Effects of Disturbance-induced trauma on foraging by subterranean termites (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae)

Abstract

Toxicant baiting systems are effective at population suppression against both the Formosan subterranean termite, Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki, and the Eastern subterranean termite, Reticulitermes flavipes (Kollar). However, trap shyness (i.e., station abandonment) is often quoted as a confounding factor affecting their success. We observed that C. formosanus field colonies occasionally abandoned established research field monitors when disturbed. We hypothesized that inadvertent trauma caused by trap disturbance could be a contributing factor to this abandonment phenomenon. We investigated the effects of the presence of physically-traumatized workers and soldiers on the consumption of food sources by C. formosanus and R. flavipes in a laboratory choice assay. Feeding was significantly reduced on food sources in contact with dead termites in laboratory trials with both termite species. Our results suggest that there is a continuum of behavioral interactions with dead nest mates, starting with anti-feedant effects and eventually, abandonment and walling-off of the dead termites and the source of mortality. Baiting protocols need to minimize disturbances that could cause trauma and subsequent avoidance of field monitors and baits.

  • Citation: Woodrow, R.J., Shelton, T.G., Oshiro, R.J., Grace, J.K.; Wagner, T.L. 2008. Effects of Disturbance-induced trauma on foraging by subterranean termites (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae). Sociobiology 52(1):107-118.
  • Keywords: Disturbance, Foraging behavior, Nestmate interactions, Termite
  • Posted Date: December 16, 2009
  • Modified Date: July 21, 2010
  • Print Publications Are No Longer Available

    In an ongoing effort to be fiscally responsible, the Southern Research Station (SRS) will no longer produce and distribute hard copies of our publications. Many SRS publications are available at cost via the Government Printing Office (GPO). Electronic versions of publications may be downloaded, printed, and distributed.

    Publication Notes

    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.
    • Our online publications are scanned and captured using Adobe Acrobat. During the capture process some typographical errors may occur. Please contact the SRS webmaster if you notice any errors which make this publication unusable.
    • To view this article, download the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader.