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Quantitative Changes in Hydrocarbons over Time in Fecal Pellets of Incisitermes minor May Predict Whether Colonies Are Alive or Dead

Lewis, Vernard R., Nelson, Lori J., Haverty, Michael I., Baldwin, James A.
Journal of chemical ecology 2010 v.36 no.11 pp. 1199-1206
Incisitermes minor, drywood termites, hydrocarbons, pellets, sampling, wood
Hydrocarbon mixtures extracted from fecal pellets of drywood termites are species-specific and can be characterized to identify the termites responsible for damage, even when termites are no longer present or are unable to be recovered easily. In structures infested by drywood termites, it is common to find fecal pellets, but difficult to sample termites from the wood. When fecal pellets appear after remedial treatment of a structure, it is difficult to determine whether this indicates that termites in the structure are still alive and active or not. We examined the hydrocarbon composition of workers, alates, and soldiers of Incisitermes minor (Hagen) (family Kalotermitidae) and of fecal pellets of workers. Hydrocarbons were qualitatively similar among castes and pellets. Fecal pellets that were aged for periods of 0, 30, 90, and 365 days after collection were qualitatively similar across all time periods, however, the relative quantities of certain individual hydrocarbons changed over time, with 19 of the 73 hydrocarbon peaks relatively increasing or decreasing. When the sums of the positive and negative slopes of these 19 hydrocarbons were indexed, they produced a highly significant linear correlation (R ² = 0.89). Consequently, the quantitative differences of these hydrocarbons peaks can be used to determine the age of worker fecal pellets, and thus help determine whether the colony that produced them is alive or dead.