Green Project against hunger and global warming: Termites

I needed to use the words “green project” and “against hunger” in this Termite Project, to make it easier for investors to find. I realized how many people are searching for “green projects”, and how few look for “termite advantages”…

In many countries the crops remains are burnt, to make way for new pastures. This practice has long been recognized as wrong, because it damages the soil and the environment. I intend those farmers to start giving those cellulose remains to termites raised in a controlled site. Thus, instead of wasting the resource and generating pollutants, the material will re-enter the alimentary chain and benefit everyone in that chain.

There are other ways in which the Termite Project can be considered Green. For instance, it we destroy cellulose to give way to new vegetation, we are eliminating carbon dioxide and producing healthy food for men and his animals.

It is also important the effect on urban landfills filled with garbage….

Fungus in the Patagonian rainforest might be biofuel source

I received this announcement from a partner in the US, regarding our Termite project.

Patagonia is a remote area for almost everyone, although I hapen to live only 1600 km from Bariloche. It could be possible to travel by car to collect samples. These days another person from Bulgaria contacted me about getting Patagonic fungi, although he intends to sell them as food.

The scientific news is:

U.S. scientists say a fungus in the Patagonian rainforest might be a new source of biofuels since it produces a number of diesel compounds from cellulose.

“This is the only organism that has ever been shown to produce such an important combination of fuel substances,” said Montana State University Professor Gary Strobel, making it a better source of biofuels than anything used now.

The fungus, Gliocladium roseum, produces various molecules made of hydrogen and carbon that are found in diesel, the researchers said. Because of that, the fuel it produces is called “myco-diesel.”

“Gliocladium roseum lives inside the Ulmo tree in the Patagonian rainforest,” Strobel said. “We were trying to discover totally novel fungi in this tree by exposing its tissues to the volatile antibiotics of the fungus Muscodor albus. Quite unexpectedly, G. roseum grew in the presence of these gases when almost all other fungi were killed.

“It was also making volatile antibiotics. Then when we examined the gas composition of G. roseum, we were totally surprised to learn it was making a plethora of hydrocarbons and hydrocarbon derivatives,” Strobel said.”

Strobel said the discovery brings into question scientists’ knowledge of the way fossil fuels are made.

To make it clear, let me say that bacteria and fungi are the only living entities that can feed on cellulose. Termites and cows use bacteria in their digestive systems to process the cellulose. Once the cellulose was decomposed in its main component, glucose, it can be used either as energy supply for animals, or that glucose can be fermented into alcohols, for fuel.

A good termite project will combine enthomologists and microbiologists for better results. (I happen to be Microbiologist).

I will be happy to answer any inquiries at the contact option in the right menu.

Field trip to Chaco National Park

I am just returning from the first field trip. Unfortunately, I did not bring any termites.

I drove 1200 km to the Chaco National Park, stayed there for less than a day, and drove back. A lot of driving, really.

I seem to have underestimated the costs and difficulties, after seeing the desolate region where the termites were first captured. Many kilometers of desert, with little chances of getting eventual mechanical help. The temperature was about 35º C, there were mosquitoes with reported dengue cases in the area, and the bike in the top of the car slowed down the car to a maximum 90 km/hour safe driving.

I decided to cut the trip short for about 300 km, and change destination. Instead of the Copo National Park I went to the Chaco National Park.

Chaco Nat.Park

Chaco Nat.Park

The park was infested with ants, natural enemies of termites. I found no termites in rotten wood, but ants instead.

The only termites I found were of the kind that builds nests (see photo).

Chaco Nat.Park

When I saw the termites inside the nest I took a minute to take the photo. Then, I tried to get more termites, but nothing. They had all hidden into the deep. I knew about this conduct, but I did not imagine they would be so fast.

I am still trying to contact the people who originally described subterraneal termites in the North of Argentina, for a future new field trip.

Chicken like termites

There is little published data on this issue, that might not deserve the attention from serious PhD experts. However, it is an important issue for this project.

An experiment in Vietnam funded by the Swedish Agency for International Development demonstrated that feeding termites to chicken is possible, sound and profitable, even collecting termites from their natural nests. What I plan to do is raise them in specialized containment and feeding them with disposed wood or vegetables. This will increase the yield and decrease the labour involved.

Some people suggested that chicken will taste odly to us, humans used to grain-fed chicken. There is no basis for that assumption, although I will run a test ASAP. That is, when I collect my first 10 kilos of termites.

Also, it is possible to process the termites into powder and use it as a protein-rich food supplement for poultry and fish. In that way, the possible bad taste will diminish or disappear.

