Hodotermes (from Greek ὁδός (hodós), travelling; Latin termes, woodworm) is a genus of African harvester termites in the Hodotermitidae. They range from Palaearctic North Africa, through the East African savannas to the karroid regions of southern Africa.[2][3] As with harvester termites in general, they have serrated inner edges to their mandibles, and all castes have functional compound eyes.[3] They forage for grass at night and during the day, and their pigmented workers[4] are often observed outside the nest.[3]

Hodotermes mossambicus, op droë gras, a, Voortrekkerbad
H. mossambicus workers gnawing dry grass at dusk, in Limpopo, South Africa
Scientific classification

Hagen, 1853
  • H. erithreensis Sjöstedt
  • H. mossambicus (Hagen)
Bat-eared Fox area
Core range of H. mossambicus


They nest by excavating in the soil,[3] and the diffuse subterranean system of H. mossambicus may contain several spherical hives which may be 60 cm in diameter. They are interconnected by galleries and are located from near the surface to more than 6 m deep.[3][4] Loose particles of excavated soil are brought to the surface and dumped at various points around the nest.[3]


The diet of H. mossambicus consists primarily of ripe and/or frost- or drought-killed grass, though tree and shrub material is consumed to a lesser degree. In a stable isotope study of H. mossambicus, the grass component was found to constitute upwards of 94% of their food intake.[5] In this species, the sixth instar larvae digest and distribute food within the colony[5] by means of stomodeal trophallaxis. The mutual feeding also reinforces the colony's integrity, as the feeders discriminate against individuals with unfamiliar intestinal microbiota.[6]

Castes and activity patterns

Northern Harvester Termite (Hodotermes mossambicus) (6856939924)
Worker in the Kalahari desert
Hodotermes mossambicus, soldaat-kaste, Arcadia, d
Flying Termite
Emerged alate (queen or king)
Hodotermes mossambicus, nesingang, Voortrekkerbad
Workers and soldier at nest entrance

The foraging worker caste of H. mossambicus consists of two types, named "small" and "large",[7][8] and the larger workers are characterized by very large flattened heads.[9] Soldiers of the genus stay near the nest, and are not known to accompany workers on their expeditions.[9] H. mossambicus is known to exhibit a seasonal cycle in its activities, which involves intensive diurnal winter surface foraging followed by a shift to sporadic nocturnal foraging at the beginning of the rainy season.[10][11][12] With the advent of spring a shift from a diurnal to a nocturnal foraging pattern is evident.[13]


Some three to five days after the first major rains,[14] swarms of flying termites, alates (winged reproductives) emerge from their underground nests during summer evenings. When sufficiently distant from the parent nest, they land, shrug off their wings, and scout about for a mate. The pair then excavates a burrow to start a new colony. A week after swarming, the female lays her first eggs, which are tended by the couple, a task soon taken over by the maturing workers. After some four months, the nest is sufficiently developed to send foraging workers to the surface. For the next few years, most of the eggs develop into workers and a small number of soldiers. When the nest is sufficiently large, winged reproductives again develop.[15]


Harvester termites in general form the main component in the diet of the diurnal bat-eared fox in east and southern Africa.[16] For this unusual diet, these foxes have 48 small teeth compared to the 42 teeth of all other dogs. They also have large ears to hear the insects in their underground chambers, before they are dug up. Though the aardwolf is a specialized predator of certain Trinervitermes, they may assume a partially diurnal habit in winter to obtain harvester termites.[17] The worker castes present the dominant, and seasonally the exclusive food item of some Chondrodactylus, Pachydactylus and Ptenopus gecko species. Ptenopus females especially, seem to gorge on nocturnal foraging congregations in spring to supplement their vitellogenic requirements.[9]

Economic impact

They can deplete grass in pastures and contribute to soil erosion, but are less effective when grasslands are not overgrazed or disturbed.[3][4] Over the long term, however, their decomposing and recycling of plant material contribute to soil fertility and the global cycling of carbon, nitrogen, and other elements.[5]


