Sphaerotermitinae

Sphaerotermitinae is the scientific name of a very specialized group of termites. There is a single species of termites in this group. The species is named Sphaerotermes sphaerothorax.

The Sphaerotermitinae are classified in the termite family Termitidae. Some scientists classify them as part of the sub-family Macrotermitinae. Other scientists classify them as a separate sub-family.

The Macrotermitinae are known as the “fungus-growing termites” of Africa and Asia. They build combs inside their nests. The termite workers place chewed wood scraps in the combs. They also deposit their feces, which contain fungus spores. The fungi develop in the combs and consume the wood. When the fungi have consumed the wood, the termites eat the residue.

Scientists classified the Sphaerotermitinae among the fungus-growing termites because they make combs. However, they grow bacteria but they do not grow fungi.

Some scientists think that the Sphaerotermitinae might be the link between the fungus-growing termites and the ones that do not grow fungi.

Many of he Macrotermitinae build tall mounds. Some of the mounds can reach almost 30 feet. In contrast, the Sphaerotermitinae build soft cone-shaped mounds.

Like the fungus-growing termites, the Sphaerotermitinae are beneficial to the ecosystem where they live. The termites create clearings in the grasslands where they live.

By tunneling, the termites aerate the soil. They also add nutrients as a result of their activities. Because of this, grass grows in their clearings. As insects come to the grassy areas, they attract spiders and birds. The scientists have found that the birds drop seeds of forest trees. The forest trees seem to develop more readily in the termite clearings than in the forests. Scientists have found that through this process, the termites actually aid in re-growth of the forests.