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Bees are well known for giving people honey, and termites are well known for giving people a stressful time. However, termites can also create edible snacks for humans in the form of fungi. Fungi may not be as exciting as honey, but the manner in which termites create fungi is just as complicated as the process of making honey. Naturally, researchers are interested in learning more about the many forms of fungi cultivated by several different termite species. This is where the fields of entomology and mycology merge. Of course, entomology is the study of arthropods, like insects and spiders, but the lesser known “mycology” is the study of fungi. As far as Americans are concerned, termites are not good for anything, but Africans have a different opinion. The majority of fungi-cultivating termites dwell within the African continent. Many of the fungal mushrooms that are farmed by termites on the continent will eventually wind up in an African chef’s kitchen. In just about every African country, mushrooms cultivated by termites are consumed as a culinary tradition. In order to allow Americans to gain a better understanding of the fungal-farming activity exhibited by African termites, a Fulbright Visiting Fellow and professor of mycology at the University of Ethiopia, Dawit Abate, will travel to SUNY Cortland in order to lecture on termite-cultivated mushrooms. One of the more interesting aspects of Abate’s lecture will include the existence of mystery mushrooms that may or may not be cultivated by termites.

The name of Abate’s lecture, which is free to the public is “Mushrooms (Termitomyces) Farmed by Termites in Africa: Diversity, Utilization, Ethnomycology.” For decades it has been understood that mushroom-farming termites are not native to the Americas, but this may not be the case. Several reports from Colombia in South America describe mushrooms that seem to be cultivated by termites, but the insects responsible for the mushroom farms have yet to reveal themselves. This mystery will be the highlight of Abate’s lecture.

 

Would you be interested in learning more about termites in order to dispel some negative biases you may have against termites?

 

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