Planning a field trip to the Chaco, looking for termites

I read an article by an entomologist that collected 18 species of termites from 16 genera in a single land reserve, in the Northeast of the Santiago del Estero province.

The author (Carolina Cuezzo) gives several details on how to look for termites. Thus, I decided that this is my best bet for a field trip. It is 1400 km from my city, and it is a completely desertic tropical area.

I plan to spend 3 days driving and 2-3 days collecting termites. The cost of the trip is estimated in $600. I will take photos and bring all the possible termites, in separate containers, to my home lab or to a University lab. Some of them will be available for experts abroad willing to pay shipping costs.

I plan to use my own car, rather old but still reliable. I will take my camping gear and extra water and fuel, because the area is quite remote and weather is torrid in mid summer. The towns nearby are properly named:

Resistencia (Resistance) – Pampa del Infierno (Hell’s Pampa) – La Escondida (The Hidden One) – Monte Quemado (Burnt Mount) – Río Muerto (Dead River).

The Copo National Park is situated in a remote area of the dry Chaco:

Santiago del Estero - Copo Park

Santiago del Estero - Copo Park

More details to follow.

Abstract of the paper, published at

Scientific paper

: The termite fauna of an environment of the argentinean semiarid Chaco was sampled at the end of the dry season. Sixteen genera and 18 species representing three families (Kalotermitidae, Rhinotermitidae and Termitidae) are cited for Santiago del Estero. Eleven genera are new records for the mentioned province. Biological data are given for some species.

Here I list the species reported by that author. In the original publication are shown as an image, here I transcribe them as text:

Family: Kalotermitidae
Neotermes hirtellus (Silvestri)

Family: Rhinotermitidae

Heterotermitinae

Heterotermes longiceps (Snyder)

Family Termitidae

Apicotermitinae

Anoplotermes sp.
Aparatermes abbreviatus (Silvestri)
Ruptitermes reconditus (Silvestri)

Nasutitermitinae

Constrictotermes sp.
Diversitermes diversimiles (Silvestri)
Nasutitermes nordenskioeldi
Paracornitermes sp.
Procornitermes striatus
Procornitermes triacifer (Silvestri)
Rhynchotermes nasutissimus (Silvestri)
Syntermes bolivianus Holmgren
Syntermes nanus Constantino

Termitinae

Amitermes amifer Silvestri
Dihoplotermes inusitatus Araujo
Onkotermes brevicorniger (Silvestri)
Termes sp.

My letter to the creator of the Termite Farm concept

I wrote to the Director of the Urban Entomology Program at the University of Toronto, and I reproduce the message because expresses most of my current concerns about this idea.
Dear Dr. Myles:

I have read your website on Termiculture with great attention. I am surprised that nobody tried to commercially grow termites. It is a project that needs negligible investment, but can transform the world.

I have been researching the Web for a month, and I wrote to several experts. None of them said it was impossible. Some of them said growing termites is difficult, and some said it is easy… One said is very dangerous to raise termites here, since there we are a termite-free region (so far). One invited me to collect termites in his area, 500 km North of my city. I am not sure if the termites that build huge nests are appropriate for this. Some people adviced me to use underground termites.

I started a blog to record my data and to invite other people to join in the effort: www.netic.com.ar/termites . I mention your website, and a few others.

My focus is obtaining termites for chicken feed, because it can be done at a very small scale. However, I am also aware of the possibilities of using the termite residues to grow worms (lumbriculture) or to generate methane.

I am located in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and there is a group in a local University that specializes in ants, and were sympathetic to the project. With minimal funding I could probably convince them to carry out a Termite Farming project, analysing the feasibility and profitability issues.

I am a former biomedical scientist, now running a small technology company. Having a company gives me freedom to start the projects that I like. I should also mention that I am good at writing grant applications.

I believe that your idea of growing termites is GREAT: Feasible, Profitable, Ecologic, Easy, Cheap, Fast. However, nobody started it yet. Why? Please give me a clue !!…

Thanks a lot for your attention to my question….

Yours, sincerely,

Sergio R. Samoilovich, PhD.

This letter received a very supportive response. I will describe it in another post.

Termite Housing

The termite housing is one patentable part of this project.

It will take into account:

– the needs of termites in terms of moisture, temperature, microenvironment
– the need of the farmer in terms of collection of grown termites
– the safe containment of the plage

There are two cages being designed, the Experimental Cage, in small size, with glass walls and security double lid, and the Production Cage, larger and in hard plastic.

Both cages will have a carefully regulated gradient of humidity, from dry in the top to wet in the bottom.