In some parts of the world, termites are consumed opportunistically by humans. I'm considering the possibility of using mound-building fungus-farming macrotermes as livestock for a culture of corvid that dwell in arid regions. I've calculated that a large corvid would need to consume around 70 kcal per day, but since they have a healthy agricultural system, I'd say termites need not comprise more than a fifth of that. My research suggests that 5g (5,000 workers) of raw termites would be 17 kcal, 23% protein, 28% fat, and 44% water.

Assume that with this species of termites, a single colony could comfortably provide 5g termites a day. A household would require multiple colonies.

Is this realistic? Would the dietary and spacial requirements of multiple macrotermes colonies be practical for husbandry, or would the costs outweigh the benefits?

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    $\begingroup$ does opportunistic means you have both a pest problem and a fetish? I watched a documentary showcase a tribe living above a colossal termite's nest complete with network of tunnels and,air-conditioned nursery according to the village chef it is terrifying because they are eating their houses and killing livestock. $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Aug 29 '17 at 1:46
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    $\begingroup$ There is a problem with farming termites in that they create a ton of pollution... $\endgroup$ Aug 29 '17 at 2:03
  • $\begingroup$ Considering that the average adult require 1400-1800 kCal per day, you would need to farm half a kilogram / 1 lb, of termites per dag and person. Also, termites are a major producer of greenhouse gases, so their agricultural system is not at all very "healthy". $\endgroup$
    – MichaelK
    Aug 29 '17 at 12:40
  • $\begingroup$ As I noted in the question, I'm dealing not with humans, but birds, which are considerably smaller and require much less nutrition per day. Are there any sources you'd reccommend concerning the pollutive gases produced by termites? $\endgroup$
    – RLuebke
    Aug 29 '17 at 14:29
  • $\begingroup$ Termites produce methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas, which oxidizes in the atmosphere into CO2 over ~10 years. Of course the methane comes from the wood and other plant cellulose the termites eat, so they are technically carbon neutral in terms of pollution. $\endgroup$
    – Josh King
    Aug 29 '17 at 15:45

This paper on Macrotermes in the Cote D'Ivoire says there are an average of 8.99 mounds per hectare. Another paper studied Macrotermes in a semi-arid area of Nigeria and found an average of 10.08 mounds per hectare. 1 hectare is roughly the size of an international rugby pitch

So you need to think about your corvid family size (e.g. Mum, Dad & 2.4 kids? Extended family of 30 people?). Then work out what is the minimum land area required for that family, how many families there are in a community, and so on.

Of course, that land can also supply other foods - the corvids could also be farming mice or voles, harvesting caterpillars in the spring, putting out dead wood for beetle grubs to infest, and so on.

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    $\begingroup$ Consider that the density of farmed animals can be a lot more than the density of wild, naturally occurring animals. Fish in a fish farm live at densities that could not occur in the wild. You are keeping away predators and bringing them food. You are farming them. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Aug 29 '17 at 16:03
  • $\begingroup$ @Will. Yes, indeed. But if the termites are a fictitious domesticated species which don't do natural termite behaviour (such as fighting with neighbouring colonies, or going out foraging for their own food), then there is no "reality check" to any answer. The OP can just handwave the termites to do anything he or she desires. $\endgroup$
    – DrBob
    Aug 30 '17 at 12:25

I don't know if putting them in your house would be practical, but spreading them out so they have sufficient area to feed and the harvesting them should help supplement dietary needs. Termites feed on decomposed plants and other materials that are mostly useless to humans and presumably your corvids, so there isn't really much cost to feeding them. They are also fairly self sufficient, so it probably wouldn't take much work at all. Maybe build a protective structure around the mounds to ward of predators, and then just collect free food. You don't have to worry about the termites escaping either, unlike some other livestock.

I can't see any reason this would require too much work for the food it produces.


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