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The Termites of Zambia

The mound builders
By Mike Bingham January 2018


Families, subfamilies and genera of Zambian termites which build at least some sort of mound structure:.

Termitidae Termitinae: Cubitermes  & Termes
Termitidae Macrotermitinae: Macrotermes & Odontotermes & Pseudacanthotermes
Termitidae Amitermitinae: Microcerotermes
Termitidae Nasutitermitinae: Trinervitermes

Building materials

Cubitermes builds mounds from faeces which consist of silt. Like earthworms, they ingest humus-rich soil to extract the humus. Sand grains when available, are included to resist erosion.
The Macrotermitinae, the fungus-growers, mine subsoil for mound building, and also for the construction of foraging galleries. Sand grains are sometimes incorporated into the mound-building material. The faeces are used to build the combs on which the fungus grows.
The Amitermitinae mostly build their nests within the mounds of other termite. One species of Microcerotermes builds arboreal nests of the carton-like faeces. The termites descend to the ground to forage, using covered galleries.
Most Nasutitermitinae are termitariophiles, nesting within the nest structures of other termites. Some Trinervitermes build small dome mounds on bare ground. The mound is built of soil, lined internally with faeces.

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The termites of Protea Hill Farm 
By Mike Bingham January 2018

Although I have not collected specimens for identification since moving to Protea Hill in 1983 I was familiar with the termite species I found here, species which I had collected in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Nor have I devoted much attention to them as I had moved on to other pursuits. I have, however, recorded observations, and have now decided that the time has come when I must document my records and observations. In 1983 about half the area of this 8 ha smallholding had been cleared and cultivated. The parts which had not been cleared have been managed to maintain the vegetation in a state as near to natural as possible, from its previous history of extensive grazing and fuelwood cutting. The most significant observation I have to report......

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---> For a description of Protea Hill Farm click here

Odontotermes – the Genus 
By Mike Bingham January 2018

The genus Odontotermes was erected by Nils Holmgren in 1910, with O. vulgaris as the generitype. The species was first described by the same author under the name Termes vulgaris in 1898, with the type specimen from Natal.
The Macrotermitinae occur throughout mainland sub-Saharan Africa and in tropical and sub-tropical Asia, as far as southern China. Odontotermes is by far the largest genus of the fungus-growers. How many species there are.......

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The soldier caste in Odontotermes
By Mike Bingham January 2018


In Odontotermes, as in most termite genera, species are most easily distinguished by the soldier caste.
In our region damage to crops or to woodwork is most often the work of Odontotermes. While soldiers are not responsible for the damage they are always present in foraging parties. Species identification therefore requires that the key interspecific differences are known.
The species of Odontotermes fall into two groups based on the soldier:
       badius group: head capsule rectangular, a prominent tooth midway along the right mandible;
       latericius group: head capsule narrowed anteriorly; tooth on right mandible cryptic.........

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Odontotermes badius
By Mike Bingham January 2018


Description of soldier: largest of the Zambian Odontotermes species, head capsule elliptic; width: 2.32‒2.65 mm; each
mandible with a step-like tooth, approximately half way along the length. Soldiers from young colonies are usually smaller than those of mature colonies.....

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Odontotermes MB 355
By Mike Bingham January 2018


Resembles O. badius in morphology and general biology apart from its significantly smaller size: soldier head width c. 1.2 mm. The tooth on the left mandible is positioned about 2/3 along the length.
A number of miniature species within species groups have been recorded in Odontotermes (Darlington et al, 2008).

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Odontotermes latericius
By Mike Bingham January 2018


Description of soldier: Head capsule ovate (egg-shaped); a forward pointing tooth on the left mandible; the contents of the head capsule darken after death...

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Odontotermes MB 79
By Mike Bingham January 2018


This unidentified species is the builder of the characteristic mounds of the termitaria zone of the Kafue Flats in southern Zambia. I first encountered it on the mud flats on a basalt plain north of Gokwe in Zimbabwe. This was the only locality where I recorded it in Zimbabwe. The distribution of the species in Zambia centers on the Kafue Flats, in Mumbwa, Lusaka, Chisamba,
Kafue, Mazabuka, Monze and Namwala districts.
The termite builds its mounds in open grassland on cracking clays.........

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Odontotermes flammifrons
By Mike Bingham January 2018


Termes flammifrons Sjostedt, 1926. Type locality: DR Congo

The nests are subterranean, the moundlets built for the emergence of the alates and the fruiting of the Termitomyces fungal symbiont,being the only surface features marking the nest. These nests occur in deep soil in wellgrown miombo woodland, and are not associated with clay-enriched moundcomplexes or compacted areas......

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Odontotermes MB 22
By Mike Bingham January 2018


Compared with other species of the latericius group the mandible are somewhat more robust with the teeth more prominent....

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Odontotermes MB 497
By Mike Bingham January 2018


Possible identifications are Odontotermes bomaensis Sjostedt or O. mediocris (Sjostedt).
Nest structure and behaviour: The nest lacks a large central brood chamber or ventilation shafts, consisting of a collection of small cells more or less densely packed in the central part.........

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Odontotermes MB 108
By Mike Bingham January 2018


A common species on bare compacted soil. The nest is entirely subterranean, and its situation is indicated only by the escape ports prepared for the nuptial flight. These are horizontal slots paved with fine soil particles. The live soldier is readily identified by the conspicuous white contents of the frontal glands. The white, sticky latex-like secretion is expelled to disable attacking ants. This method of defense is ........

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Odontotermes MB 2593
By Mike Bingham January 2018


Soldier similar to O. latericius, including the darkening in dead soldiers; mound compact c. 2 m. diameter. Occasional mounds on road embankments, Copperbelt and Luapula Provinces. The species is associated with Bangweulu lake-basin soils.

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Macrotermes vitrialatus

By Mike Bingham February 2018


The domed mounds occur in woodland, not on the clay-enriched old mound bases as is typically the case with other Macrotermes species, but in the leached woodland soil. Also in contrast to other species of the genus, M. vitrialatus does not wet the soil used in building. Thus the mound soil is loose until it is wetted by rain, and then becomes hardened. Since this method of building does not allow open shafts or steep sides, the mound takes the form of a simple low dome.

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Habenaria sochensis
In August the grass is dry,
ready to burn.
Satyrium carsonii
Entandrophragma caudatum
Eulophia cucullata
Eulophia cucullata
Disperis katangensis
Disperis katangensis
 Updated: 20 March 2018
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