possess an array of
properties including insecticidal activity,
repellency to pests, antifeedency, insect
growth regulation, toxicity to agricultural
pests. Plant parts and plant extracts can be
used effectively. These can be removed from
the plant and used as a natural insecticide by
grinding up the relevant parts, placing in
boiling water, stirring and leaving to soak. The
mixture is then sprayed onto the infested crop.
Plant materials: Leafy extract of following
plants can be used to control termite:
Azadirachta indica (Neem), Allium sativum
(Garlic), Ocimum canum (Green basil),
Carica papaya (Papaya), Jatropha curcas
(Ratanjot), Argemone mexicana (Mexican
poppy), Camellia sinensis (Tea), Santalum
album (Sandalwood) Tagetes minuta
(Mexican marigold), Tectona grandis
(Teak), Tagetus erecta (Marigold), Ricinus
communis (Castor), Calotropis gigantean
(Madar), Cannabis sativus (Hemp),
Curcuma amada (Mango Ginger), Datura
alba (Datura), Eucalyptus globules (Blue
gum), Lantana camara (Lantana), Musa
paradisiacal (Banana), Pongamia pinnata
(Poongam), Parthenium hysterophorus
(Carrot grass). (Verma et al., 2010)
E) Termite control in storage
Hygiene: Termite problems cannot be
solved by the application of hygiene
measures alone, but the prevention of
damage starts from clearing the building
site of a granary from all organic material
that might attract termites, such as wood
and straw. Dig out roots of chopped trees
and shrubs that have been left in the ground
close to the storage structure. Keep the
ground around the building free from any
plant growth. This prevents at the same time
the penetration by rodents. Avoid
construction sites that are infested with
termites or that are close to such areas.
Protection of the Stored Produce with
Traditional Methods: In some regions,
farmers use traditional preventive measures
against termites that include the application
of a layer of wood ash to the base of the
granary and the admixture of toxic or
repellent materials of plant origin to the
grain.
Termite Proofing of the Granary: Termite
barriers are the most effective way of
protecting the storage structures. Some
tropical timbers like teak resist to termite
attack and can be recommended as poles.
The other parts of the construction may be
erected from cheaper wood. Used engine
oil, wood ash or neem leaves or bitter seeds
can also be poured into the pole holes in
order to repel termites.
Concrete or stone platforms resting on
poles made of the same materials provide a
solid basement for grain stores. The
protection can still be improved by fixing
metal termite shields at the junctions
between the poles and the platform. Use
metal that does not corrode easily, for
example aluminium or galvanised iron.
In areas where termites occur regularly,
granaries that are placed directly on the
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ground and made of mixtures of clay with
straw should be avoided because termites
are encouraged to tunnel through the walls.
Use pure mud walls instead of mixing
straw. Underground pits are easily invaded
by termites and should be lined with clay or
soil from termite mounds which is then
fired to harden sufficiently.
Protection of Warehouses: Choose
building sites that are free from any signs of
termite infestation and far from any termite
mounds. Clear the site thoroughly from all
materials of plant origin including roots.
The protection of warehouses against
termite attack must be based on a solid
termite-proof construction.
The ground and the hard-core below
the future warehouse must be properly
tamped down to prevent later cracking of
the floor. A solid concrete base and a floor
cast as a single slab provide the best
protection against the penetration of
subterranean termites. If the floor cannot be
cast as one piece, the joints must be sealed
carefully with pitch. Pipes and cables
should be brought in through the walls and
also sealed with pitch. Termite shields
fitted on top of the foundations effectively
prevent termite penetration.
Conclusion
Termites are the most troublesome pest of
agricultural crops and wooden structures.
Although, chemical control is an effective
measure of protection by termites but their
excessive use is harmful for our environment
and the results are not sustainable and also
costlier for farmers. Prevention is the best
feasible and effective option to termite control.
Field especially during crop production period
must be kept in good hygienic condition by
removal of dead plant material like wood,
stalks and any trash.
The extracts of many plants were
found to be effective against termites.
Although some botanicals were not as
effective as chemical but they are nontoxic and
safe for the environment, biodegradable and
renewable source. The use of botanicals and
biocontrol agents are a promising alternative to
chemical control. In order to achieve
sustainable solutions, the protection of storage
structures should be given preference over the
destruction of termite mounds. In order to
prevent damage or curative treatments, regular
inspections of the storage structures are
required for both, traditional granaries and
warehouses.
References
Akutse KS, Owusu EO and Afreh-Nuamah K.
