Termite Behavior Can Be Altered By Various Types Of Wood Fungus
Termites mostly feed on natural sources of wood and dead plant matter located in regions that are largely uninhabited. Although termites are ecologically important for clearing land of dead wood and plant matter, numerous fungal species are also essential for wood degradation. Termites and fungi both thrive within hot, wet and humid conditions, and both compete for nutritional and water resources. In fact, termites and fungi have been known to partition their mutual habitat in order to fairly divide resources, and some termites have evolved symbiotic relationships with fungi. Not surprisingly, different species of wood-degrading fungi can alter termite behavior, which may play a part in facilitating their mutually cooperative relationship. Some species of wood-degrading fungi can even repel termites or slow their feeding. These forms of wood-degrading fungi could be used for developing new termite control strategies.
The species of wood-degrading fungus known as G. trabeum contains a chemical that is identical to a trail-pheromone that is emitted by termites. This fungus has also been found to influence the manner in which termites construct their tube shelters and select their food. Pest control researchers once created a bait-trap for termites by mixing G. trabeum with a slow acting poison that termite workers acquire before spreading the poison to the rest of their colony. A 2002 study had researchers expose termites to three different types of fungi. When eastern subterranean termites and Formosan subterranean termites were given a choice between a fungus-free sawdust pile and three other piles that had been colonized with white rot, brown rot and litter rot fungi, both termite species preferred all three of the fungal sawdust piles over the fungus-free sawdust pile. Both species preferred white rot and litter rot fungi over brown rot fungi. Also, all three of the fungal sawdust piles caused Formosan termites to increase their tunneling speeds while untreated sawdust had no effect on tunneling speed. It has been suggested that some wood-degrading fungi allows termites to absorb more nutrients in wood, which may increase their energy levels. Several different types of wood-degrading fungi have shown promise as bait components in termite traps.
Do you think that some types of wood-degrading fungi that could attract termites to bait-traps could be harmful to humans?