Eradicating Termites with the Stroke of a Pen

Eradicating Termites

When I read Piers Corbyn’s [very much tongue-in-cheek] question Will there be a War on Ants little did I know that the the EPA had already eradicated termite CO2 emissions from their “greenhouse gas emissions inventory” and that the mainstream prefers to accidentally forget all about termite CO2 emissions when discussing the “Carbon Cycle”.

Amazingly, these pesky termite CO2 emissions were simply eradicated by the EPA with the stroke of a pen.

War on Ants

The termite problem that afflicts the CO2 Global Warming brethren can be traced back to 1982 when researchers discovered via “laboratory measurements” that termites produce vast quantities of carbon dioxide.

Termite Emissions

The New York Times reported upon this research and noted that termites “produce more than twice as much carbon dioxide as all the world’s smokestacks.”

Now researchers report that termites, digesting vegetable matter on a global basis, produce more than twice as much carbon dioxide as all the world’s smokestacks.

The authors measured termite gas production inside laboratory jars.

In Guatemala forests, they enclosed a huge arboreal termite nest in a Teflon bag to confirm that the insects were prolific producers of methane.

Another author of the report, Patrick R. Zimmerman of the atmospheric center in Boulder, said that plant respiration and decay added 10 to 15 times as much carbon dioxide to the air as termites.

Termite Gas Exceeds Smokestack Pollution – Walter Sullivan
The New York Times – 31 October 1982

In 1996 “a global database” study using “published measurements” estimated that termites produce 3,500 metric tons of CO2 per year [give or take 700 metric tons] which was determined to be “approximately” 2% of the total global flux of CO2.

Termites 1996

Click to access sanderson_1997.pdf

Clearly, performing a precise global population census of the [roughly] 3,106 species of termites and their CO2 emissions is impossible – just as it is impossible to precisely quantify any other gas flux in the real world.

Approximately 3,106 species are currently described, with a few hundred more left to be described.

Termites are among the most successful groups of insects on Earth, colonising most landmasses except for Antarctica.

Their colonies range in size from a couple of hundred individuals to enormous societies with several million individuals.

Termite queens also have the longest lifespan of any insect in the world, with some queens living up to 50 years.

Termites have high biomass in many tropical ecosystems and emit the greenhouse gases CO2 and CH4.

They are also recognized as ecosystem engineers, mediating decomposition and other aspects of soil function. Therefore, termites may be significant contributors to biogeochemical cycles, notably those of carbon and methane.

We review methods of assessing carbon fluxes through termite populations and argue that direct measurements of net CO2 and CH4 emissions from termites in natural settings (in their nests or in the soil) are the best data for scaling-up calculations, if accompanied by accurate estimates of biomass and assemblage feeding-group composition.

Actual determinations of gas fluxes from termites, and the attendant computation of regional and global budgets made over the past two decades are reviewed.

For CO2, it is concluded that termites contribute up to 2% of the natural efflux from terrestrial sources, a large contribution for a single animal taxon, but small in the global context.

For CH4, we note that calculations are still hampered by uncertainties over termite biomass distribution and a general failure to consider local and landscape-level oxidation by methylotrophic microorganisms as a factor mitigating net fluxes. Nevertheless the balance of evidence, including new data on local oxidation, suggests that annual contributions by termites are almost certainly less than 20 Tg, and probably less than 10 Tg (ca. 4% and 2% of global totals from all sources, respectively).

Global Impact of Termites on the Carbon Cycle and Atmospheric Trace Gases
Termites: Evolution, Sociality, Symbioses, Ecology – 2000
Atsuko Sugimoto, David E. Bignell, Jannette A. MacDonald

The ever reliable and unbiased EPA was acutely aware of the termite problem and the impossibility of precisely quantifying emissions.

As a first step the EPA adopted ”an order-of-magnitude approximation” [by 1995] for the “not well understood” methane [CH4] emissions generated by termites.

Termite CH4 emissions estimates vary for several reasons.

Researchers have taken different approaches to approximating the number of termites per area for different ecological regions (e.g., cultivated land, temperate grassland, tropical forest) and different species.

In addition, the total area per ecological region is not universally agreed upon, and not all of the area in an ecological region is necessarily capable of supporting termites.
For example, cultivated land in Europe and Canada is located in a climatic zone where termites cannot survive.

