Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Economic and ecological importance of termites: a global review.

Abstract

In this review article, the positive and negative impacts of termites on ecosystems and human activities are examined. Various ecosystem services provided by termites - their importance as a food resource for humans, wildlife and domestic animals - are discussed, along with the use of these insects in scientific research and in folk and traditional medicine. Some insufficiently studied properties of termites (their ability to perceive the radiation of radioactive substances, electric fields and magnetic fields), as well as the use of termites in bionics, are described. Special attention is paid to the use of termite mounds for different purposes (e.g. in mineral deposit searches, in medical applications, as furnaces for copper smelting, for storage of some nuts, as burial sites, for gathering of edible mushrooms of the genus Termitomyces and as fertilizer). Examples of such use in different countries are given. This article reviews the activities of termites as pests of agriculture and forestry, including crops that are most affected, and termites as structural pests (e.g. wooden structures, household furniture, books and museum collections). Examples of termites' malicious activities in different parts of the world are provided. Information on the invasions of termites is given, and the main areas of expansion of their habitat are described. The economic loss caused by termites in some countries and the world as a whole are presented. The article also lists the most economically important termite species in the world.