Macrotermitinae

The Macrotermitinae are subterranean termites. They are a sub-family of the termite family called Termitidae. There are 13 genera of termites in this sub-family. They contain more than 350 different species of termites.

The queens of one species, Macrotermes bellicosus, can be very large. As the queen produces more and more eggs, her abdomen grows larger. In time, these queens can reach several inches in length. The queens in colonies of Macrotermes bellicosus have been known to live for more than ten years.

The Macrotermitinae are known as the “mound-building” termites. They live in underground nests that can extend several feet into the soil. On top of the nest, the workers build a tall mound. The mounds are all slightly different, but they have a basic design.

The base of the mound can be as wide as 30 feet. The base is often several inches tall. The tall part of the mound is called the “chimney”. Some colonies make an opening at the top of the chimney, while other colonies make small openings on the sides. The termites use the openings in the chimney as a cooling system to control the temperature inside the nest.

The Macrotermitinae are also known as “fungus-growing” termites. The termite workers grow a special type of fungus, called Termitomyces In order to digest the cellulose in the wood and grass that they collect.

The termites bring the chewed wood into the nest and place it into a garden called a “comb”. The workers place fungus spores on the chewed wood. As the fungus grows, it feeds on the wood and grass in the comb. When the fungus has completely digested the wood, the termites eat the material that is left.

During the rainy season of the year, large mushrooms sprout from the sides of the termite mounds. People who live in the area gather the mushrooms. They eat some of them and sell the rest along the roadside.

Scientists have found that the Macrotermitinae are very beneficial to the ecosystem in the African savanna. They aerate the soil so water can penetrate. They add nitrogen, which fertilizes the soil. The nitrogen and water enable grass to grow on the soil around the termite mound. This attracts insects, which attract spiders and birds. Large animals also come to graze on the grass.

The termite mounds are very interesting to the scientists who study them. They are also very interesting to the tourists who visit the parks and game preserves of Africa.