Effect of Available Food Size on Search Tunnel Formation by the Formosan Subterranean Termite (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae)

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Formosan subterranean termite, Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki, search activity was assessed for changes in response to differences in available food size. Termites were acclimated for 24 h with 1 of 4 sizes of wood or no wood (control) and then allowed access to a tunneling chamber for 5 d. As food size increased in the feeding chamber, termite survival and food consumption increased but search tunnel volume decreased. The branching tunnel network pattern that formed was categorized by assigning tunnels to branching orders of primary, secondary, or tertiary. As available food size increased, termites excavated fewer tunnels in a network as evidenced by decreases in secondary and tertiary branch orders. An increase in food size also decreased the total length of a search tunnel network; because of decreases in primary and secondary branch order lengths. Search tunnel networks had proportionally more length devoted to primary tunnels and proportionally less to secondary tunnels as available food size increased. These results support the hypothesis that the Formosan subterranean termite adjusts search activity in response to available food size. This behavior should be considered when baiting for termite control because a large food supply may impact on efficacy.

Keywords: Coptotermes formosanus; food size; search; tunnel pattern; wood consumption

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 1999

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  • Journal of Economic Entomology is published bimonthly in February, April, June, August, October, and December. The journal publishes articles on the economic significance of insects and is divided into the following sections: apiculture & social insects; arthropods in relation to plant disease; forum; insecticide resistance and resistance management; ecotoxicology; biological and microbial control; ecology and behavior; sampling and biostatistics; household and structural insects; medical entomology; molecular entomology; veterinary entomology; forest entomology; horticultural entomology; field and forage crops, and small grains; stored-product; commodity treatment and quarantine entomology; and plant resistance. In addition to research papers, Journal of Economic Entomology publishes Letters to the Editor, interpretive articles in a Forum section, Short Communications, Rapid Communications, and Book Reviews.
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