Cookies on Plantwise Knowledge Bank

Like most websites we use cookies. This is to ensure that we give you the best experience possible.


Continuing to use means you agree to our use of cookies. If you would like to, you can learn more about the cookies we use.

Plantwise Knowledge Bank

Your search results

Plantwise Factsheets for Farmers

Oil and ash to protect grain barns from termites

Cryptotermes  ssp.

Recognize the problem

Termites (lumoma in Tonga) are ½ to 2 cm wingless insects and some are even bigger. They have big heads with pincer-like mouthparts and a big abdomen. Termites eat wooden structures so they can destroy grain barns. They are also pests of various crops at almost all growth stages. In the case of maize, termites are destructive when the crop has matured and stalks have dried up. Termites also destroy the maize in the barn. Termites eat tunnel-like patterns which start where the ground meets the wood or crop and go upwards or sideways. These tunnels will often be covered with dry soil round about them.


Termites can eat a lot of wood and crops because they live in colonies of many hundreds, even thousands. Termites cannot fly and must crawl up the wood or crops. Engine oil contains substances which repel termites. Similarly, wood ash repels termites when applied to the wood. Therefore, used engine oil or ash can be applied on the storage structures to safe guard the structures and grains.


The farmer can decide to use either ash mixture or engine oil.

Ash mixture
  • Get ash and add clean water to make the ash mixture
  • The ash mixture should be thick and sticky
  • Paint the ash mixture over the pole stands of the storage structure and the outer ring of the wooden floor
  • The ash mixture can also be sprinkled around the barn walls close to the poles

Used engine oils

  • Get used engine oil from vehicles, local machinery services, or other sources
  • Paint the oil over the pole stands of the storage structure and the outer ring of the wooden floor. Wear at least mask and gloves.

The recommendations in this factsheet are relevant to: Zimbabwe, Malawi, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia

Authors: Dennis Mooya
Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock of Zambia, District Agricultural Coordinator’ Office
tel: +260 977 349394 email:
©CAB International. Published under a CC-BY-SA 4.0 licence.

Plantwise Factsheets Library app

Get all of the factsheets and pest management decision guides from this website in an offline format via the Plantwise Factsheets Library app.