2012. Perception of farmers’
management strategies for termites
control in Ghana. Journal of Applied
Biosciences, 49: 3394– 3405.
Nyeko P and Olubayo FM. 2005. Participatory
assessment of farmers’ experiences of
termite problems in Agroforestry in
Tororo district, Uganda. Agricultural
Research and Extension Network Paper
No. 143.
HDRA report, 2001. Termite Control:
Accessed online at
http://www.gardenorganic.org.uk.
Verma M, Sharma S and Prasad R. 2010. Plant
based, eco-friendly wood preservatives
for termite control. Indian Institute of
Technology, Delhi. (The Sixteenth
Annual International Sustainable
Development Research Conference. 30
May-1 June, 2010, Hong Kong)
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... Termites are the most dominant arthropod decomposers in the world. They belong to order Isoptera consisting of 2,500 species of which 300 are considered as pests (Kumari et al.,2013).Termites feed on dead undecomposed organic material such as crop residues, mulches and soil organic matter (humus). The workers play a major role in damaging the crop. ...
... Number of methods have been reported to manage this pest. Kumari et al. (2013) reported addition of organic material, crop rotation, physical barriers that encourage predators etc. Plant parts and plant extracts can be used effectively for the control of this insect. Though many measures have been suggested to control termites, integration of all cultural, physical and biological methods would be more effective along with use of new chemistry molecules. ...
... Left over stubbles of previous crop and other decaying matter should be removed from the field as they attract termites (Paul et al., 2018;Khan et al., 2016). Only well decomposed farmyard manure (FYM) should be applied to the field because partially decomposed FYM acts as an attractant to foraging workers due to the presence of cellulose and optimum moisture (Paul et al., 2018;Kumari et al., 2013). Farmers should follow crop rotation especially including non-preferred crops (Kumari et al., 2013). ...
... Only well decomposed farmyard manure (FYM) should be applied to the field because partially decomposed FYM acts as an attractant to foraging workers due to the presence of cellulose and optimum moisture (Paul et al., 2018;Kumari et al., 2013). Farmers should follow crop rotation especially including non-preferred crops (Kumari et al., 2013). Sekamatte et al. (2003) studied the effect of intercropping maize with soybean, groundnut and common beans against termites and found a significant reduction in termite attack and increased nesting sites of predatory ants (Myrmicaria and Lepisiota) in maize fields. ...
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Termites are polyphagous pests causing economic losses to a large number of crops worldwide. Among 3105 species of termites, about 185 species are considered as pests globally. The termites that belong to family Termitidae are known to cause great losses to agricultural and horticultural crops. In India, Odontotermes obesus (Rambur) and Microtermes obesi Holmgren damage crops in both vegetative and reproductive stages, especially wheat, maize, barley, pulses, oilseeds, vegetables, fruits, plantations, sugarcane, cotton etc. The damage can lead to almost 100% yield losses, especially if it occurs in early stages of crop growth. Over the past 60 years, many insecticides from several chemical groups have been used for the management of termites globally. But no single method of control provides a permanent solution. Therefore, IPM approaches viz., cultural, mechanical, biological (Beauveria bassiana, Metarhizium anisopliae, Steinernema carpocapsae, Heterorhabditis indica, Bacillus theuringiensis, Pseudomonas fluorescens etc.) methods, and botanical extracts must be integrated with insecticides in farmer's field to reduce termite problems.
... Termites are considered as one of the most problematic pests in plant communities and in building infrastructure. Among all the known species of termites, 300 are considered to be pests (Kumari et al., 2013). Individuals that belong to the families Hodotermitidae (Anacanthotermes and Hodotermes), Kalotermitidae (Amitermes), Rhinotermitidae (Coptotermes, Heteotermes and Psammotermes), and Termitidae (Amitermes,Ancistrotermes, Cornitermes, Macrotermes, Microcerotermes, Microtermes, Odototermes, Procornitermes, and Syntermes) cause great loss in agriculture (UNEP Report,2000). ...
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Termites are a diverse group of insects with wide distribution worldwide. Most commonly, termites are regarded as pests of different plants and woods. However, they have a lot of ecological and medicinal importance. Here, we reviewed papers published between 2000 and 2015 in different literature sources on the ecological and medicinal importance of termites. The role of termites in the decomposition process of wood, fallen logs and leaves etc., in recycling of organic matter and nutrients, and in bioturbation is highlighted. Furthermore, termites are also used by tribes to treat different aliments such as asthma, influenza, tonsillitis, bronchitis etc. in traditional medicines.
