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Termite Trouble

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Donald demonstrates why metal ladders are better.

"Some primal termite knocked on wood
Tasted it, and found it good
And that is why your Cousin May
Fell through the parlor floor today."
— "The Termite" by Ogden Nash

Termites are portrayed in fiction as very fast munchers of wood who gleefully turn floors, furniture, ladders and other wooden items into sawdust to the tune of saw blade sounds; often, they are simply a terrifying invisible force that rapidly disintegrates wood. They are often a problem in buildings and may require fumigation tents.

Compare Literal Bookworm for another destructive bug, and Ant Assault for another troublemaking crawling insect swarms. See also Horde of Alien Locusts.


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    Comic Books 
  • Gaston Lagaffe: Lebrac throws a bottle of termites at Gaston's Gaffophone over the weekend. On Monday morning, doors collapse, desks crumble to dust, pencils are gone... Gaston quickly puts two and two together and goes to check on his instrument... which is sitting untouched by the termites.
  • Lucky Luke: In the comic "The Bridge on the Mississippi", the evil mayor suggests that the opening of a wooden bridge be celebrated by swinging a bottle of champagne against it. As a test a seemingly empty bottle is used, but it really contains termites, which begin to eat the bridge from the inside. Then the cavalry attempts to ride across the bridge, but it collapses under their weight. And of course, this part of the river just happens to be full of alligators...
  • Wonder Woman (1942): The Robert Kanigher run features the Termite Queen, a one-shot villain who appears in issue #58. She's a monster termite with a vicious hatred of humans and the ability to telepathically command termites, which she uses to make them consume metal and wreak havoc.

  • Animorphs: This is a major plot point in the ninth book, The Secret. The team is forced to morph into termites to infiltrate a Yeerk logging front and lose themselves in the simple, overpowering hive-minded instincts of the termites.
  • Chrysalis (RinoZ): The Mother Tree is a persistent problem for any groups in the Dungeon whom it doesn't like (and it's somewhat insane and rather good at holding grudges), so the Kaarmodo breed a swarm of monstrous termites to take it down.
    Grove Keeper: [The termites have proven to be a dangerous foe for my kind...]
    Anthony: Well yeah, you're literally made of wood.
  • No Score: The narrator works for a little while with a scam company which sells termite inspection and extermination door to door; they carry small vials of termites to release so the homeowner can actually see them.
  • Professor Mmaa's Lecture is set in the termite society, so it's no surprise this trope comes up. In their scientific research on a particular human's home, the termites explore thoroughly his walls and his furniture by eating tunnels through them—causing the guy's house to collapse.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Family Matters: In one episode, Steve creates a batch of super termites. Unfortunately, they get loose and end up devouring Eddie and Waldo's apartment building, to the point that the apartment above them caves in.
  • Good Luck Charlie: In the third season finale, "All Fall Down", Bob catches Brazilian termites and takes them to his house to show his family. The termites escape and multiply, and despite his best efforts to catch them, Bob doesn't succeed and the Duncan house is destroyed by the termites, forcing the Duncan family to live in a hotel until they can get their house repaired (and they do in the Season 4 premiere, "Duncan Dream House").

    Puppet Shows 
  • Between the Lions: In an Arty Smartypants segment, Arty reads a book about a termite who keeps eating the houses of other animals and forcing them to relocate. At the end, the termite meets his match when he eats the house of an ostrich, who traps him in a jar.
  • Sesame Street: In an "Abby's Flying Fairy School" segment, Blogg turns himself into a wooden puppet when he tries to make his puppet dance, and Abby and Gonnigan have to guide him through the Pinocchio Process to turn him back to normal. In the first step of the process, Blogg has to hop with a cricket, and during this time, a termite crawls onto his foot. This causes him, Abby and Gonnigan to worry, since termites eat wood. Fortunately for them, the termite refuses to eat Blogg, as after tasting his foot, he says "This wood Tastes Like Feet!" and runs away afterwards.

  • In one recording of The Jack Benny Program, when Jack was packing for a trip, he told Rochester to pack his violin. Rochester joked that when he looked inside the case, all he saw was a fat termite that spit the bridge at him. Jack isn't amused.

