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Desert Subterranean Termites: A Method for Studying Foraging Behavior

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Abstract

Subterranean termites are among the most abundant but cryptic of animals, a factor making behavioral studies very difficult. Consequently little is known of their foraging behavior or general activity patterns. Previous studies have been restricted mainly to mound builders (Bouillon and Lekie 1964) or harvesters which forageopenly on the soil surface (Bouillon 1970, Nel 1968). A few estimates of subterranean termite populations have been based on baiting with attractive materials or soilcore sampling (Sands (972).
... Many termite species search out and forage on patches of cellulose. This foraging behaviour makes baiting with cellulose-rich dead wood or toilet rolls (using the full roll and not just the cardboard inner) a successful method for sampling and monitoring termites (La Fage et al. 1973;French and Robinson 1980;Ferrar 1982;Dawes-Gromadzki 2003;Galbiati et al. 2005;Schuurman 2005;Davies et al. 2013). Baits are typically arranged in a grid fashion, spaced 5-10 m apart, either buried or placed directly on the soil surface, and left in situ for a specified amount of time after which they are checked for termites and/or signs of termite activity (Fig. 1b). ...
... However, termite abundance in these systems is substantially lower than in other biomes and only baiting appears to be a successful sampling approach (Johnson and Whitford 1975;Ettershank et al. 1980). Indeed, the use of toilet rolls as cellulose baits, which are now commonly used to sample termites across multiple habitats, was pioneered in the Chihuahua Desert (La Fage et al. 1973). In contrast, active searching transects would yield very few termite specimens in deserts, as they do in semi-arid and arid savannas, and are not recommended. ...
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Termites are globally dominant and functionally important soil organisms. While their role in ecosystems is being increasingly recognised and understood, methods that adequately sample termite communities across habitats can be challenging and have not advanced at the same pace as studies of termite ecology. Moreover, the appropriateness of sampling methods varies with habitat and biogeographic region due to differences in termite communities. Focusing largely on tropical systems where the majority of termites occur, we review currently available termite sampling methods and provide recommendations for sampling across different biomes and biogeographic regions. Active searching transects are most effective in rainforest habitats, whereas reduced transects, baiting and mound surveys are more appropriate in grassy systems and seasonally dry forests. Baiting is recommended for deserts. Recent advances in termite sampling, such as the use of remote sensing and DNA metabarcoding, and outstanding challenges, such as sampling episodic grass-feeding termites, are also discussed. Improved use of standardised termite sampling methods, as we recommend, should lead to increased knowledge of the patterns and drivers of termite diversity, which will, in turn, facilitate the quantification of the influence termites have on ecosystems and lead to new insights into the functioning of tropical systems.
... Relative density, caste composition, foraging activity and special distribution patterns of subterranean termite are commonly assessed using traps laid out on the ground or partially buried. Several types of traps have been used most frequently wooden stakes (Jones , 1990), toilet paper rolls (Lafage et al. 1973), corrugated cardboard rolls (Lafage et al. 1983, El-Sebay 1991, El-Bassiouni 2001and Ahmed 2003. Such methods of trapping which were carried out in the same arid land by the absence of grass cover have given good results such as those obtained in Egypt (Said, 1979) and in Saudi Arabia (Badawi et al., 1985). ...
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Continuous biological H2 production from pre-treated rice straw waste using a mesophilic up- flow anaerobic staged reactor (UASR) at different organic loading rates (OLRs) was investigated. OLR was varied from 7.1 to 26 g COD/l. d. A steady improvement in H2 yield (HY) was recorded from 7.1 g COD/l. d. (95.5 mmol/d.) up to 21.4 g COD/l. d. (117 mmol/d.), and showed a decreasing trend of 107.1 mmol/d. at OLR of 26 g COD/l. d. Likely, H2 production (HP) revealed a gradual improvement in concurrence with OLR from 7.1 to 21 g COD/l.d and decreased thereafter. Carbohydrate degradation and COD conversion efficiency vary also with an increase in OLR. When the OLR was from 7.1 to 21.4 g COD/l.d., the COD and carbohydrate removal was over 70 and 80 %. At higher OLR of 26 g COD/l.d., the COD conversion and carbohydrate degradation efficiency was declined.
... One is not aware of the importance of subterranean termites unless sampled by a variety of baits. We used toilet paper rolls as baits in a grid system to obtain some basic information on termites [3] [4]. We learned that subterranean termites were found in the leaf litter of creosote bushes (Larrea tridentata) that had a hemispherical shape. ...
