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Tschinkel, W.R. 2010. The foraging tunnel system of the Namibian termite, Baucaliotermes hainesi. Journal of Insect Science, 10(65): 1-17


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The foraging tunnel system of the Namibian termite, Baucaliotermes hainesi.

Summary / Notes:

The harvester termite, Baucaliotermes hainesi (Fuller) (Termitidae: Nasutitermitinae), is an endemic in southern Namibia, where it collects and eats dry grass. At the eastern, landward edge of the Namib Desert, the nests of these termites are sometimes visible above ground surface, and extend at least 60 cm below ground. The termites gain access to foraging areas through underground foraging tunnels that emanate from the nest. The looseness of the desert sand, combined with the hardness of the cemented sand tunnels allowed the use of a gasolinepowered blower and soft brushes to expose tunnels lying 5 to 15 cm below the surface. The tunnels form a complex system that radiates at least 10 to 15 m from the nest with crossconnections between major tunnels. At 50 to 75 cm intervals, the tunnels are connected to the surface by vertical risers that can be opened to gain foraging access to the surrounding area. Foraging termites rarely need to travel more than a meter on the ground surface. The tunnels swoop up and down forming high points at riser locations, and they have a complex architecture. In the center runs a smooth, raised walkway along which termites travel, and along the sides lie pockets that act as depots where foragers deposit grass pieces harvested from the surface. Presumably, these pieces are transported to the nest by a second group of termites. There are also several structures that seem to act as vertical highways to greater depths, possibly even to moist soil. A census of a single nest revealed about 45,000 termites, of which 71% were workers, 9% soldiers and 6% neotenic supplementary reproductives. The nest consisted of a hard outer "carapace" of cemented sand, with a central living space of smooth, sweeping arches and surfaces. A second species of termite, Promirotermes sp. nested in the outer carapace.

Year: 2010

Type: Journal Article

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