    Video Games 
  • Banjo-Kazooie: Tickers are termite based enemies found primarily within Ticker's Tower on Mumbo's Mountain, and later the giant Christmas tree in Freezeezy Peak. Unlike most examples, they're not really interested in wood, though once Mumbo turns Banjo into a termite, they desire Banjo's clothing and demand he give it to them.
  • Escape from Monkey Island: Guybrush must at one point infest the baddie's cane with a handful of termites so that he can follow the resulting trail of sawdust to the villain's lair. By the time you get there, the cane has dissolved completely.
  • Romancing Saga 2: The termites come closer to destroying the world than the Seven Heroes ever did. Epecially later in the game where they manage to take over Avalon Castle.
  • Runaway: A Road Adventure: one Moon Logic Puzzle relies on a case of Somewhere, an Entomologist Is Crying, as you need to use peanut butter to lure a hive of "ants" to destroy a wooden structure as if they were termites.

    Western Animation 
  • Aaahh!!! Real Monsters: Used benevolently in "Tree of Ickis". When Ickis is transformed into a tree after eating an acorn, Oblina and Krumm gather up termites to free him from his wooden prison. However, it is complicated when Ickis is cut down and placed on a sawmill conveyor belt to be turned into baseball bats. Luckily, Oblina and Krumm use the termites to save Ickis and turn him back to normal seconds before the buzzsaw could slice him. Ickis even offers the termites to Gooloog, another monster who suffered the same issue he did, but he declines, having grown fond of his current state.
  • Adventures of the Gummi Bears: In the Grand Finale, Duke Igthorn seeks out a highly destructive termite known as Big Tooth and plants it on Zummi, who unknowingly takes it back to Gummi Glen. Even though Gummi Glen was built to last, it's still wood, and the termite completely demolishes the Gummis' home.
  • Aladdin: The Series: In one episode, the villain Mechaniklies creates an army of mechanical termites to destroy the rain forests. This is a unique variation as by being mechanical, the termites here don't just eat wood, they eat anything, including living flesh.
  • The Ant and the Aardvark: In "Rough Brunch", the Aardvark fights a termite (and his family) who can eat through wood products at lightning speed with the accompanying sound of a buzzsaw. There's a complete episode guide here and the episode is viewable here.
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force: One episode has Carl's house infested with termites that Meatwad ordered as pets.
    Carl: Certainly not gonna sign off on anymore packages with the word "Congo" written in blood.
  • The Berenstain Bears: One episode has Con Artist Raffish Ralph teaming up with a termite named Terrible Termite in order to sell termite insurance. Terrible Termite turns against Ralph when he realizes that the insurance is really a Monster Protection Racket and forces him to return the money by threatening to eat his houseboat.
  • DuckTales (1987): The mites in "Attack of the Metal Mites" are tiny insects designed by Glomgold's scientists to eat metal instead of wood. They cause plenty of damage all over the city of Duckburg and even mange to devour Fenton's otherwise indestructible Gizmoduck suit.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy: In the episode, "Gimme, Gimme Never Ed", the Eds create thrill rides for Plank, one of them being a glide over a log filled with termites. Plank avoids the termites, but ends up in a tree. When the Eds climb up the tree to retrieve him, the termite jar in Ed's pocket accidentally falls out and they get loose, devouring the tree instantly. While Plank lands safely in Jonny's grasp, the Eds fall into the river and go over an Inevitable Waterfall.
  • Eek! The Cat: "The Eeksterminator" has Eek accidentally breaking Wendy Elizabeth's inflatable Squishy Bears cage of termites and dealing with a termite that freed from the cage.
  • The Lion Guard: In "Too Many Termites", the Lion Guard mistake a pack of aardwolves for a pack of hyenas and chase them out of the Pride Lands. As a result, the Pride Lands become overrun with termites, which cause the hollow tree the Mekendu Bats live in and a thick tree bridge to fall apart. To save the Pride Lands, the Lion Guard have to own up to the aardwolves and convince them to come back so they can eat the termites.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • In one cartoon, Porky Pig has to deal with a termite caricatured as a French-Canadian lumberjack. The exterminator Porky hires causes far more trouble for him than the termite. Porky and the termite soon become friends and go into business opening an antique furniture store.
