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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Effect of Particle Size of Different Sands on the Tunneling Behavior of the Formosan Subterranean Termite (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae)

Author
item Cornelius, Mary

Submitted to: Sociobiology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: February 20, 2005
Publication Date: February 20, 2005
Citation: Cornelius, M.L. 2005. Effect of particle size of different sands on the tunneling behavior of the formosan subterranean termite (isoptera: rhinotermitidae). Sociobiology 45:173-184.

Interpretive Summary: This study examined the effect of particle size on the tunneling behavior of the Formosan subterranean termite by comparing the rate of tunneling in sand that is uniformly coarse (20-30 mesh = .84 -.59 mm), uniformly fine (100-120 mesh = .149-.125 mm), and play sand, a mixture of coarse to medium-grained particles (20-50 mesh = .84-.30 mm), that also included a small number of very coarse particles (10-18 mesh = 1-2 mm). Particle size had a highly significant effect on the rate of tunneling. In paired choice tests, termites tunneled completely through pipette tips filled with coarse sand first when paired with either fine or play sand in all the replicates and through play sand first when paired with fine sand in all but one of the replicates. In no-choice tests, termites tunneled through coarse sand faster than either play or fine sand and through play sand faster than fine sand. Termites were able to tunnel more rapidly through coarse sand than either play or fine sand by picking up and moving individual coarse particles. Since these individual particles were larger than the other sand particles, there were fewer individual particles for termites to move. Constructing new tunnels in fine sand required more effort by termites. Increasing our understanding of termite tunneling behavior will contribute to the development of more effective termite control products. This research will benefit both the pest control industry and the consumer by providing information that may lead to the development of more effective methods of termite control.

Technical Abstract: This study examined the effect of particle size on the tunneling behavior of the Formosan subterranean termite, Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki, by comparing the rate of tunneling in sand that is uniformly coarse (20-30 mesh = .84 - .59 mm), uniformly fine (100-120 mesh = .149-.125 mm), and play sand, a mixture of coarse to medium-grained particles (20-50 mesh = .84-.30 mm), that also included a small number of very coarse particles (10-18 mesh = 1-2 mm). Particle size had a highly significant effect on the rate of tunneling. In paired choice tests, termites tunneled completely through pipette tips filled with coarse sand first when paired with either fine or play sand in all the replicates and through play sand first when paired with fine sand in all but one of the replicates. In no-choice tests, termites tunneled through coarse sand faster than either play or fine sand and through play sand faster than fine sand. In no-choice tests, the colony with the significantly greater average worker weights tunneled faster than the colony with smaller average worker weights. However, when the experimental design was changed, there were no significant differences in time taken to tunnel through sand-filled tubing by the two colonies. Hence, in this study, effect of average worker weights on the rate of tunneling depended on the design of the bioassay. The total area tunneled in sand-filled test chambers was significantly greater in replicates filled with either coarse or play sand compared with fine sand after 24 or 48h. Termites were able to tunnel more rapidly through coarse sand than either play or fine sand by picking up and moving individual coarse particles. Since these individual particles were larger than the other sand particles, there were fewer individual particles for termites to move. Constructing new tunnels in fine sand required the more effort by termites.

Last Modified: 8/27/2014
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