Main content area

Behavioral Responses of Two Subterranean Termite Species (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae) to Instant Freezing or Chilling Temperatures

Hu, X.P., Song, D.
Environmental entomology 2007 v.36 no.6 pp. 1450-1456
Coptotermes formosanus, Reticulitermes flavipes, subterranean termites, insect behavior, cold stress, temperature, cold tolerance, mortality
The behavioral responses to instant freezing or chilling temperatures and survivorship of the Formosan subterranean termite, Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki, and the Eastern subterranean termite, Reticulitermes flavipes (Kollar), were studied using a novel experimental design that closely simulated subterranean termites' natural in-ground environment. Both termite species responded to changes in temperature by exhibiting a downward mass movement from the cold to warmer area of constant temperature. However, the degrees of response were specific to the species and temperature regimen. Approximately 88 and 96% of R. flavipes escaped from instant 0°C and chilling regimens (from 24 to 0°C at a rate of 1°C/h or 1°C/12 h), respectively, compared with 77 and 91% of C. formosanus. No significant difference was detected between the two cooling regimens in either termite species. Controls resulted in a relatively even distribution within test tubes in both termite species. The small portion of the termites that did not escape endured a cold coma at a 24-h 0°C and had low mortality of 2.2 and <1% in R. flavipes and <5.2 and <3% in C. formosanus at instant and chilling regimens, respectively. This result may have implications for understanding group intelligence and decision making evolved by subterranean termites to survive temporary freezing cold.