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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: TERMITES: BIOLOGY, RISK ASSESSMENT AND SURVEILLANCE OF INVASIVE SPECIES Title: Aggregation and feeding behavior of the formosan subterranean termite (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae) on wood decayed by three species of wood rot fungi

Authors
item Cornelius, Mary
item Williams, Kelley
item Lovisa, Mary
item DE Lucca Ii, Anthony

Submitted to: Sociobiology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: January 31, 2012
Publication Date: July 15, 2012
Citation: Cornelius, M.L., Williams, K.A., Lovisa, M.P., De Lucca II, A.J. 2012. Aggregation and feeding behavior of the formosan subterranean termite (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae) on wood decayed by three species of wood rot fungi. Sociobiology. 59(3):667-680.

Interpretive Summary: The interactions of termites with wood rot fungi range from obligate mutualism to antagonism. By breaking down or chemically modifying lignin, wood rot fungi can facilitate the ability of termites to consume lignocellulose. Aggregation and feeding behavior of the Formosan subterranean termite was evaluated on wood decayed by three species of fungus that use different enzymatic pathways to degrade lignocellulose, a brown rot fungus and two white rot fungi. Termites aggregated on decayed sawdust from all three species in at least some of the tests. However, termites avoided sawdust decayed by the brown rot fungus in some cases. By removing cellulose while leaving the lignin behind, the brown rot fungus gradually makes the wood less palatable to termites as the rate of decay increases. However, the chemical modification of lignin by the brown rot fungus appears to facilitate termite feeding under at least some conditions. Termite feeding on blocks decayed for 90 d was significantly greater than on control blocks for all three species of fungi. Increasing our understanding of the interaction of termites with wood rot fungi could improve methods of termite control by leading to the identification of chemicals that attract termites to bait stations.

Technical Abstract: Aggregation and feeding behavior of the Formosan subterranean termite, Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki, was evaluated on wood decayed by three species of fungus that use different enzymatic pathways to degrade lignocellulose, the brown rot fungus, Gloeophyllum trabeum and two white rot fungi, Phanerochaete chrysosporium and Pycnoporus cinnibarinus. Although termites aggregated on decayed sawdust from all three species in at least some of the tests, sawdust decayed by P. chrysosporium elicited aggregation behavior by termites over the greatest range of incubation periods. In some tests, termites avoided sawdust decayed by G. trabeum. Termite feeding on blocks decayed for 90 d was significantly greater than on control blocks for all three species of fungi, despite the significantly lower decay rate of P. cinnibarinus. Increasing our understanding of the interaction of termites with wood rot fungi could lead to the identification of chemicals that attract termites to bait stations.

Last Modified: 12/21/2014
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