Psammotermes

Psammotermes occupies deserts wherever there is vegetation to feed on, and appears to replace Anacanthotermes in drier areas where both genera occur. It is the most arid-adapted termite, and occurs in areas where few other arthropods can survive. It is even recorded from deserts without vegetation where it seems to survive on wind blown accumulation of organic debris. In other parts of the true deserts Psammotermes may survive on sub-fossil relics of a humid Pleistocene fauna (e.g. trunks of Tamarix in the Sahara, Harris, 1970). Is found as far south as the Sahelian savannahs of Senegal (LePage, 1972) and Nigeria (Johnson et al., 1980).

Detailed information relating to P. allocerus from Coaton & Sheasby (1973).

P. allocerus exists in sandy deserts but also in the karroid regions of the south African interior where almost all soil has been removed by erosion. However, it does not occur in heavier clay or alluvial soils in southern Africa. It is found in areas with rainfall between 100 - 800 m, and up to 1,600 m in the interior of South Africa.

Nests underground in nests of its own construction, and has been recorded from the nests of Amitermes, Baucaliotermes, and Trinervitermes.

Psammotermes is one of the most generalist feeders among termites, consuming any cellulose-containing material. P. allocerus has been recorded from the dung of cattle, horses and donkeys, sheep and goats, camels, springbok, black rhinoceroses, zebras and elephants; from roadside debris (e.g. carton boxes, jute bags etc.), on dead grass and surface leaf litter, on organic matter contained in and under the dumps of Hodotermes mossambicus and Microhodotermes viator, on and in dead bushes, branches and logs on the soil surface, in fence posts, in wooden buildings (Coaton & Sheasby, 1972). In north Africa Psammotermes hybostoma feeds on the highly poisonous shrub, Calotropis procera, and related Asclepiadaceae (Harris, 1970; Johnson & Wood, 1980).

Workers generally enter the food source from the soil, although soil sheeting is sometimes used to cover larger items. Sheeting runways are also employed to reach material not in contact with the soil surface. Cemented soil is used to maintain structure in material that is hollowed out. The soil material is interspersed with small flatgalleries connected by tunnels.

Nesting is usually in dead wood buried beneath the soil, although nests without associated wooden supports are found quite regularly. It is not clear from the literature whether nests are mono- or polycalic. In southern Africa nests of P. allocerus are recorded to be mad eof dark carton c. 36 cm d and 30 cm depth. Usually invisible from above except when eroded by wind, although the tip of the nest may be visible as a gey patch.

Independent nests found in Namibian deserts were subspherical aggregations of super-imposed flattened cells linked by very narrow galleries. These nests were stabilised by the roots of grass stools under which they had been constructed.

Storage chambers occur in nests of all species where information is available.

In southern Africa flighting occurs over a wide period between March and December (maximum recorded in August in areas with winter rainfall and November in regions with summer rainfall), presumably due to the unpredictability of rainfall in desert regions. Little is known about swarming flights.

Classification: 

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