Termites: A nuisance but still an important species

The war between humans and insects, especially termites and ants is well known download (1)for ages. The moment people realize the presence of termites in their house, they rush to make a call to the exterminator. They do not care that the extreme measures like using hazardous chemicals to kill the entire colony of termites are taken. Termites are a nuisance and they pose a great threat to their capability to reduce our house to dust. Termites attack wood and even have the ability to destroy polymer. Though termites do not actually eat plastic but release formic acid, which is one of the biggest enemies of the polymer. They are infamous for their various activities which results in heavy monetary losses and loss of images (3)valuable artifacts.

The other insects like ants, bugs also fall in the same category of the termites where damages are concerned. People do not bother when extreme measures of use of hazardous chemicals are adopted to kill the species as long as their home and belonging are protected from the viciousness of such insects. The termite problem is a big nuisance and has to be dealt with!!! – this is a fact. But is KILLING them the right solution?

Every being on this planet earth is a part of the ecosystem and serves some purpose so as to balance the entire ecosystem. It is the work of termites, carpenter ants, wood borers and other insects that help in the degradation of the wood. Termites eat wood, and they help to break down decaying tree trunks in the forest. Not only tree trunks, but branches, leaves, and plant matter which are too tough for other life forms to digest. Termites are the only ones that can break down wood on a mass scale. Without them, the fallen trunks of trees would soon pile up and kill the forest. There are some new reports which have come to light that termites and ants are also helpful in increasing the fertility of the land. The burden carried alone by earthworms, now have new aides with them –TERMITES and ANTS.

images (4)Termites and ants burrow in the soil, making numerous tunnels which permit air and water to penetrate the soil. This helps with aerating the soil and fixing nitrogen in the soil, which helps soil bacteria convert the nitrogen in the air into a form more easily absorbed by plant roots. So termites and ants help a lot with the growth of plants and trees in the forest.

Aggressive termites are found in Australia and are considered as one of the biggest threat to cables, plastic pipes, and wooden structures. In spite of the nuisance caused by these aggressive termites, the studies have shown that the termites and ants are beneficial for the agricultural land.

Termites and ants boost crop yields

BY: DAISY DUMAS | APRIL-6-2011

Rather than damaging crop yields, these insects have been found to enrich soil by more than one-third.

ANTS AND TERMITES HAVE long had a bad rap for stealing picnic food and imageschomping through house frames, but it turns out that their services are invaluable to Australian farmers.

New research from CSIRO and the University of Sydney has shown that, by performing an earthworm-like role in soil enrichment, the insects can boost crop yields in the dry areas of Australia’s wheat belt by more than one-third.

“The sheer size of the effect is what is most surprising to me,” says lead author Dr Theo Evans, from CSIRO Ecosystem Science in Canberra. “I didn’t think it’d have such a huge impact – a 36 per cent yield increase compared to my expected five per cent.”

The results suggest that ants and termites not only increase grain yields but can cut fertiliser bills and decrease the need for pesticides. “It’s likely to mean decreased pesticide use, especially pesticide that is applied to the ground,” Theo told Australian Geographic.

Ants and termites have a positive affect on crop yield

Enriching soil is traditionally an earthworm role, but, say the CSIRO scientists, in arid zones it’s ants and termites that perform the important biological functions that worms do in the cooler and wetter zones.

These insects are able to re-colonise untilled wheat fields that have ‘crop stubble’, which they use for nourishment as they establish their underground nests. The activity helps more rainwater soak into the ground where plants need it most. The insects also increase the amount of nitrogen – a nutrient needed for plant growth – by a quarter.

The study, published last week in the journal Nature Communications, is the first of its kind to look at ants and termites in agricultural systems and is also the first to show that such insects have a positive effect on crop yield. It is possible that any ‘dryland’ farmland – non-irrigated agriculture – may benefit, Theo says. This includes wheat, oats, barley, rye, canola and perhaps, cotton.

“Poorer parts of the world which don’t irrigate may be positively affected,” he says. Theo sees potential benefits to swathes of marginal land in southern Africa, Brazil, Mexico and the Mediterranean, particularly “if the effect is true across broader soil types and across species.”

