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Estimating Relative Decline in Populations of Subterranean Termites (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae) Due To Baiting

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Although mark-recapture protocols produce inaccurate population estimates of termite colonies, they might be employed to estimate a relative change in colony size. This possibility was tested using two Australian, mound-building, wood-eating, subterranean Coptotermes species. Three different toxicants delivered in baits were used to decrease (but not eliminate) colony size, and a single mark-recapture protocol was used to estimate pre- and postbaiting population sizes. For both species, the numbers of termites retrieved from bait stations varied widely, resulting in no significant differences in the numbers of termites sampled between treatments in either the preor postbaiting protocols. There were significantly fewer termites sampled in all treatments, controls included, in the postbaiting protocol compared with the pre-, suggesting a seasonal change in forager numbers. The comparison of population estimates shows a large decrease in toxicant treated colonies compared with little change in control colonies, which suggests that estimating the relative decline in population size using mark-recapture protocols might to be possible. However, the change in population estimate was due entirely to the significantly lower recapture rate in the control colonies relative to the toxicant treated colonies, as numbers of unmarked termites did not change between treatments. The population estimates should be treated with caution because low recapture rates produce dubious population estimates and, in some cases, postbaiting mark-recapture population estimates could be much greater than those at prebaiting, despite consumption of bait in sufficient quantities to cause population decline. A possible interaction between fat-stain markers and toxicants should be investigated if mark-recapture population estimates are used. Alternative methods of population change are advised, along with other indirect measures.

Keywords: Coptotermes acinaciformis; Coptotermes lacteus; Lincoln index; Neutral Red; Nile Blue A; mark-recapture

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1603/0022-0493-94.6.1602

Publication date: December 1, 2001

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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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