Living With Termite Mushrooms

The most familiar termites in Indiana are the subterranean termites that feed on our wooden structures. These termites contain symbiotic microorganisms in their guts that produce nutrients for the termites and help digest wood. Indiana has limited species of termites compared to the tropics. In the Old World Tropics, harvester termites of the Macrotermitinae not only have gut symbionts, but also cultivate mushrooms of the genus Termitomyces in an obligate symbiosis. The termites produce a special substrate called the “fungus comb” that is required by the mushroom to grow and develop. The termites gather food, partially digest and deposit it on the fungal comb. They consume part of comb along with the mushrooms to gain additional nutrients.

Termite Mushrooms
Photo: Bangkok Post

The Bangkok Post reminds us that now is the time for the rare termite mushrooms, known locally as het khone. During the rainy season, the walls of the termite nest will soften and the mushrooms will grow through to the outside. Local residents who know when and where to harvest the mushrooms will collect them and sell them as delicacies in the market.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in Biomaterials, by jjneal, Food. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Living With Termite Mushrooms

  1. Satpal says:

    I like termite mushroom.

  2. ofei osae says:

    apart from termites can this be grown by humans? ofeiosae@gmail.com

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