Will termites kill my vegetables???

kmgardMay 20, 2010

I planted a small vegetable garden in a raised bed this spring. One side seems to be growing quite nicely, while the other side has been a bit stunted (not sure if this is related to termite issue, but bear with me). When I came home from vacation, the problem on the right side of the garden seemed even worse. I had planted cucumbers in the middle (rookie mistake), so those were getting huge and seemed to be smothering the red bell peppers on the right (stunted) side. I went to transplant one of the pepper plants to the left side and it broke off (VERY easily) at the soil line. I went to move another, and when I removed it from the soil, I found what I'm pretty sure to be the tiny termites (larvae??) in the soil.

I dug a small hole in the left side, and saw more of the same bugs - just not as many. Could these termites be what are harming my plants on the right?? I thought they only ate wood (which would mean my less-than-3-month-old pine garden bed is toast). Also, the bed is about 20ft. away from the house. Would the termites travel that far to get into my house?

I guess my main question is whether my garden is pretty much SOL for this year. Should I just give up now? I'm obviously not going to use termite insecticides on it since I'd like to actually eat the vegetables...

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hortster(6a, southcentral KS)

I'm kind of talkin' out of school, here. I am not an entomologist, but my understanding of termites is that they are decomposers that attack DEAD plant tissue. Now, grubs (of which there are many, and are white like termites but differently shaped) can attack living tissue. With no pictures, my guess is that you are seeing other than termites, maybe some type of grub. Google termite, then grub, and repost if you can't take a picture.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 9:02PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I'm thinking that grubs would not be described as 'tiny'. However, kmgard might have uncovered an ant nest.

What makes you think that these are termites? Do you have tree stump nearby, or raised beds made of untreated lumber?

    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 11:32PM
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Dan Staley

Termites don't eat veggies. There is no way we can tell whether the garden is SOL.


    Bookmark   May 21, 2010 at 10:05AM
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For some reason I can't get the picture small enough to load... I do have a blog though, and I've posted about it here. The picture of the bug itself isn't that great, so I will try to upload it again here (just have a feeling it will be very small).

I've already googled my own photo though, and I'm almost positive it's termites. We used untreated pine to build the bed, and it's looking like this can actually be a pretty common problem here in the southeast (wood beds + moist soil = termites).

I hope hortster and dan are right, though - that they won't eat my plants. The red peppers might be a coincidence and maybe they died some other way. It was just strange that when I tried to dig them up (well away from the plant itself), they simply fell over at the soil line... like they had been severed or something).

It's a mystery! Thanks for trying to help...

Here is a link that might be useful: Kate's Termite Problem

    Bookmark   May 22, 2010 at 10:34AM
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Okay figured out how to do it with html... much better.

You can see photos of the whole garden here, but here is what I believe to be a termite (there were a LOT of them):

    Bookmark   May 22, 2010 at 10:44AM
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Dan Staley

Looks like termites from here. I doubt your plant issues have anything to do with the termites.


    Bookmark   May 22, 2010 at 11:16AM
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I saw some wood in that picture - the termites are probably going after the pieces of wood. I don't think they would damage plants. I use wood stakes for tomatoes - and get termites in them - but they never bother my tomato plants.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2011 at 11:42AM
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Termites food source is cellulose, and plant tissue is cellulose. Termites diet is not limited to wood but can be grass or any other source of cellulose. Termites also will travel quite long distances to get food. You can do a web search for "Termites", Termites food", "Termites diet", etc. and get a lot of hits most of which are nonesense.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2011 at 7:31AM
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i had same thing happen last year ... i had green peppers almost ready to pick and noticed coulpe days later was wilted and thought was from heat of summer/water and i touched it and it came right out of the soil with termites attached to it. I was told pepper plants are a woody stlye plant and they would be more likely to kill pepper plants than other plants like tomatoes etc. I was also told to use seven dust or think that was name not suppost to be bad on foods you eat , but oi never tried since my plants were killed. Everything else made it. I just checked my plants this afternoon and found some so im worried it will happen again

