Our "Purple Fungus" Termites
In February 2005, after ample winter rains, we turned over an old tree stump which had lain on its side for more than a year on a terrace in lower Hot Springs Canyon. Doing so, we found the damp, exposed underside of this stump to be covered in a number of places with a purple fungus: Looking at it closely, it was clear that it formed only a thin layer on the damp wood,
but looking across the wood more generally we saw that a number of tiny termites were very slowly moving about over and around the fungus. They seemed to be closely associated with it: (Click on each image to enlarge it.)
Looking more closely at the wood surfaces, it appeared to us that the termites may be eating the surface wood that the fungus has "pre-softened", so to speak. Some of the brightened wood surfaces, suggesting recent consumption, are close beside the fungus. Or perhaps the association is merely due to both creatures' attraction to the damp wood. Closeups of these termites show interesting patterns on their rather translucent abdomens.
While we did not get adequate images of the mandibles of these termites, the one photo we did get suggests similarity to the Type "C" Desert Termites (Termitidae) illustrated in our main Termites page:
(Click on the image to enlarge it.)
However, we did not see the "extensive above-ground earthen structures" typical of Desert Termites on this particular wood.