University of California

The role of fungi in the diet of the common damp-wood termite, Zootermopsis angusticollis


Esther C. Hendee

Author Affiliations

Esther C. Hendee was Research Associate in Zoölogy; resigned June 30, 1935.

Publication Information

Hilgardia 9(10):499-525. DOI:10.3733/hilg.v09n10p499. August 1935.

PDF of full article, Cite this article


Abstract does not appear. First page follows.


Zootermopsis angusticollis (Hagen), the common damp-wood termite, is associated in nature with an abundant and varied fungus flora (Hendee, 1933). Usually the wood which encloses burrows made by termites of this species shows evidence of rot produced by wood-destroying fungi. Although occasionally the termites may enter apparently sound wood, fungus spores and hyphae, which cling to their bodies and are thus carried into the new burrows, soon give rise to fungus mycelium which invades the walls of the burrows. Are these fungi of any benefit to the termites? (Cleveland (1924)) reports that termites from which the protozoan fauna of the gut has been removed, although unable to digest sound wood, are able to flourish on fungus-digested wood. Cook and Scott (1933) found that microörganisms apparently afford a beneficial supplement to a diet of filter paper or cotton, which is shown to be in itself inadequate for the nutrition of the termites. It therefore becomes of interest to inquire whether normally faunated termites living on their natural diet of wood likewise benefit from the presence of fungi in their food. (Roessler (1932)) reports a higher rate of growth for termites fed on sound, sterile wood than for those fed on decayed wood. She remarks, however, that an excessive growth of fungi on the decayed wood caused the deaths of many termites. This renders the results of that particular experiment of doubtful significance. The need for further consideration of this problem is therefore evident.

Literature Cited

Andrew B. J. Method and rate of protozoan refaunation in the termite Termopsis angusticollis Hagen. Univ. California Pubs., Zoöl. 1930. 33:449-470. 2 figs

Cleveland L. R. The physiological and symbiotic relationships between the intestinal Protozoa of termites and their host. Biol. Bul. Mar. Biol. Lab. Woods Hole. 1924. 46:178-225.

Cook S. F., Scott K. G. The relation between absorption and elimination of water by Termopsis angusticollis. Biol. Bul. Mar. Biol. Lab. Woods Hole. 1932. 63:505-512.

Cook S. F., Scott K. G. The nutritional requirements of Zootermopsis (Termopsis) angusticollis. Jour. Cell. Comp. Physiol. 1933. 4:95-110.

Hendee E. C. The association of the termites, Kalotermes minor, Reticulitermes hesperus and Zootermopsis angusticollis with fungi. Univ. California Pubs., Zoöl. 1933. 39:111-134. 1 fig

Pregl F. Quantitative organic microanalysis. 1930. 2d ed. Philadelphia: P. Blakiston’s Son and Co., Inc. 237p. 51 figs.

Roessler E. S. A preliminary study of the nitrogen needs of growing Termopsis. Univ. California Pubs., Zoöl. 1932. 36:357-368. 4 figs

Hendee E. 1935. The role of fungi in the diet of the common damp-wood termite, Zootermopsis angusticollis. Hilgardia 9(10):499-525. DOI:10.3733/hilg.v09n10p499
Webmaster Email: sjosterman@ucanr.edu