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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: BIOLOGICAL AND BIORATIONAL CONTROL OF THE FORMOSAN SUBTERRANEAN TERMITE Title: Effect of Soil Type and Moisture Availability on the Foraging Behavior of the Formosan Subterranean Termite (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae)

Authors
item Cornelius, Mary
item Osbrink, Weste

Submitted to: Journal of Economic Entomology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: March 23, 2010
Publication Date: June 1, 2010
Citation: Cornelius, M.L., Osbrink, W.L. 2010. Effect of Soil Type and Moisture Availability on the Foraging Behavior of the Formosan Subterranean Termite (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae). Journal of Economic Entomology. 103(3):799-807.

Interpretive Summary: This study examined the influence of soil type and moisture availability on termite foraging behavior. Physical properties of the soil affected both tunneling behavior and mud tube construction. Termites tunneled through sand faster than top soil and clay. In containers with top soil and clay, termites built mud tubes on the sides of the containers. In containers with sand, termites built mud tubes directly into the air and covered the sides of the container with a layer of sand. The interaction of soil type and moisture availability affected termite movement, feeding and survival. In bioassays with moist soils, termites were more likely to aggregate in top soil over potting soil and peat moss. However, termites were more likely to move into containers with dry peat moss and potting soil than containers with dry sand and clay. Termites were also significantly more likely to move into containers with dry potting soil than dry top soil. In the bioassay with dry soils, termite mortality was high even though termites were able to travel freely between moist sand and dry soil, possibly due to desiccation caused by contact with dry soil. Evaporation from potting soil and peat moss resulted in significant mortality, whereas termites were able to retain enough moisture in top soil, sand, and clay to survive for 25 d. The interaction of soil type and moisture availability influences the distribution of foraging termites in microhabitats. 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 for termite control.

Technical Abstract: This study examined the influence of soil type and moisture availability on termite foraging behavior. Physical properties of the soil affected both tunneling behavior and mud tube construction. Termites tunneled through sand faster than top soil and clay. In containers with top soil and clay, termites built mud tubes on the sides of the containers. In containers with sand, termites built mud tubes directly into the air and covered the sides of the container with a layer of sand. The interaction of soil type and moisture availability affected termite movement, feeding and survival. In bioassays with moist soils, termites were more likely to aggregate in top soil over potting soil and peat moss. However, termites were more likely to move into containers with dry peat moss and potting soil than containers with dry sand and clay. Termites were also significantly more likely to move into containers with dry potting soil than dry top soil. In the bioassay with dry soils, termite mortality was high even though termites were able to travel freely between moist sand and dry soil, possibly due to desiccation caused by contact with dry soil. Evaporation from potting soil and peat moss resulted in significant mortality, whereas termites were able to retain enough moisture in top soil, sand, and clay to survive for 25 d. The interaction of soil type and moisture availability influences the distribution of foraging termites in microhabitats.

Last Modified: 4/25/2014
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