Submitted to: Environmental Entomology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/4/2003
Publication Date: 12/20/2003
Citation: Cornelius, M.L., Osbrink, W.L. 2003. Agonistic interactions between colonies of the Formosan subterranean termite (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae) in New Orleans, Louisiana. Environmental Entomology. 32:1002-1009.
Interpretive Summary: Interactions between colonies of subterranean termites is extremely variable, ranging from no observed aggression to fierce combat. In some cases, there has been a lack of aggression between different colonies of the Formosan subterranean termite. This study examined the prevalence of aggressive interactions among 11 Formosan Colonies collected from two locations in New Orleans, Louisiana. In 24-hour tests, 13 of the 40 colony pairs acted aggressively towards each other. In 14-day tests, 7 of the 9 colony pairs acted aggressively towards each other. In 1 hour observations of the behavior of marked individuals, there was considerable variation in the aggressive behavior of individual workers. This study demonstrates that interactions between Formosan colonies could influence strategies for termite control. If neighboring colonies are not aggressive, it is possible that more than one colony could be foraging at a bait station or that a large colony was formed due to the fusion of two non-aggressive colonies. If neighboring colonies act aggressively towards one another, bait stations within the foraging range of an aggressive colony will probably only eliminate a single colony at a time. This information will enable us to develop more effective commercial baiting programs for termite control which will benefit homeowners and pest control operators.
Technical Abstract: The pattern of agonistic behavior was examined for 11 colonies of the Formosan subterranean termite, Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki, collected from two locations in New Orleans, Louisiana. In 24-h tests, 13 of the 40 colony pairs displayed agonism in at least one replicate. Experiments were also conducted to determine how colonies interacted with each other in sand-filled test chambers and how agonistic behavior affected their foraging territories and survival over a 14-d period. Of the nine colony pairs tested, seven pairs exhibited agonism in the 14-d tests, including three pairs which had exhibited agonism in the 24-h test and four pairs which had not exhibited any agonism in the 24-h test. In tests where individual behavior was observed for 1 h, there was considerable variation in the aggressive behavior of individual workers.