Hodotermes is a genus that contains two species of African harvester termites known as H. mossambicus and H. erithreensis. The collective range of both species extends from some areas of South Africa through the savannas in East Africa to Palaearctic North Africa. Both species are subterraneous, nesting under the ground, but the nests of H. mossambicus can contain several sphere-shaped hives, and long tunnels connect the rooms of each nest. It is typical for all harvester termites to have compound eyes are serrated edges on the mandibles.
Breeding members of the Hodotermes genus, known as alates, emerge from nests in the summer months after evening hours. Once the alates land, they break off their wings and begin searching for suitable mates. When a pair has finished courtship, they will find a new area to start dig a nest and become the king and queen of a new colony. Eggs are laid about a week after breeding and soon after the resulting workers will begin to tend to new eggs and the nest. When the nest is large enough and a colony has sufficient numbers, workers will emerge from it to search for food.
The diet of Hodotermes species consists of mainly of grasses, especially grasses killed by drought or frost and ripe grasses. It has been found to occasionally consume shrubs. A study conducted on the H. mossambicus species has shown that larvae in the sixth level of development both digest and distribute food to the rest of the colony, which helps ward of unfamiliar individuals.
Harvester termites, including those of this genus, comprise a large portion of the bat-eared fox’s diet in southern and eastern areas of its range. The fox is equipped for this specialized diet with its large ears, which help it locate colonies underground, and forty-eight teeth. Members of the Hodotermes genus are known for destroying land in pastures and causing soil depletion, especially in areas where the soil is already disturbed. This damage actually aids in soil fertility by recycling plant materials like nitrogen and carbon over long periods of time.
Image Caption: Northern Harvester Termite in Tsumeb, Namibia. Credit: Hans Hillewaert/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)