Landscape Mulches and Termite Nutritional Ecology: Growth and Survival of Incipient Colonies of Coptotermes formosanus (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae)

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Alate swarms are one of the major visible signs of the expansion of the Formosan subterranean termite, Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae), in an area. Successful establishment of an incipient colony is thought to mainly rely on available food resources and moisture. The large-scale use of tree-based mulches in landscapes may inadvertently contribute to local establishment and growth of C. formosanus colonies. This research investigated the nutritional ecology of incipient colonies of C. formosanus feeding on seven tree-based, weathered, and nonweathered landscape mulches: pine straw, pine bark, cedar wood, water oak, eucalyptus, cypress, and melaleuca. Incipient colonies of C. formosanus feeding on pine straw, either weathered or nonweathered, produced significantly more progeny over the course of 1-yr feeding than colonies feeding on the other mulches tested. Regardless of weathered or not, the incipient colonies feeding on pine straw, eucalyptus, bald cypress, and water oak mulches had significantly greater survival rates after 360 d (53–77%) than colonies feeding on the other mulches tested (0–13%), but colonies feeding on nonweathered water oak had significantly lower survival (8%) than those kept on weathered water oak (58%). Colony fitness values were significantly different between the weathering treatment groups and among the different types of mulches. With regard to colony growth characteristics, three distinct growth patterns were identified: a high number of progeny (>100) with high colony survival rate (>50%), a medium number of progeny (12–50) with high colony survival rate (>50%), and a small number of progeny (0–10) with low colony survival rate (<5%). These findings suggest that different types of mulch substrates could significantly impact the nutritional ecology of the founding pairs and the successful establishment of incipient colonies during the swarming season.

Keywords: Formosan subterranean termite; alates; integrated pest management; landscape mulch management

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2007

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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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