Termite Bomb Squad

Eastern Subterranean Termite

Reticulitermes flavipes, Eastern Subterranean Termite

Termites harbor microbial symbionts that can metabolize a wide range of substances. To the benefit of termites, symbionts metabolize cellulose and produce nutrients such as vitamins and amino acids. Some termite symbionts are capable of nitrogen fixation and metabolism of other nitrogen containing chemicals. Explosives such as TNT, RDX & NTO are sometimes present in the soil as contaminants. Scientists prepared media containing explosives and innoculated it with gut microorganisms collected from Reticulitermes flavipes, the Eastern Subterranean Termite. They found three bacteria that could metabolize both the TNT and NTO. Two other types of bacteria were able to degrade RDX. Termite gut may be a source of bacteria that can be used for remediation of contaminated sites.

Indest K.J., Eaton H.L., Jung C.M. & Lounds C.B. 2014. Biotransformation of Explosives by Reticulitermes flavipes-Associated Termite Endosymbionts. J Mol Microbiol Biotechnol 2014;24:114-119

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is a retired 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.
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