Fungus Combs in Termite Mounds

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Hesse P.R
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A typical feature of the large termite mounds found in central Africa is the presence of so-called "fungus comb". On digging into a mound these irregular, sponge-like masses are revealed; some resting in their own individual chambers (Fig. 1) and others carefully built into the earthen framework of the nest (Fig. 2). The comb is prepared from vegetable matter collected and processed by the worker caste of termite, and almost any kind of raw material is utilized providing that it contains a high percentage of cellulose. Thus grass, leaves, semi-decomposed pieces of wood and paper have been known to form the basis of fungus comb. Once brought into the mound the coarse vegetable debris is stored in chambers until required (Fig. 3). Subsequently it is chewed by the worker termites and made into a paste with their saliva, after which it is moulded into the structure of the mound.
East African Agricultural And Forestry Journal, XXIII (2), p. 104-108