Some researchers have tried to estimate the percentage of each region capable of supporting termites while others have conservatively assumed that all of the area of a given ecological region can support termites.

Finally, the contributions to atmospheric CH4 from many other related CH4 sources and sinks associated with termite populations (i. e., tropical soils) are not well understood.

Emissions of CH4 from termites can be approximated by an emission factor derived from laboratory test data.

Applying these data to field estimates of termite population to obtain a realistic, large-scale value for CH4 emissions is suspect, but an order-of-magnitude approximation of CH4 emissions can be made.

EPA: AP 42, Fifth Edition, Volume I – January 1995
Chapter 14: Greenhouse Gas Biogenic Sources
14.2 Termites—Greenhouse Gases

Click to access c14s02.pdf

The EPA was far more creative when it came to CO2 emissions generated by termites.

The EPA wasn’t interested in ”an order-of-magnitude approximation” for termite CO2.

In fact, the EPA wasn’t interested in termite CO2 emissions at all.

The ever reliable and unbiased EPA simply decided “The only pollutant of concern from termite activity is CH4.”

Thus, with the simple stroke of a pen the EPA [without a blush or hesitation] simply decreed that termite CO2 emissions “should not be included in a greenhouse gas emissions inventory.”

The only pollutant of concern from termite activity is CH4 .

Termite activity also results in the production of carbon dioxide (CO2).

These CO2 emissions are part of the regular carbon cycle, and as such should not be included in a greenhouse gas emissions inventory.

EPA: AP 42, Fifth Edition, Volume I – January 1995
Chapter 14: Greenhouse Gas Biogenic Sources
14.2 Termites—Greenhouse Gases

Click to access c14s02.pdf

Evidently, the EPA enjoys doing the Hokey Cokey when they are assembling their greenhouse gas emissions inventory.

You put your termite CH4 in
Your termite CO2 out

In, out, in, out,
You shake it all about.

You do the greenhouse gas emissions inventory and you turn around
That’s what it’s all about…


The EPA justified their banishment of the termite problem by stating termite CO2 emissions were “part of the regular carbon cycle”.

However, when you examine “the regular carbon cycle” it becomes apparent that the mainstream is very hesitant when it comes to termites.

The Wikipedia “Carbon Cycle” [by the very clever use of language] states that the “terrestrial biosphere” only includes “land-living organisms” and “carbon stored in soils”.
i.e. it’s not clear whether “land-living organisms” includes or excludes termites that live in the soil.

Terrestrial biosphere
The terrestrial biosphere includes the organic carbon in all land-living organisms, both alive and dead, as well as carbon stored in soils.

The Wikipedia definition of “terrestrial animals” includes ants but termites are not ants.

Terrestrial animals are animals that live predominantly or entirely on land (e.g., cats, ants, snails), as compared with aquatic animals, which live predominantly or entirely in the water (e.g., fish, lobsters, octopuses), or amphibians, which rely on a combination of aquatic and terrestrial habitats (e.g., frogs, or some crabs).

Some terrestrial bugs include ants, flies, crickets, grasshoppers and snails.

Ants are eusocial insects of the family Formicidae and, along with the related wasps and bees, belong to the order Hymenoptera.

Termites, although sometimes called ‘white ants’, are not ants.

Anyway, to help you forget all about the termite problem you can refer to the wonderful Wikipedia illustration of the “Carbon Cycle” which references plants, microbes and phytoplankton but no other forms of life i.e. specifically no termites are illustrated.


All together now:

Woah, hokey cokey cokey,
Woah, hokey cokey cokey,
Woah, hokey cokey cokey,
Knees bent, arms stretched, ra ra ra!

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3 Responses to Eradicating Termites with the Stroke of a Pen

  1. craigm350 says:

    Reblogged this on WeatherAction News and commented:
    Thanks Tim.

    A great post highlighting the obvious distractions in the ‘settled science’.

  2. rwegrzen says:

    The Sanderson paper concludes with the statement “The results calculated in the present work therefore indicate that termites are a minor but nonnegligible source of these gases.”

    The 33 year old NY Times article comments “The output from insects does not appear likely to increase greatly, while combustion of fuel is rising steadily as developing nations industrialize. ”

    Are we trying to suggest that some significant recent increase in atmospheric CO2 is due to termites? If not,what is the point of this post?

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