How to move a termite colony

So, if you decided to start your termite colony in a test tube setup and after some time the material you gave your termites to feed on starts to run out, or if the colony grows too big for the container or maybe there is a fungal/bacterial growth in the setup, you will have to move the colony immediately. Moving termites isn’t that easy to be honest, but once properly understood, the process is quite simple. Below is how to move a termite colony.

So, if you are trying to move your colony to another test tube, just simply fill the new test tube with your preferred material and then connect the test tube mouth to the old test tube mouth (which has the termites in it) via tubing, or via the substrate itself. The moving process can take a long time or maybe just a short time according to the colony and species.

Just make sure to keep the new test tube in the dark while you expose the old test tube to light. Make sure the light isn’t too bright or emitting heat because it can stress them a lot or even kill them. The purpose of the lights is to just make them feel uncomfortable enough so that they will move elsewhere.

how to move a termite colony

Coptotermes nymphs and eggs in a cardboard setup. Getting them to move to a larger container is even easier with a cardboard setup.

If you’re thinking to move your termites into a more naturalistic setup like a terrarium or a tub, then just fill the tub/container with the substrate and simply place your test tube in it and let the termites move into their new home by themselves.

The principle is the same even if you are not using a test tube setup – Get the termites feeling comfortable, and then slowly ease them into their new, larger, home. If you started your colony in say, a small container that is not a test tube, then depending on your container, you can try to connect the soil in your small container with the soil in the larger container, and then gradually “shepherd” the termites over to the larger container.

coptotermes nymph

Coptotermes nymph, a future winged reproductive.

What about drywood termites? How to move their colony from one piece of wood to another? Basically, you regard the wood they reside in as “soil”, and then you connect another piece of wood to their existing wood, and slowly get them to tunnel/move into the new piece of wood. Stay tuned for a future article on drywood termite rearing!

cryptotermes dudleyi neotenic pair plus workers

Cryptotermes dudleyi neotenic pair plus workers in their piece of wood.

These are the best ways to move your colony as this makes sure the termites are relaxed and they get to move on their own. But in some cases, you will have to force move your colony and this method is very stressful to the termites themselves. The main reasons to force move a colony is when an infection or fungal outbreak happens or when there is some major danger to the colony.

But although this is very stressful, it can help in some cases like the above-mentioned reasons. For example, my colony of Coptotermes gestroi had to face a major fungal outbreak, which resulted in the colony losing its primary king and almost all the workers. So, I had to take out the live queen, workers, and the brood. Luckily the colony managed to form a nymphoid neotenic male to keep the colony alive. So, in this case force moving them actually helped to save the colony. This was a last ditch method that luckily worked.

In conclusion, these are the ways on how to move a termite colony (from a test tube setup) and I hope it’s helpful to all of you.

Article and photos courtesy of Dulneth Wijewardana from Sri Lanka, who has been rearing termites and ants as a hobby for the past few years. Catch his YouTube channel at Termites International.