Termites can attack plants at all growth stages, from seedlings to mature plants. They damage roots, something that is shown first in the upper parts of the plant as wilting. To confirm the presence of termites, it is necessary to pull out the affected plants and examine the roots and lower stem for live insects or the presence of tunnels. Plant roots and stems may be completely hollowed out and filled with soil waste. Some plants lodge during strong wind and they are often covered with soil, under which termites may be found. It is important to examine plants in the early morning or late evening, as termites may have moved deeper into the soil during the day when temperatures are higher.
Termites live in large colonies consisting of many workers, soldiers and reproductive forms. Their nests are sometimes very elaborated. Some build nests on moist dead tree stumps, while others build subterranean nests. They feed away from the nest protected through underground tunnels, on plant roots and other material in fields. Termites may attack plants if there is no other food available, therefore ensure there is plenty of soil organic matter. The reproductive termites are winged. Numerous winged males and females, generally dark in color and with well-developed eyes, are produced for swarming. Swarming is often taking place at dusk after the onset of heavy rains. After flying, they shed off their wings, mate, and burrow into holes in the soil and cracks in wood to found a new colony.
Preparations based on nematodes that attack termites are effective against this pest. Solutions containing the fungi Beauveria bassiana or some species of Metarhizium are effective when applied into the termite hill. Fungi spores can also act as repellents. Neem seed kernel extracts (NSKE) have been used against termites on trees and on field crops with good results. Another solution is to pour wood ash or pounded Neem leaves or seeds into the holes dig by the termites in order to repel termites.
Always consider an integrated approach with preventive measures together with biological treatments if available. Products based on chloryrifos, deltamethrin or imidacloprid can be injected as solutions in into termite nests.
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