Inter- And Intraspecific Colony Interactions In Reticulitermes (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae)
  Key Words  
  Subterranean termites, genetic fingerprinting, behavior, planar assay
  Mark A. Janowiecki and Edward L. Vargo
  Subterranean termites are the most economically damaging termites in the U.S. costing $11 billion annually for prevention, treatment, and repair of damage. However, termite colony spatial dynamics are an understudied topic. In previous laboratory studies, termite colonies of different species are aggressive while termite colonies of the same species are passive to each other. Conversely, in field studies, colonies of the same species have not been observed overlapping whereas congeneric colonies foraging ranges were observed overlapping. These seemingly conflicting findings require further research to clarify the inter- and intraspecific interactions of Reticulitermes. This project investigates these colony interaction dynamics in east Texas with three native species of Reticulitermes: R. flavipes, R. virginicus, and R. hageni. Two 14x14 grids of pine stakes spaced 2m apart were established in the Sam Houston State University Center for Biological Field Studies for a total of 392 stakes. These stakes were monitored monthly for active termite foraging and had a hit rate more than 10% in the first month alone. Collected termites will be genetically fingerprinted using microsatellites and colonies will be tracked for the duration of the study. Laboratory colonies will be established from termites at the field site and will be used for behavioral assays using both the petri plate and planar assay methods. Unique species and colonies will be paired in these assays to compare aggressive behavior. Finally, further sampling and investigation will occur at the areas of overlap to compare the behavior of different colonies of termites in the field to the results of the laboratory assays.