Termites are recognised as the dominant invertebrates in tropical ecosystems and play a wholly beneficial role in the maintenance of these systems. However, since their diet is comprised solely of vegetable material, the economic impact of these usually inconspicuous insects on man-modified environments, such as agro-ecosystems, is substantial. Identifying termites is notoriously difficult and sound taxonomic work, enabling accurate identification, is of prime importance, not only for devising control measures of pests, but also as the foundation of all ecological research. Contact: Vivienne Uys, +27 (0)12 808 8285


Taxonomic research at the South African National Collection of Insects has a proud legacy. Following the restructuring of the former Division of Entomology in 1957, resulting in the Plant Protection Research Institute, Dr W.G.H. (Bill) Coaton, initiated the National Survey of Isoptera in 1958. This survey, which spanned a period of over 20 years, is the most extensive and comprehensive survey ever undertaken for any order of insect anywhere in the world. Almost every quarter degree square of southern Africa (excluding Botswana) was systematically sampled. The result is a world-renowned collection with over 35 000 colony samples. Dr Coaton published numerous taxonomic papers and described 22 new taxa. In addition to this collection, a world catalogue of termites and a comprehensive reprint library is housed at the SANC.

Mrs Vivienne Uys is presently the termite taxonomist and curator of this collection.

Projects in progress

  • A revision of the genus Crenetermes Silvestri (Termitidae: Termitinae).
  • The Termite Database - all accessions in the termite collection have been incorporated in an electronic database, which is currently being edited.
  • Termite identification and information service - this forms part of the insect identification service of the Biosystematics Division.