He hopes the research will take the ‘triple-bottom-line’ approach – people, planet and profit. “It might pay the farmer economically, but it could be that by harnessing ecosystem services, we could be better off in every way,”

Insects boost farm efficiency 

Farmer, Rohan Ford, whose property was used as field study site for the project, is images (6)buoyed by the results. “It’s great news. I think it’s a mindset – it’s about understanding what chemicals you can and can’t use, and how we can best use our machinery. The interesting thing, now the information is out there, to see whether we can get more funding to keep doing research into different soil types.”

Next, the team is keen to look into the extent to which termites act as nitrogen fixers – agents that convert nitrogen in the air into a form that plants can use in the soil. “They definitely enrich the soil, but we’d like to know which species provide the most benefit,” says co-author Dr Nathan Lo from the University of Sydney.

But Theo would also like to see the results imparting positivity towards the insects’ negative image. “You say the word ‘earthworm’ and people…know they do good. But 150 years ago, people wanted to kill them. Darwin rehabilitated their image in one of his final studies,” Theo says. “Maybe we can do a bit of a Charles Darwin for ants and termites.”

In African countries, farmers practice this style of farming since very old times. images (5)They practice includes burying a piece of wood in the soil or digging up a hole and fill it with manure to attract termites and ants. The yield in agriculture field was found to be increased by whopping 36% approximately because of the activity of termites on the field. This increase in yield is need of the hour as the number of mouths to be fed increases every second globally.

The most important and amazing fact is that the termites and ants have the download (2)ability to increase the fertility of the arid lands. This is definitely a unique property of termites as the species like an earthworm and other worms which are considered as best in increasing the fertility of the soil lack the ability to fertile an arid land. Certain termite species in tropical countries grow fungus within their nests which may go on to develop into large mushrooms that are edible and prized by the native people living there. These mushrooms are totally cultured and cultivated by termites! In Africa, these termite farmed mushrooms are a prized delicacy and include some of the largest mushrooms in the world.

Termites are the source of food for species like birds, frogs, frogs, and anteaters. It is believed that a sizable proportion of methane in the earth’s atmosphere is generated from the activities of termite colonies. It’s clear that not only are termites a major pest of wood but looking at the big picture, they are needed for the overall health of this planet of ours.

Even other insects like some bugs, bees are beneficial. Ten years ago there were approximately 750,000 named insect species. Today, that number is over 1,000,000. And according to a recent article in Scientific American, entomologists estimate that there are likely over eight million different species of insects on Earth. Though many among these 8 million species of insects play a major a role in disrupting human life; they are a part of the ecosystem and hence may be beneficial in some or other.

link_10_food_chain_songIn his book The Diversity of Life, renowned entomologist Edward O. Wilson discusses the importance of insects and land-dwelling arthropods in the ecosystem, saying that “if [they] all were to disappear, humanity probably could not last more than a few months.” Most other life forms, like amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals would also become extinct because of the domino effect that would occur in the food chain.

Every living thing on this planet has some kind of place in the scheme of things, and insects even the destructive ones are no exception.

The bottom line is species of termites, ants, bugs, etc. are part of our ecosystem and hence have a useful role to play. So is it right to kill them using hazardous chemicals?

Agreed; that the above statements are true. But the fact remains that these termites, ants and other insects cause a lot of damages and heavy monetary losses. The study of termites and ants being beneficial species for agriculture is done in Australia; which is, in fact, one of the countries where aggressive termites exist destroying everything in their path. One cannot turn a blind eye to these problems and let these creatures to vilify our belongings. We should adopt a solution which will protect our belongings like wooden structures, cables, pipes, crops, etc. from these creatures but not kill the species. Use of dangerous, hazardous and harmful pesticides does not fit the bill (they even harm the species which are known to be beneficial!!!).

C Tech Corporation truly believes that none of living creatures on the earth should be harmed or killed but it also acknowledges the far-reaching termite and other pest problem. Termirepel™, a product of C Tech Corporation is non-toxic, non-hazardous and environment-friendly termite repellent. Along with termites it also repels near about 500 other insects. The most important feature of our product is it does not kill the target or non-target species as it works on the mechanism of repellency. Termirepel™ can be incorporated in polymeric applications like wire, cables, plastic pipes, agricultural film etc. It is also available in lacquer form for coating application (can be mixed with finishes, polish, paints, etc.).

So if we want termites and ants to make our agricultural lands fertile and at the same time protect our crops and irrigation pipes from the same insects; use of Termirepel™ is the best option. It is highly efficient, effective and it is a green and sustainable solution.