Effects of Disturbance-induced trauma on foraging by subterranean termites (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae)
Toxicant baiting systems are effective at population suppression against both the Formosan subterranean termite, Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki, and the Eastern subterranean termite, Reticulitermes flavipes (Kollar). However, trap shyness (i.e., station abandonment) is often quoted as a confounding factor affecting their success. We observed that C. formosanus field colonies occasionally abandoned established research field monitors when disturbed. We hypothesized that inadvertent trauma caused by trap disturbance could be a contributing factor to this abandonment phenomenon. We investigated the effects of the presence of physically-traumatized workers and soldiers on the consumption of food sources by C. formosanus and R. flavipes in a laboratory choice assay. Feeding was significantly reduced on food sources in contact with dead termites in laboratory trials with both termite species. Our results suggest that there is a continuum of behavioral interactions with dead nest mates, starting with anti-feedant effects and eventually, abandonment and walling-off of the dead termites and the source of mortality. Baiting protocols need to minimize disturbances that could cause trauma and subsequent avoidance of field monitors and baits.