  1. ^ " Hodotermes Hagen, 1853". Isoptera. biolib.cz. Retrieved 5 February 2013.
  2. ^ Abe, Takuya; et al. (2000–2002). Termites: Evolution, Sociality, Symbioses, Ecology. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 35–36. ISBN 978-0-7923-6361-3.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Scholtz, Clarke H.; et al. (1985). Insects of Southern Africa. Durban: Butterworths. p. 57. ISBN 978-0409-10487-5.
  4. ^ a b c Picker, Mike; et al. (2004). Field Guide to Insects of South Africa. Cape Town: Struik Publishers. p. 176. ISBN 978-1-77007-061-5.
  5. ^ a b c Symes, Craig T.; Woodborne, Stephan (1 April 2011). "Estimation of food composition of Hodotermes mossambicus (Isoptera: Hodotermitidae) based on observations and stable carbon isotope ratios". Insect Science. 18 (2): 175–180. doi:10.1111/j.1744-7917.2010.01344.x.
  6. ^ Minkley, Nina; et al. "Nestmate discrimination in the harvester termite Hodotermes mossambicus". IUSSI. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  7. ^ Hegh, E. 1922. Les Termites. Imprimerie Industrielle et Financiere, Bruxelles
  8. ^ Watson, J. A. L. 1973. The worker caste of the hodotermitid harvester termites. Insects Sociaux 20: 1-20
  9. ^ a b c Bauer, A. M.; Russell, A. P.; Edgar, B. D. (2 October 2015). "Utilization of the termite (Hagen) by gekkonid lizards near Keetmanshoop, South West Africa". South African Journal of Zoology. 24 (4): 239–243. doi:10.1080/02541858.1989.11448159.
  10. ^ Sands, W. A. 1965. Mound population movements and fluctuations in Trinervitermes ebenerianus Sjöst. (Isoptera, Termitidae, Nasutitermitinae). Insects Sociaux 12: 49-58
  11. ^ Nel, J. J. C. 1968. Distribution of the foraging holes and soil temperatures of the harvester termite Hodotermes mossambicus (Hagen). S. Afr. J. Agric. Sci. 11: 173-182
  12. ^ Coaton, W. G. H.; Sheasby, J. L. 1975. National survey of the Isoptera of Southern Africa. 10. The genus Hodotermes Hagen (Hodotermitidae). Cimbebasia, Ser. A. Vol. 3: 105-138
  13. ^ Coaton, W. G. H. 1958. The hodotermitid harvester termites of South Africa. Dept. Agri. Sci. Bull., S. Afr., Entomol. Ser. 375: 1-112
  14. ^ Nel, J. J. C.; Hewitt, P. H. 1978. Swarming in the harvester termite Hodotermes mossambicus (Hagen). J. Entom. Soc. South Afr. 41: 195-198
  15. ^ Bell, R. A. (1999). "Insect Pests: Harvester Termites". Veld in KwaZulu-Natal 11.1. KwaZulu-Natal Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs. Retrieved 21 October 2012.
  16. ^ Ewer, R. F. (1973). The Carnivores. New York: Cornell University Press. p. 161.
  17. ^ Holekamp, Kay E.; et al. "Aardwolf: Diet and Foraging". The extant (living) hyaena species. IUCN, Hyaena Specialist Group. Archived from the original on 15 April 2013. Retrieved 18 October 2012.

External links


The aardwolf (Proteles cristata) is a small, insectivorous mammal, native to East and Southern Africa. Its name means "earth-wolf" in Afrikaans and Dutch. It is also called "maanhaar-jackal" (Afrikaans for "mane-jackal"),"ant hyena" or civet hyena, based on its habit of secreting substances from its anal gland, a characteristic shared with the African civet. The aardwolf is in the same family as the hyena. Unlike many of its relatives in the order Carnivora, the aardwolf does not hunt large animals. It eats insects and their larvae, mainly termites; one aardwolf can lap up as many as 250,000 termites during a single night using its long, sticky tongue.The aardwolf lives in the shrublands of eastern and southern Africa – open lands covered with stunted trees and shrubs. It is nocturnal, resting in burrows during the day and emerging at night to seek food.

Anacanthotermes viarum

Anacanthotermes viarum, is a species of harvester termite of the genus Anacanthotermes. It is found in India and Sri Lanka. It is a grass feeder.

Armadillo girdled lizard

The armadillo girdled lizard (Ouroborus cataphractus), also commonly known as the armadillo lizard, the golden armadillo lizard, or the armadillo spiny-tailed lizard, is a species of lizard in the family Cordylidae. The species is endemic to desert areas along the western coast of South Africa. In 2011, it was moved to its own genus based on molecular phylogeny, but formerly it was included in the genus Cordylus.

Bat-eared fox

The bat-eared fox (Otocyon megalotis) is a species of fox found on the African savanna, named for its large ears, which are used for thermoregulation. Fossil records show this canid first appeared during the middle Pleistocene, about 800,000 years ago. It is considered a basal canid species, resembling ancestral forms of the family.The bat-eared fox (also referred to as Delalande's fox, long-eared fox, big-eared fox, and black-eared fox) has tawny fur with black ears, legs, and parts of the pointed face. It averages 55 centimetres (22 in) in length (head and body), with ears 13 centimetres (5.1 in) long. It is the only species in the genus Otocyon. The name Otocyon is derived from the Greek words otus for ear and cyon for dog, while the specific name megalotis comes from the Greek words mega for large and otus for ear.


The harvester termites (from Greek ὁδός (hodós), travelling; Latin termes, woodworm) are an ancient, Old World family of termites, the Hodotermitidae. They are distinguished by the serrated inner edge of their mandibles, and their functional compound eyes which are present in all castes. They forage for grass at night and during daylight hours, and pigmented workers are often observed outside the nest. Their range includes the deserts and savannas of Africa, the Middle East, and Southwest Asia. Their English name refers to their habit of collecting grass, which is not unique to the family, though.