... In Central Benin, farmers used botanical extracts of several plants to control termites. Among them, A. indica (neem) extracts are also used as termiticide by farmers in Ghana (Akutse et al. 2012) and in India (Kumari et al. 2013). In Eritrea, neem plants smoke exhibited comparable effectiveness succeeding after chemical treatments (chlorpyrifos) (Ahmad et al. 2012). ...
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Destruction of yam (Dioscorea spp.) tubers by termites is a major constraint to yam production in Central Benin. To obtain the basic information for the development of appropriate strategies of termites management in yam, a structured questionnaire was used to interview 142 farmers about their knowledge of termite species of yam, susceptibility of yam landraces, and management practices in 14 villages through the study area. A total of 45 vernaculars names of termites were recorded corresponding to 10 species. All the names given to termite species had a signification, mainly related to morphological aspects, type of damage, and termite caste. Eleven features were used by farmers to identify yam termites. The infestation of yam fields mostly occurred from October to April with Amitermes evuncifer and Trinevitermes oeconomus being the most damaging termite species. Overall, eight factors were identified by farmers as favouring the proliferation of termites in yam fields with drought being the most frequently reported factor. Farmers identified 11 yam landraces that were highly susceptible to termites attack, while 12 yam landraces were listed as resistant. Application of chemicals was the most commonly reported control method, followed by destruction of termite nest, and application of botanical extracts. According to farmers, the high multiplication rate of termites is the most important constraint in managing the issue of termites in yam.
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The present review article emphasizes anti-termite efficacy of various plant natural products for control of Indian white termite and its associating species. The Indian white termite, Odontotermes obesus (Rambur) (Isoptera: Odontotermitidae), is highly destructive polyphagous insect pest in Eastern Uttar Pradesh. It damages commercial wood, food crops, orchard plants and house hold articles. Though, several methods have been used to control this termite species in field, but present article explains most recent developments happened in termite control. Present article clarifies seasonal cycle of termite species and suggests use of natural plant products as termiticides to replace synthetic pesticides. As there are reports that residues of synthetic pesticide persist for longer duration in soil system and in aquatic habitat. These enter into the food chain and kill non target organisms. This article found plant essential oils from the family Rutaceae as new alternatives of synthetic pesticides if used in blends or with other natural products. Essential oils are highly volatile at a very low temperature and could be used as fumigants to control household termite population mainly reside inside tunnels, crevices, wood spaces and holes. Plant essential oils and its constituents are safe for the environment and medium. They inhibit metabolism in termites and kill them due to anti-feedant, repellent and toxic action. This article also explains cultural, behavioral, microbial, genetical and biological control of termites to minimize the use of synthetic pesticides so as to save the ecological food chains from poisoning.
Chapter
Termites are eusocial insects belonging to the insect infraorder Isoptera and are characterized by their colonial behavior. The word Isoptera originated from the Greek words isos which means equal and pteron which means wing and refers to the two pairs of identical wings in the adult. Termites are polymorphic insects, living in large communities of several hundred to several million individuals, composed of alate or apterous reproductive forms together with numerous apterous sterile soldiers and workers. Their numerous colonies have great influence in many ecosystems. There are 12 families of which the family Termitidae is the largest accounting about 75 percent of all termites. With the peculiar digestive system and the ability to digest lignocelluloses, the most abundant resource on the planet, termites became the most successful insects. Termites built huge and most complex nesting systems ever known by an insect. They change the ecosystems by their activities, and at the same time, they are dreaded pests on agriculture and man-made wooden structures. Due to their cryptic life, it is very difficult to manage them. Though chemical insecticides are very effective on termites, their method of application is challenging. Killing few thousand termite workers does not mean killing the colony; as long as the primary and secondary reproductives are alive and active deep inside the termite mounds, the termite problem exists, perennially.
Participatory assessment of farmers' experiences of termite problems in Agroforestry in Tororo district, Uganda Agricultural Research and Extension Network Paper No. 143 Termite Control: Accessed online at http
  • P Nyeko
  • Fm Olubayo
Nyeko P and Olubayo FM. 2005. Participatory assessment of farmers' experiences of termite problems in Agroforestry in Tororo district, Uganda. Agricultural Research and Extension Network Paper No. 143. HDRA report, 2001. Termite Control: Accessed online at http://www.gardenorganic.org.uk.
Plant based, eco-friendly wood preservatives for termite control. Indian Institute of Technology
  • M Verma
  • S Sharma
Verma M, Sharma S and Prasad R. 2010. Plant based, eco-friendly wood preservatives for termite control. Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. (The Sixteenth Annual International Sustainable Development Research Conference. 30