... Baiting is most often used to monitor subterranean termite population or to study foraging behavior (e.g., La Fage et al. 1973). Baits may be made of wood, paper, or carton ( Fig. 10.9a) and are usually distributed in the field on grids. ...
Chapter
Termites are eusocial, polymorphic insects which live in colonies with distinct morphological castes: reproductives, workers, and soldiers. They are important decomposers in natural ecosystems, and several species are urban and agricultural pests. Termite nests may be simple excavated tunnels inside wood, or constructions of variable size and shape, arboreal, epigeic, or subterranean. Collecting termites requires the use of several tools to open their nests, take a representative sample of the various castes present, and preserve them in 70–80% ethanol. Many sampling methods have been used for termites, including belt transects, large plots, soil monoliths, baiting, and alate traps. Each method has advantages and limitations, and some may be used complementarily. Termite identification requires good samples with a good number of specimens of all castes, especially soldiers.
... The absolute density of subterranean termite populations in any particular habitat had not been reliably. Relative density, caste composition and foraging activity of subterranean termites have been studied by different methods, wooden stakes and wood blocks (Jones et al., 1990), toilet paper rolls (Lafage et al., 1973 andSaid 1979) corrugated card board rolls (Lafage et al., 1983;El-Sebay, 1991;Ahmed, 2003 andEl-Bassyouni,2001). Sand subterranean termite, Psammotermes hybostoma (Desneux) (Fam. ...
... Foraging activity and special distribution patterns of subterranean termite are commonly assessed using traps laid out on the ground or partially buried. Several type of traps have been used most frequently wooden stakes (Jones 1990), toilet paper rolls (Lafage et al. 1973), corrugated card-board rolls (Lafage et al. 1983, El-Sebay 1991, El-Bassiouny 2001and Ahmed 2003. Such methods of trapping which carried out in the same arid land by the absence of grass cover have given good results such as obtained in Egypt (Said 1979) and in Saudi Arabia (Badawi et al. 1984). ...
... The observation of whole colonies in the field is challenging, and a limited number of studies excavated field colonies to reveal foraging galleries (Ehrhorn 1934, Ratcliffe and Greaves 1940, Greaves 1962, King and Spink 1969. To overcome this labor-intensive work, sampling techniques were developed to allow for the studies of subterranean termites (La Fage et al. 1973, Tamashiro et al. 1973, Su and Scheffrahn 1986, Grace et al. 1995. Using monitoring stations, colony foraging areas could be delineated, and a large number of foraging individuals can be easily collected. ...
Article
Laboratory studies of Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki (Blattodea: Rhinotermitidae) often employ the use of field-collected foraging populations of individuals as defined colonies. The biological relevance of this practice is often called into question, because these colonies lack a full composition of reproductive castes and brood, which may have physiological and behavioral consequences. Rearing intact laboratory colonies can be done; however, it is time-consuming and labor-intensive. The artificial fusion of field-collected foraging populations with a young, laboratory-reared incipient colony may provide whole, intact colonies for laboratory research. The current study measures survivorship of fused colonies using laboratory-reared complete incipient colonies ranging in age from 0 to 5 mo, fused with 100 workers and 10 soldiers from field-collected populations of different colonial origin. Results indicate that 60% of colony fusion was successful when the incipient colony introduced is 5 mo of age. This method of colony fusion will provide researchers with intact colonies using minimal resources.
Article
The objective of bait application envisioned by early researchers was to eliminate the source of infestation, the colony, but because of the lack of adequate evaluation tools, results of field trials with mirex baits in the 1960s were mostly inconclusive. On-the-ground monitoring stations and markrecapture protocol developed in the 1970s marked the turning point in the field studies of termite baits. Results of field studies with metabolic inhibitors and chitin synthesis inhibitors (CSIs) in the 1990s indicated that a bait toxicant has to be slow-acting and nonrepellent, and its lethal time has to be dose independent. A recent discovery that termites return to the central nest to molt and CSI-poisoned termites die near the royal pair further explains the success of CSI baits in eliminating colonies. Owing to the availability of durable baits that require less-frequent site inspection, more termite control professionals have adopted baiting systems in recent years. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Entomology Volume 64 is January 7, 2019. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/page/journal/pubdates for revised estimates.
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