Apple Trees Vs. Undergound Termites

I’d like to put out a cry for help from any Entomologists out there. One of the toughest challenges we’ve had all over Africa, from East Africa to Nigeria, is termites, the subterranean kind. They call them “ants” or “white ants”, but they are definitely termites, and are the ones that build those huge mounds. They will eat the roots and cambium of young trees, stripping the bark all the way up to the soil line. I’ve found no commercial pesticide labeled for both termites and fruit trees, most are intended for structure protection and are too toxic for apple trees.

Our Uganda team has experimented with local treatments, the most successful so far has been a mixture of fermented urine and wood ashes, poured around the base of the tree.

The problem seems to be really bad during the dry season, when the young trees are the only irrigated thing in the dry forest. Keeping them watered well seems to help some.

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I’m no expert but am familiar with wood ants and termites and some methods to combat them. A perimeter of termidor which is very toxic is used here around houses which last 10 years but nothing within 20-30 feet of the barrier is safe to eat. If you were doing a large planting it’s possible you could make a barrier around an orchard to where they could not cross the barrier. It would be important to not plant anything close to that barrier The perimeter would need to be marked so that soil would not be disturbed. I’ve seen them apply it and they dig a trench 2 feet or so down and mix the termidor with water and fill the ditch they made and shovel the dirt back in on the chemical. The termites cannot cross that barrier. The old timers here prior to any kind of regulation made perimeters out of oil around structures because the termites would not cross it. Diatomaceous Earth can be a non toxic way to combat ants . Something else to think about is ants are not good swimmers so technically your perimeter could be water. Just giving you a place to start and a few ideas.

Thanks Clarkinks, I guess I should have added that the termites fly really well, and swarm twice a year to establish new colonies. Once they fly to their new location, they shed their wings and start the new mound. Because of this, the barrier method would probably not be effective.

There is a bit of revenge however, it is during these swarming times that they are gathered in large quantities and eaten as a delicacy. I’ve heard of several tourists trying them and saying they’re not half-bad.


Of course termites here in the U.S. don’t eat live wood, or if they do, it’s not enough to cause problems with fruit trees in my area.

In terms of house protection, termites are a significant concern here. I use permethrin to protect my house here. Permethrin is also labeled for fruit trees and I use it, although the labeled tree version is not labeled for termites, so requires me to keep both the labeled termite jug and the fruit tree labeled jugs.

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What about borax?

Paul Stamets has a patent for a fungus he developed that apparently works against termites and many other insects.

Maybe he would be interested in helping? All Natural, Mushroom-Based Pesticide Could Revolutionize Agriculture -

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What I use for nematodes or root damaging insects that is effective for ~ 6 weeks.
In a blender combine 1 tsp sulfur powder, 1 tsp cayenne pwdr, 1/2 t garlic pwdr with 1 qt water and soil drench. If they have any aromatic trees, like eucalyptus, this can be blended in also. I’m sure they grow hot peppers there. I’ve used fresh cayennes too. - but can’t tell you amounts since their peppers have much higher heat units than my cayennes which are ~ 50,000HU. So the basic approach is aromatics and pungents.

Is there anything that is more attractive to them that could be used as a trap crop? Sometimes radishes are planted as a trap crop for root maggots; I don’t know whether this approach actually works to trap them or just nourish them as they multiply, but I assume you’re going to need a multi-prong attack to deal with these and trapping might be useful.

Marknmt; that is a strategy they use for stem borers and striga weed in maize, they call it “push pull technology”. They plant desmodium between the maize rows to repel stem borers fake the straiga weed (a parasitic weed) into thinking it is maize, and napier grass to attract the borers, which crushes them. I guess its a matter of finding a trap crop that will draw them away from the apple trees, without attracting even more to the area to attack the trees.


Hot peppers are very popular there for pest control (they call hot peppers “capsicum”) and are used a lot in the banana groves. They also have a lot of garlic, so we may end up trying something like this. It is odd that they have all the ingredients there for good Mexican food…

Another idea, which they have likely thought of, is to find trees that the termites don’t bother - aromatics are best. Mascerate those leaves and mix into water (no boiling). Other deterents can be added to this. Poke holes in the dirt around the trees and apply.
To see if it will work ahead of time, pour a little in the vicinity of the termites and see how they react. Then all that is left is adjusting dosage. :slightly_smiling: