Living With Fungal Combs

Termite fungus comb

Termite fungus comb

Macrotermes bellicosus is one of the largest species of termites. Unlike the subterranean termites that are common pests in Indiana, Macrotermes bellicosus does not use gut microbes to digest cellulose. Instead, these termites forage for grass and wood, then deposit food stores, a mixture of food and saliva. After about a week, the food stores are consumed by termites and processed. The fecal material is used to form a “fungal comb”. The fungal comb is a porous structure made from spheres of fecal material and is interspersed with fungal spores. The fungus germinates processes the fecal material as it grows. The termites consume the older parts of the comb and create new comb for later consumption. Fungus combs allow termites to extract the maximum amount of nutrients from the food they consume.

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.
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