Subterranean Termite Towers

Subject: little sand towers
Location: Walnut Creek CA open space.
April 8, 2016 2:06 pm
Dear Bugman
On my walk in the open space this morning I came across a small forest of little towers apparently constructed of glued-together sand grains and about 1 to 1 1/2 or even 2 inches tall. The towers are hollow and seem to be filled with translucent presumably juvenile insects of some sort. I’m very curious to know what these critters are.
Signature: Dirk Muehlner

Subterranean Termite Towers
Subterranean Termite Towers

Dear Dirk,
Most people only associate Termites with the notion of them being pest insects that devour homes, but they have lost sight of the fact that Termites are very important in breaking down organic matter, especially wood fibers, so that it can be incorporated into fertile ground.  These are the towers of Subterranean Termites in the family Rhinotermitidae, and BugGuide has some very similar looking images.  According to BugGuide, they “Nest in soil” and “many members of this family are significant economic pests” as they will eat wood that comes into contact with the soil.  Your images are a wonderful addition to our archives.  Due to the numerous towers in a single location, we suspect there may be rotting wood beneath the surface, perhaps the roots of a large dead tree.

Subterranean Termite Tower
Subterranean Termite Tower
Subterranean Termites
Subterranean Termites

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