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J Insect Sci. 2011;11:162. doi: 10.1673/031.011.16201.

Influence of dry soil on the ability of Formosan subterranean termites, Coptotermes formosanus, to locate food sources.

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  • 1Southern Regional Research Center, Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture, 1100 Robert E. Lee Blvd., New Orleans, LA 70124, USA. Mary.Cornelius@ars.usda.gov


The effect of barriers of dry soil on the ability of Formosan subterranean termites, Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae), to construct tunnels and find food was evaluated. Termite movement and wood consumption in a three-chambered apparatus were compared between treatments with dry soil in the center container and 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 days, but not after 10 days. 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.

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