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Effect of Chemical Cues on the Foraging and Tunneling Behavior of Formosan Subterranean Termites (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae)

M. L. Cornelius, W. L. Osbrink
Midsouth Entomologist 2015 v.8 pp. 1-9
Coptotermes formosanus, aggregation behavior, attractants, burrowing, byproducts, carbohydrates, containers, decay fungi, entomologists, extracts, field experimentation, foraging, guaiacol, lignin, sand, sports drinks, subterranean termites, testing, vanillin, wood
Wood rot fungi can cause directional tunneling, aggregation behavior and increased wood consumption by subterranean termites. Because vanillin and guaiacol are byproducts of lignin degradation, these chemicals were tested as potential attractants to Formosan subterranean termites, Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae). In tunneling tests, termites tunneled faster in sand treated with vanillin, but not guaiacol, compared with control sand. Termite responses to vanillin were compared to two other chemicals that had been previously shown to affect bait discovery in field tests, Summon Preferred Food Source™ and a sports drink. When discovery of bait tubes was monitored in a foraging arena, only extracts of Summon Preferred Food Source™ significantly increased the number of bait tubes colonized by termites. When the tunneling behavior of termites was compared in foraging arenas with treated and untreated sand, the number of termites tunneling in treated foraging arenas was significantly greater when sand was treated with a sports drink compared with the other treatments. In no-choice tests, wood consumption was much lower in containers when sand was treated with a sports drink compared to other treatments, suggesting that termites were ingesting the carbohydrates from the moistened sand. Although termites responded to vanillin in tunneling tests, vanillin did not have a significant effect on termite foraging behavior in comparison to the two other chemicals.