Tunnel specificity and forager movement in subterranean termites (Isoptera Rhinotermitidae and Termitidae)

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The movement of foragers of two species of Australian, subterranean, mound-building termites, Coptotermes lacteus (Froggatt) Rhinotermitidae) and Nasutitermes exitiosus (Hill) (Termitidae), was investigated in their natural habitat using artificial feeding sites along trenches dug to mimic natural forager tunnels that radiate out from the central mound-nests. Termites were dyed by self-feeding on cardboard soaked with histological fat-stains on one or two trenches and then termites were collected from other feeding sites at two and four weeks after the fat-stains were placed. At two and four weeks after marking commenced, 60-75% of marked termites were found in trenches containing the marked paper, and 2-16% were found in trenches on the opposite side of the nest. The proportion of marked termites in a sample was three to eight times greater in the trenches containing the marked paper relative to other trenches. Although difficulties with fat-stains used as markers might explain some of the observed patterns, it is evident that C. lacteus and N. exitiosus foragers do not move randomly between feeding sites in their natural habitat.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-201
Number of pages9
JournalBulletin of Entomological Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2002
Externally publishedYes


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