Submitted to: Journal of Insect Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/19/2011
Publication Date: 11/11/2011
Citation: Cornelius, M.L., Osbrink, W.L. 2011. Influence of dry soil on the ability of Formosan Subterranean Termites, Coptotermes formosanus, to locate food sources. Journal of Insect Science. 11(162):1536-2442.
Interpretive Summary: The effect of barriers of dry soil on the ability of Formosan subterranean termites to construct tunnels and find food was evaluated. Termite movement between the three containers was significantly affected by both moisture and soil type. These results demonstrated that Formosan subterranean termites were able to tunnel through dry sand barriers more effectively than barriers of dry topsoil or clay and that dry clay appeared to have the most impact on termite movement. However, termites were much less likely to colonize wood located on dry sand than moist sand. The cost of relocating sufficient water to maintain humid conditions when both the wood and the soil are dry appears to present a substantial obstacle to foraging termites.
Technical Abstract: The effect of barriers of dry soil on the ability of Formosan subterranean termites, Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki, to construct tunnels and find food was evaluated. Termite movement and wood consumption in a three-chambered apparatus were compared for treatments where the soil in the center container was dry with treatments where the soil in the center container was moist. When a wood block was located in the release container, termites fed significantly more on that block, regardless of treatment or soil type. In the treatment with dry clay, none of the termites tunneled through the dry clay barrier to reach the distal container. When termites had to tunnel through a barrier of dry sand, topsoil, or clay to reach the sole wood block, there was no effect on wood consumption for the sand treatment, but there was significantly less feeding on wood in the treatments with dry topsoil or clay. When foraging arenas had a section of dry sand in the center, the dry sand significantly reduced tunneling in the distal section after 3 d, but not after 10 d. There was a highly significant effect on the ability of termites to colonize food located in dry sand. Only one feeding station located in dry sand was colonized by termites compared with 11 feeding stations located in moist sand.