Size of food resource determines brood placement in Reticulitermes flavipes (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae)
M Lenz, B M Kard, J K Mauldin, T A Evans, J L Etheridge, H M Abbey
Most species of subterranean termite house and care for larvae in specialised chambers or complex nurseries. In addition to these chambers, the genus Reticulitermes also keeps larvae at sites where foragers are feeding, a trait more commonly found in damp wood and dry wood termites. This phenomenon of holding larvae at foraging sites is quite well known among researchers who work with Reticulitermes, yet it has not been investigated to any extent. Consequently, the underlying causes of larvae placement at foraging sites are only poorly understood. During assessments of the resistance of materials to Reticulitermes flavipes attack at the Harrison Experimental Forest, near Saucier, Mississippi, USA, significant numbers of 1 st and 2 nd stage larvae were often found in Pinus spp bait wood stakes. This paper describes the results from the first of a series of ongoing experiments to test whether food resources affected termite presence and larval placement. The experiment used a variable number of pine stakes in eight plots (four in stands of pine, four in grassy forest clearings) where termites were offered a choice of food resources of different size (bundles of 1 to 4 pine stakes of equal size). The number of larvae recorded from feeding sites was a close reflection of the number of workers attracted to a given food source. The more substantial and suitable a food source is, the more foragers will visit it, and in turn the more likely that they will transport larvae and eggs to these feeding sites.