Impacts of Soil Moisture Level on Consumption and Movement of Three Sympatric Subterranean Termites (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae) in a Laboratory Assay

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Three subterranean termite species, Reticulitermes flavipes (Kollar), Reticulitermes tibialis Banks, and Reticulitermes virginicus (Banks), were collected from locations in northern Indiana and tested under laboratory conditions to determine whether preferential differences exist among species. Foraging behaviors and location of all three species were studied using a linear, three-dimensional assay with a soil moisture gradient (5, 15, 25, 35, 45, and 55% moisture by weight) and quantified by 1) consumption weights and 2) location counts. In a 7-d period, R. flavipes and R. tibialis consumed almost twice as much filter paper as R. virginicus. No significant difference in feeding was attributed to moisture level for R. tibialis, but there were differences for R. flavipes and R. virginicus. In terms of location of harborage, there were clear patterns associated with moisture level, as predicted using a Poisson distribution. Results from consumption and location data show unique patterns among species, and illustrate species-specific variation in feeding location and nesting preference in response to moisture. There are significant differences in movement patterns, consumption, and mortality among Indiana Reticulitermes according to the laboratory assay. These findings contribute to the overall understanding of midwestern Reticulitermes termites.

Keywords: Reticulitermes flavipes; Reticulitermes tibialis; Reticulitermes virginicus; foraging; soil moisture

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2005

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