Food Preference and Survival Rates of Allodontermes tenax (Isoptera: Termitidea)

Document Type : Original Article


Department of Biological Sciences, Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, Kakamega, Kenya.


The main goal of this research was to determine food preference and survival rates ofAllodontermes tenax. Traditionally, A.tenax has been induced to swarm during the dry season. In order to determine the best substrate for mass production, it was necessary to find a suitable food substance that enhanced the survival of the termites in the laboratory and hence can be applied in situ. The study was carried out in Trans-Nzoia at an altitude of 1,900 meters, with a latitude of 1°1'8.72"N, and a longitude of 35°0'8.3"E. The main activity in the area is crop farming and livestock husbandry. Termite workers were collected when swarming and placed in 500grams collection jars and taken to the laboratory. Some of the alates and a number of small or large soldiers and workers were preserved in 80% ethanol for identification. The experiments involved testing food preference and survival rates on maize cob husks on loam soil; maize stalk on loam soil; eucalyptus wood on loam soil; wheat straw on loam soil; pinewood on loam soil and loam soil alone as a substrate. The loam soil was put in an incinerator for 24hours to remove any organic matter present in the soil for all the treatments. The insect used in these experiments were workers of at least the third instar since earlier experiments have shown that workers below the third instar have a low survival rate under the same laboratory conditions. Two experiments were performed to determine food preference and survival rates. For each experiment, 15 rearing containers measuring 18x15x7 cm were used. After 2, 4 and 6 weeks, the samples were removed from the rearing chamber and the surviving termites were counted. The number of surviving termite workers found from each treatment was used to calculate the survival rate. The treatment with the highest survival rate was deemed the most preferred food and hence enhanced survival. The rate of survival was highest in wheat straw and loam with a grand average of 82.26% followed by maize stalk and loam with 63.82%. Apart from the control experiment, the lowest survival rates were observed in a pinewood at   47.72%. This shows that wheat straw enhanced the survival of A. tenax and hence the most preferred food item.