Skip to main content
ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Invasive Insect Biocontrol & Behavior Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #289305

Research Project: Insect Management Systems for Urban Small Farms and Gardens

Location: Invasive Insect Biocontrol & Behavior Laboratory

Title: Task allocation in the tunneling behavior of workers of the formosan subterranean termite, coptotermes formosanus shiraki

Author
item Cornelius, Mary
item Gallatin, Erin - Former Ars Employee

Submitted to: Journal of Asia-Pacific Entomology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/28/2015
Publication Date: 8/5/2015
Publication URL: http://handle.nal.usda.gov/10113/61493
Citation: Cornelius, M.L., Gallatin, E.M. 2015. Task allocation in the tunneling behavior of workers of the formosan subterranean termite, coptotermes formosanus shiraki. Journal of Asia-Pacific Entomology. 18:637-642.

Interpretive Summary: Interpretive Summary: There is variation in the tunneling behavior of workers of the Formosan subterranean termite, where most of the excavation is conducted by a small number of individuals in a group, while the majority of individuals do little or no excavation. This study examined the role of 30 marked individuals in tunnel excavation on three consecutive days in order to determine if specific individuals continued to play a key role in tunnel excavation over time or if these highly active individuals were displaced by inactive or less active individuals as the tunnel expanded. The same individuals identified as top excavators during the first two hours of tunnel excavation were more likely than other individuals to be identified as top excavators during tunnel expansion on the following day. These top excavators were also more likely to perform the most work in the excavation of a new tunnel on the third day. These results demonstrate that specific individuals remain highly active for at least three days which provides further evidence that top excavators act as organizers in determining the orientation and branching patterns in the tunneling networks of Formosan subterranean termites. This research provides information about termite tunneling behavior that could lead to the development of more effective termite control products.

Technical Abstract: Technical Abstract: There is variation in the tunneling behavior of workers of the Formosan subterranean termite, Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki, where most of the excavation is conducted by a small number of individuals in a group, while the majority of individuals do little or no excavation. This study examined the role of 30 marked individuals in tunnel excavation on three consecutive days in order to determine if specific individuals continued to play a key role in tunnel excavation over time or if these highly active individuals were displaced by inactive or less active individuals as the tunnel expanded. Overall, there was an average of three individuals transporting > 20 loads of sand, 13 individuals transporting between 1-20 loads, and 14 individuals that did not transport any loads during each two-hour observation period. The same individuals identified as top excavators during the first two hours of tunnel excavation were more likely than other individuals to be identified as top excavators during tunnel expansion on the following day. These top excavators were also more likely to perform the most work in the excavation of a new tunnel on the third day. These results demonstrate that specific individuals remain highly active for at least three days which provides further evidence that top excavators act as organizers in determining the orientation and branching patterns in the tunneling networks of C. formosanus.