A Contribution of ICAR National Fellow Project

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Sampling Termites

This Manual is prepared under the National Fellow Project to detail the procedures like - collection, preservation of specimens and identification of termites. This version is prepared with emphasis specifically for people wishing to submit samples for identification. The collection of samples for termite identification is made with many different goals and diverse objectives including investigation on ecology, control of urban or agricultural pests, biology, behaviour, genetics etc.
The inadequate attention during collection, due to lack of appropriate protocols/ guidelines may result in wastage of time and resources and often results in wrong identification. We present protocols for collection & preservation of termite samples for taxonomic investigation, which may be followed by the interested readers.

Termite samples (wet) Repository under NF Project

How to collect termite samples

If one sees termites swarm inside the home or office building, we assume that most likely an active infestation of termites. If you see a termite tunnel on wall or on the outside foundation wall near the base of the building, you need termite control.
An ideal collection is one that consists of all the three castes, i.e. reproductive (imago), soldiers and workers. This is possible to collect them all in breeding seasons, but not in all times. Do not be satisfied with collecting only two of three numbers of individuals. Collect large number of individuals (at least 20). Swarming alates when available, the collector may note that after they fall on the ground, they dealate (loose wings). One can easily identify males and females. Males follow very closely behind the females on ground surface just below the light source (that attracted the swarm). This is a very useful clue to segregate males and females easily.
Soil-dwelling termites can be attracted to baits. Especially in the dry season, spread gunny bag or thick cotton cloth on the soil surface and sprinkle water over it, and leave it overnight. Next morning, termites may be found under the gunny bags/cloth. Termites can be picked up by fine forceps/brushes carefully. Collector may use a hand lens to identify soldiers. Without digging much also we can collect termites from termitaria in active season. Just scrap the fresh growths on termite mounds, one can find sufficient number of workers and soldiers. Termites can easily be collected from infested plants/crops/trees. Affected plant-parts such as, the roots, stubbles can be splitted/dissected and one can get termites live.

Collection of Fungal garden: One may collect fungal garden while digging the termitaria, put it in an air tight jar. It is very delicate and soft structure, so handle it with due care.

Collection of inquilines: If anybody gets some inquilines, he can collect (as per his/her convenience with reference:

(http://www.forensicentomology.com/procedure.htm#scene; http://www.bugcollectors.com/#Storing_Collected_Specimens).

Collection of termite eggs: One can collect termite eggs also (with soldier and worker caste) and preserve them in 100% alcohol.

Equipment and materials

The equipment and materials are listed below those are ingeneral required for the collection, sorting and identifying termites. Some are optional or may be substituted for others depending upon the situation.

  1. Tools to open nests and wood, termites can be found in wood, in nestsor soil. They are rarely found foraging surface. Therefore it is necessary to use tools; open timber and dig nests and soil, using picks, axes, hammers etc. These tools can be found in hardware stores and construction material.
  2. Plastic trays: White plastic trays are very useful to screen soil and pieces of nests. They can be found, in scientific equipment shop and kitchen supply stores.

Forceps: Two types of watchmaker forceps are typically used in collecting termites. The watchmaker forceps tip can be found in fine watch making and scientific laboratory equipment shops.

Alcohol: For fixing termite specimens, it is necessary to dilute alcohol (ethyl alcohol) to 80% (volume basis). 

Vials: While selecting preserving/collection bottles or vials proper care must be given. These containers should be sufficiently air tight and seal proof otherwise the alcohol may evaporate or spill from the vials.

The vials may have the following capacity/features:

a)  between 5-10 ml volume,

b)  cover with good seal

c)  bottom right,

d)  wide mouth

Field tools for collecting termite samples from soil, trees or 


A) Micro-centrifuge tubes (available for biotechnology works) can conveniently be used for termite specimen collection B) Stock bottle for ethyl-alcohol, C) Cello-tape for labelling task.

 Requirements for termite sampling – preservation vials (with label & cap),

D) pen & pencil, needle, forceps, dropper, brush etc. E) A Stereomicroscope for termite taxonomy task





Last Updated: 04-01-2020

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