Cuticular hydrocarbons for species determination of tropical termites

IRG/WP 1465

M I Haverty, M Page, B L Thorne, P Escoubas

Insect species have unique mixtures of cuticular hydrocarbons in the protective wax of their integument. We use hydrocarbons to evaluate similarities among termite populations. Our assumption is that colonies with similar hydrocarbon profiles are closely related. We have collected Reticulitermes in California from areas suspected to have only Reticulitermes hesperus or Reticulitermes tibialis. Their hydrocarbon profiles are similar but different. Colonies of "Reticulitermes tibialis" from distant locations in Arizona have profiles which are extremely different from Reticulitermes hesperus. This implies that there are at least 3 species of Reticulitermes in western North America when only two are described. The Formosan subterranean termite, Coptotermes formosanus, in the United States show no qualitative differences among four geographically distant populations; quantitative differences in hydrocarbon components separate them into different concentration profiles. Our results suggest that Coptotermes formosanus colonies from Florida and Louisiana are not closely related to those from Hawaii. We strongly suspect that the Coptotermes formosanus was introduced into Louisiana at least twice. Hydrocarbon profiles of Coptotermes formosanus from North America and Hawaii are different from Coptotermes from northern Australia, Southeast Asia and the Caribbean. Nasutitermes costalis and Nasutitermes ephratae were collected from five locations in Trinidad. Sixteen major hydrocarbon components were identified; all but one component were common to both species. Nasutitermes costalis has tremendous quantities of 13,17-dimethylhentriacontane whereas in Nasutitermes ephratae this hydrocarbon is insignificant. Furthermore, 12,16-dimethyltriacontane is completely missing in Nasutitermes ephratae. Nasutitermes costalis from Trinidad and Nasutitermes corniger from Panama appear to have cuticular hydrocarbon profiles that are more similar to one another than are those of Nasutitermes ephratae from Trinidad and Panama.


Conference: 90-05-13/18 Rotorua, New Zealand

Download document (1.2 Mb)
free for the members of IRG.

Order document from secretariat