I've been working professionally for over 25 years designing and constructing exhibits for museums, zoos and aquariums that tell the story of the amazing plants and animals on this planet. Interestingly enough, none of these stories have captivated my attention like the one about termites. Ever since constructing my first prototype termite habitat for a natural history museum in California way back in 1982, I've wanted to bring the simply astonishing world of termites to a wider audience. As scientists, academics and even robotics engineers study these amazing creatures, they are discovering how sophisticated termite adaptations are and the instrumental part these insects play - they are the 200 million year old master recyclers of the Earth's carbon who also share a social behavior system similar to ours.
Kickstarter and your pledge will make this dream a reality.
New News! Now available in Virginia! (even though a pledge description might state otherwise)
There are over 2750 different species of termites in the world and 50 of those are found in North America. The large and interesting species I use is the Pacific Dampwood Termite, Zootermopsis. I have amassed extensive professional experience with this species since the early 80's. I have permits to allow regulated shipment of this low risk termite to most states in the US. It is not one of the subterranean or drywood termites which both account for almost all of the damage to wood structures in North America. Even though the Dampwoods have some misbehaving relatives, it's time to take a really deeper look into one of the wonders of the insect world. As one of the most amazing yet mostly passed over organisms on our planet due to their unfortunate misrepresentation as a "pest," these misunderstood, complex and evolved insects are incredibly fascinating to observe and have important lessons to teach us.
TERMITAT - the habitat for termites
To bring to light the intriguing world of termites, I have designed a beautiful, safe, yet simple way to observe them up close. After many years of development and many prototypes and experiments, I'm finally ready to introduce the Termitat. In the two model choices of this secure, escape-proof and beautiful 1/4 inch thick acrylic tabletop habitat, a colony of live termites will live happily in their sealed yet visible world for years with the absolute minimum of care. Just add a thimbleful of water with a supplied applicator about every two weeks and watch your own colony build, groom, feed, and communicate with each other. You will have years of pleasure observing their interesting social behaviors and progress with their built-in food supply. After the termites take approximately 2 to 3 years to consume the installed wood, the Termitat can be returned, and for a very modest charge, it will be sent back with new wood and even a new colony if needed. The Termitat will be made in two different styles and have optional add-ons such as magnifiers.
Even with the soldiers being up to 3/4" long and quite observable with the naked eye, with the acrylic light-gathering magnifier or electronic USB 200X min. microscope you can observe the more minute details such as wood digestion and minute aspects of their body features and behavior.
The Companion Book
Did you know that termites use millions of microbes in a symbiotic relationship to digest wood into usable sugars and that this relationship has lasted 200 million years? This information along with much more about termite anatomy, natural history, and social behavior is found in the comprehensive 32 page, full-color illustrated companion book. This book comes with every Termitat and will answer most if not all of the common questions about this fascinating, living, conversation starter. Below are some sample pages.
Sample pages from the companion book:
Continued Learning and Support
In addition to the book, an extensive bibliography of more in-depth and scientific literature on termites will be included on a companion website that will be launched soon. This website will be the place to get all of the latest information on Termitats, share stories, and obtain any service and additional accessories that may help the learning and viewing experience.
Termites in the News
Termites have been in the news a lot lately, and as we find out more about these amazing creatures this interest will only grow. For instance, new research at Harvard University in its TERMES Project is revealing secrets about why the brains and building behavior of termites are so efficient and successful. See a video from their project below.
In the Termitat you will be able to observe how this behavioral system requires no central control. For instance, it allows certain African termites to build elaborate temperature controlled mega-structures that have built-in food producing "farms." These "smart swarm" decision making behaviors are currently being intensely studied to see if similar behaviors could be used by humans to effectively program robots for similar capabilities.
Additionally, work is currently underway to unlock the secrets of the termite's digestion of cellulose. Scientists are interested in this type of digestion as they believe it could lead to the development of a new source of fuel to replace fossil fuels. And besides, even in the extensive history of successful and unusual adaptations by insects, this one is pretty top notch. Cellulose is the most abundant organic molecule on Earth.
- Home: a smart, high-tech addition to any desktop or shelf for years of observation and enjoyment
- Office: an attractive conversation starter that will aesthetically fit in with any desktop electronic device
- Classroom: a great way to introduce and illustrate many subjects in biology, sociology, physics, etc. And it can survive a two month summer break with no care!
- Interactive Museums: the robust construction makes it a perfect tabletop exhibit with low maintenance
- Other Educational Institutions: applications to countless fields of study in higher education
- Waiting rooms: along with the companion book, the Termitat will fascinate adult and child alike while it educates about the natural world
- Termite Professionals: Habitats effectively and vividly demonstrate the effects of termite activity over time
How You Can Help
Your pledges will get this start-up in high gear. The pledge funds will pay for the volume ordering of acrylic parts, packaging, microscope accessories, book printing and final design, etc. The Termitat cases are made from very durable and beautifully styled acrylic, and I will need to make large initial orders to keep the prices low. An expensive plastic injection mold must be created to make the internal ring that is held inside the acrylic case. With your pledge I will have the ability to have this mold custom made to allow high volume fabrication.
Additionally, the Pacific Dampwood Termites and wood used inside the enclosure are all sustainably farmed and harvested. This is a time consuming process so I will need to hire help. Your pledge will go towards these very important start up costs and will directly aid in bringing the science and intrigue of termites to a wide audience.
A. The Tower model is 14"H x 9"W x 3.25"D, the Tripod is 11"H x 9"W x 4.5"D
A- Approximately 25 workers and soldiers.
A.- Updates will be sent out by email to customers who have requested to be on the notification list.
Please note that the Termitat is not available to ship internationally or to any of these states and districts at this time: DC, ND, TN, WV, PA, MD, AK, HI, LA, ME, FL.
Risks and challenges
If Termitat is received by Kickstarter as well as we have predicted, we will finish the campaign with strong demand for all the rewards. The funding from the effort will facilitate the manufacturing of the mold needed, the ordering and production of the acrylic components, receipt of the magnifying accessories, and the printing of the illustrated companion book. All of this will assure a prompt delivery of the ordered rewards to you, the enthusiastic supporters. Those deliveries are confidently expected to begin on time on the dates outlined above. The supply chain dynamics are always a challenge, but we plan on setting up parallel suppliers so that there is a good measure of redundancy that we can count on to assure prompt delivery of the initial pledges.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (36 days)