University of Hawaii Termite Project

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Home Research Collecting termites

Where it all begins...
Collecting termites for research

Wooden termite trap
Wooden termite trap

5-gallon cans at one colony at
the university campus


As diverse as our various studies may be, each laboratory-bound project shares one common requirement: a large supply of termites. The U.H. Termite Project has taken advantage of the unique opportunity afforded it by being located in a region where there is no shortage of Formosan subterranean termites. There is an abundant supply of naturally-occurring termite colonies throughout the island of Oahu. The Termite Project has tapped in to a small handful of these colonies; a few of which are on the university campus, while others are scattered throughout the island.

Termite collection is a simple, three-step process. The first, and probably most important, is finding out where the termites are located. Wooden stakes, approximately 10 inches long, are pounded in the ground in a grid pattern in a location where termites are suspected. It's a hit-or-miss approach, but if there is an existing colony in that area, chances are good that many of the stakes will be attacked.

The second step is setting up wooden "termite traps" to collect the insects. Using a procedure pioneered by Dr. Minoru Tamashiro and colleagues in 1973, the infested stakes are covered by these wooden "trap" boxes, then protected by 5-gallon cans. A number of modifications of this basic technique have also been developed for different field situations.

It can take as little as a few weeks or up to several months for full recruitment into a new trap. Traps placed over heavily infested stakes within strong existing colonies can become active within a matter of days.

The final step is collecting the traps, bringing them back to the laboratory, and extracting the termites from the traps. This is the most labor-intensive part of the collection process. Once extracted, the termites are separated from the dirt & debris and the required numbers are counted manually. On the average, the wooden traps "capture" appoximately 2,000 termites. On rare occasions, as many as 10,000 termites can be "captured" in a single trap.
Extracting termites

Extracting termites from
a termite trap


Tamashiro, M., J.K. Fujii & P.Y. Lai. 1973. A simple method to observe, trap and prepare large numbers of subterranean termites for laboratory and field experiments. Environ. Entomol. 2: 721-722.

Ewart, D.McG., J.K. Grace, R.T. Yamamoto, and M. Tamashiro. 1992. Hollow stakes for detecting subterranean termites (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae). Sociobiology 20: 17-22.

Grace, J.K., J.R. Yates, & C.H.M. Tome. 1995. Modification of a commercial bait station to collect large numbers of subterranean termites (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae). Sociobiology 26: 259-268.

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