Termites (Isoptera) have often been proposed as decomposers of lignocellulosic waste, such as paper products, while termite biomass could be harvested for food supplements. Groups of Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki and Reticulitermes speratus (Kolbe) were kept for 4 and 8 wk, respectively, in the laboratory and given up to 10 different types of paper as their food source. Paper consumption, survival, caste composition, and lipid content were recorded. Corrugated cardboard was by far the most consumed paper product, although survival on it was not necessarily favorable. In R. speratus, lipid reserves and neotenic numbers were quite high, but no breeding occurred. Cardboard may be the “junk food” equivalent for termites. Within the tested period, termites did not perform well on paper products that form the bulk of waste paper—corrugated cardboard, newsprint, and pamphlets and magazines. On all paper products (except recycled office paper), neotenic reproductives were formed, but larvae were observed only on kraft pulp and tissue paper. That all waste paper products contain lignocellulosic fibers does not automatically make them suitable for decomposition by termites. Each paper product has to be assessed on its own merit to see whether termites can reproduce on this diet, if it were to be a candidate for sustainable “termidegradation” and termite biomass production.
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Vol. 104 • No. 1