Built-in poop nourishes bacteria that protect notorious Formosan species
Mixing their own poop into nest walls gives Formosan termites a bacterial boost in fighting off human attempts to destroy them with insect plagues.
A bacterial strain found in the fecally-enhanced nest walls of pest termites Coptotermes formosanus helps protect them from a potentially deadly fungus, says entomologist Nan-Yao Su of the University of Florida in Fort Lauderdale. Such live-in boosters could help explain why efforts to control the termites with fungal diseases have been a failure, Su and his colleagues report September 18 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
“You can put the fungus on an insect in a lab dish and say, ‘Hah! We killed the termite,’” Su says. But for termites in their natural colonies, the soil-dwelling fungus Metarhizium anisopliae has failed to devastate.
Meanwhile Formosan termites are destroying homes, railroad ties and even living trees. Colonies of these termites have proven