    • The Warner Bros. Animation studio in The Golden Age of Animation was called "Termite Terrace" by Tex Avery and the other employees, due to the title trope.
    • One of the Gremlins from the Kremlin in Russian Rhapsody uses "termiteskis" to get rid of the wings on Adolf Hitler's plane.
  • The Loud House: In "Ruthless People", the Loud house is infested with termites, forcing half of the Loud family to stay at Sunset Canyon retirement home, and the other half to stay with Aunt Ruth. Lincoln, Lori, Lola, Luna, Lynn, and Mr. Loud manage to convince Leni, Lana, Luan, Lucy, Lisa, Lily and Mrs. Loud to stay with Aunt Ruth, but the former group later finds out the disadvantages of staying at Sunset Canyon and that Aunt Ruth bought a lake house where the other half of the family is living it up, so Lincoln, Lori, Lola, Luna, Lynn, and Mr. Loud manage to convince Leni, Lana, Luan, Lucy, Lisa, Lily and Mrs. Loud to stay at Sunset Canyon instead. However, the former half soon finds out that the lake house is also infested by the very same termites, thanks to Lana saving them from being exterminated. Meanwhile, Leni, Lana, Luan, Lucy, Lisa, Lily and Mrs. Loud are having a good time on a cruise ship thanks to Sunset Canyon's air conditioning breaking down, much to the ire of Lincoln, Lori, Lola, Luna, Lynn, and Mr. Loud.
  • The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: The episode "Tigger's Houseguest" is about a termite eating the characters out of house and home and Tigger befriending said termite when mistaking it for a different kind of bug.
  • Oggy and the Cockroaches: A termite has gigantic metal jaws and can reduce anything to splinters in a second. Even electrical appliances.
  • Phineas and Ferb: Invoked in "The Magnificent Few" by Doofenshmirtz, who has raised an army of termites that he plans to unleash all over the Tri-State Area, destroying all the wood in the area and allowing him to corner the market on his own brand of aluminum siding.
  • The Pink Panther: In "Pink Pest Control", a termite bedevils the panther by literally eating him out of house and home. Watchable here.
  • Pink Panther and Pals: "The Mighty Pinkwood Tree" is about Mr. Bignose's attempts to get rid of the enormous tree supporting the Panther's treehouse to make a highway overpass in its place. One of his attempts is to invoke this trope by releasing a termite near the tree and hoping it'll eat the tree to the point of felling it, but the Panther thwarts it by sending down a termite of the opposite gender which leads to the two insects falling in love. After all of Bignose's other attempts (one of which was to release a beaver to a similar effect, only for it to enjoy the Panther's wood cooking) also fail, the Panther and his new animal buddies take pity on Bignose and carve a hole into the trunk of the tree, allowing the latter to build the highway so it passes through it.
  • Popeye: In "Insect To Injury", Popeye tries to defend his newly-built home from termites. These appear as only a small patch of very tiny shapes, but are capable of devouring enormous volumes of wood in seconds and manage to completely erase Popeye's house with only swollen bellies at the end. After eating his spinach, he rebuilds his house completely out of steel; the termites try to eat this too, but get only broken teeth for their trouble.
  • A Pup Named Scooby-Doo: In an episode "The Story Stick", Velma mail-ordered a single termite to deal with the totem spirit, which it did.
  • The Simpsons: In "Helter Shelter", the family is forced to live in a 19th Century home as part of a reality show because their house was badly damaged by termites living in a hockey stick.
  • Space Goofs: An episode has a crooked door-to-door salesman sneak a termite in the house so he can sell (non-functional) means to exterminate it.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987): One episode features a swarm of termites that were deliberately mutated to eat brick and concrete accidentally released from a lab.
  • Tex Avery MGM Cartoons: In "The Peachy Cobbler", which spoofs The Elves and the Cobbler, an elf uses a termite to make wooden clogs.
  • Tom and Jerry: An episode of the 1970s series deals with a gang of termites on tiny motorcycles with sawblade wheels.
  • Woody Woodpecker: "Termites From Mars" feature intergalactic termites that can chew through anything. Except adhesive tape.
  • Zoo Cup: The last episode is about a soccer match between kangaroos and termites. Or rather it should be. Because just when kangaroos and the commentator are busy wondering where the termites' team and their supporters are, the termites eat up the entire stadium in seconds.


Mr. Stubborn

Termites are CHEAP!

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