Hyenas or hyaenas (from Greek ὕαινα hýaina) are any feliform carnivoran mammals of the family Hyaenidae . With only four extant species (in three genera), it is the fifth-smallest biological family in the Carnivora, and one of the smallest in the class Mammalia. Despite their low diversity, hyenas are unique and vital components of most African ecosystems.Although phylogenetically they are closer to felines and viverrids, and belong to the feliform category, hyenas are behaviourally and morphologically similar to canines in several elements of convergent evolution; both hyenas and canines are non-arboreal, cursorial hunters that catch prey with their teeth rather than claws. Both eat food quickly and may store it, and their calloused feet with large, blunt, nonretractable claws are adapted for running and making sharp turns. However, the hyenas' grooming, scent marking, defecating habits, mating and parental behaviour are consistent with the behaviour of other feliforms.Spotted hyenas may kill as many as 95% of the animals they eat, while striped hyenas are largely scavengers. Generally, hyenas are known to drive off larger predators, like lions, from their kills, despite having a reputation in popular culture for being cowardly. Hyenas are primarily nocturnal animals, but sometimes venture from their lairs in the early-morning hours. With the exception of the highly social spotted hyena, hyenas are generally not gregarious animals, though they may live in family groups and congregate at kills.Hyenas first arose in Eurasia during the Miocene period from viverrid-like ancestors, and diversified into two distinct types: lightly built dog-like hyenas and robust bone-crushing hyenas. Although the dog-like hyenas thrived 15 million years ago (with one taxon having colonised North America), they became extinct after a change in climate along with the arrival of canids into Eurasia. Of the dog-like hyena lineage, only the insectivorous aardwolf survived, while the bone-crushing hyenas (including the extant spotted, brown and striped hyenas) became the undisputed top scavengers of Eurasia and Africa.Hyenas feature prominently in the folklore and mythology of human cultures that live alongside them. Hyenas are commonly viewed as frightening and worthy of contempt. In some cultures, hyenas are thought to influence people’s spirits, rob graves, and steal livestock and children. Other cultures associate them with witchcraft, using their body parts in traditional African medicine.

Meller's mongoose

Meller's mongoose (Rhynchogale melleri) is a species of mongoose found in Africa. It occurs in Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It is the only member of the genus Rhynchogale.


Microhodotermes is a genus of southern African harvester termites in the Hodotermitidae. As with harvester termites in general, they have serrated inner edges to their mandibles, and all castes have functional compound eyes. Species of this genus are desert specialists of the Namib, Kalahari and Karoo, where their ranges overlap with Hodotermes.They forage at night and during daylight hours, and their pigmented workers are often observed outside the nest. The workers of M. viator collect mostly woody material, with Pteronia and vygie species being favoured.Colonies of M. viator produce initially small, conical mounds on soil with sufficient clay content. These are speculated to cause the formation of increasingly large heuweltjies. Widespread foraging and burrowing activity of aardvarks are associated with heuweltjies inhabited by M. viator.


Psammotermes is a genus of termites in the family Rhinotermitidae. It is found living in subterranean nests in arid parts of Africa.


Termites are eusocial insects that are classified at the taxonomic rank of infraorder Isoptera, or as epifamily Termitoidae within the cockroach order Blattodea. Termites were once classified in a separate order from cockroaches, but recent phylogenetic studies indicate that they evolved from close ancestors of cockroaches during the Jurassic or Triassic. However, the first termites possibly emerged during the Permian or even the Carboniferous. About 3,106 species are currently described, with a few hundred more left to be described. Although these insects are often called "white ants", they are not ants.

Like ants and some bees and wasps from the separate order Hymenoptera, termites divide labour among castes consisting of sterile male and female "workers" and "soldiers". All colonies have fertile males called "kings" and one or more fertile females called "queens". Termites mostly feed on dead plant material and cellulose, generally in the form of wood, leaf litter, soil, or animal dung. Termites are major detritivores, particularly in the subtropical and tropical regions, and their recycling of wood and plant matter is of considerable ecological importance.

Termites are among the most successful groups of insects on Earth, colonising most landmasses except Antarctica. Their colonies range in size from a few hundred individuals to enormous societies with several million individuals. Termite queens have the longest lifespan of any insect in the world, with some queens reportedly living up to 30 to 50 years. Unlike ants, which undergo a complete metamorphosis, each individual termite goes through an incomplete metamorphosis that proceeds through egg, nymph, and adult stages. Colonies are described as superorganisms because the termites form part of a self-regulating entity: the colony itself.Termites are a delicacy in the diet of some human cultures and are used in many traditional medicines. Several hundred species are economically significant as pests that can cause serious damage to buildings, crops, or plantation forests. Some species, such as the West Indian drywood termite (Cryptotermes brevis), are regarded as invasive species.

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