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 4:16PM
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Sevin is carbaryl a broad spectrum poison that is toxic to humans which is why the directions on the label tell you not to apply it quite some time before you plant to harvest that food. Carbaryl is not something anyone should want to use in their garden.
That is a termite in that picture, however, termites do not eat live, growing plants. Peppers and tomatoes are in the same plant family and are similar in growth habit and structure. Ron, whomever gave you that misinformation is someone that shold not be listened to.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 7:27AM
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For what its worth, I just googled for this same problem, same termites hanging out in my tomatoes, right around the roots. All the tomatoes in the 2 30 gallon containers are stunted. I transplanted some tomatoes and they bounced back to life. Not sure if the termites cause the problem but my tomatoes really don't like that specific container.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2011 at 3:19PM
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I buy the 3qf mulch/compose mixture to put around my trees and to mix with the soil to "soften" it. While I was pouring water from a two gallon container, the water flow was hard enough to cause the mixture to turn up from underneath exposing a lot of larva. They looked alot like the pictures shown on this forum. There were two types. I took a picture of one which came out nice using Paint. It looks very much like the "Worker Termite". I do not have a URL? site to post the picture but if you are using Mulch, which is wood chips, rotted wood ectra, it could very well be termites. I am concerned that they will eat the roots of my fruit tree? I guess I'll know in a couple of years. Then I can have an answer-----

    Bookmark   June 8, 2011 at 7:36PM
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Your picture looks like the bugs I have found in my garden. We have been treating for termites, with those traps they put around the house. Unfortunately they love my geraniums and have killed over half of them. The roots have been completely eaten away. So I do fear for my veggies as well. The weeds that have sprung up can be just brushed aside. There aren't any roots left! So now what? we are at a lose and I don't want to loose all the work that I've done.

Here is a link that might be useful: GardenWeb

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 1:02PM
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I posted the same question after a crop of corn plants started failing in rapid sucession. I have the little devils ione of my raised beds. Every one told me i was crazy for insitng that termites were eating my corn. Stating "they only eat DEAD celulose" Dont be fooled. My plants would start to show signs of wilt or a lack of water. I pulled one up and the entire lower portion of the plants was filled with them. I used nematoads and it did wonders. Its didnt eliminate all the termites but it killed off enough to save my crop =) Hope that helps

    Bookmark   May 13, 2013 at 9:39AM
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I noticed one of my pepper plants looked like it had been hit by cutworm. I pulled it up and half the stem below ground had been eaten away and the middle of the stem above ground were filled with termites. Trust me, I know what termites look like. I always thought they ate only dead cellulose also, but I guess I was wrong. My main problem is figuring out where they came from. It was in a raised bed with all purchased organic garden soil and compost on top of a layer of garden cloth.

I know they didn't come up out of my dirt, so they must have been in the bags I used to fill the raised bed. Now I don't know how to get rid of them and keep my garden organic. I know this is an older thread, but I am still interested in it.

My raised bed is made of concrete blocks, not wood, an there has never, in my lifetime anyway, been wood there.

This post was edited by mtwocats on Mon, Jul 8, 13 at 12:05

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 11:59AM
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Formosan termites, they will eat about anything, are known to exist only in the south eastern tier of the United States, Texas, Lousianna, Georgia, the Carolinas, Florida, Mississippi, etc. so people in colder areas need not be very concerned about them, yet. Since many people do not know how to tell the difference between a termite and an ant, or many other insects, most of the time people mistake the problem they have for something it is not.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 8:16AM
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Sorry Guys but termites does indeed eat peppers and eggplants at the stalk in the base the touch the soil and even about an inch underground, I lost a few eggplants and sweet pepers to them this week, its rare but they attack those plants. Its not ants in my case but termites. I was not sure at first because termites are not supposed to eat live plant tissue but it happened to some very healthy plants in my raised beds. I need something organic or at least not toxic to control them, any ideas?

    Bookmark   July 17, 2013 at 3:53PM
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If you asked me last year if termites killed plants, I would've said no way, they eat wood. This year they're in one of my garden beds. I discovered them today while harvesting radishes. I looked on one of them and noticed termites burrowed inside of it. I took out the termites and squished them and threw the radish in the compost bid. I dug around the soil and found more termites. I poured vinegar on the soil to kill them, but I know it's not going to get them all. So I ran to the computer and ordered beneficial nematodes. By the weekend, I'm hoping all termites will be eliminated.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2014 at 11:51PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i dont think benny nems work that fast ... more like years .. rather than days .. or weeks... or months ...


    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 4:01PM
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