Simulating the spread of an invasive termite in an urban environment using a stochastic individual-based model.
Invasive termites are destructive insect pests that cause billions of dollars in property damage every year. Termite species can be transported overseas by maritime vessels. However, only if the climatic conditions are suitable will the introduced species flourish. Models predicting the areas of infestation following initial introduction of an invasive species could help regulatory agencies develop successful early detection, quarantine, or eradication efforts. At present, no model has been developed to estimate the geographic spread of a termite infestation from a set of surveyed locations. In the current study, we used actual field data as a starting point, and relevant information on termite species to develop a spatially-explicit stochastic individual-based simulation to predict areas potentially infested by an invasive termite, Nasutitermes corniger (Motschulsky), in Dania Beach, FL. The Monte Carlo technique is used to assess outcome uncertainty. A set of model realizations describing potential areas of infestation were considered in a sensitivity analysis, which showed that the model results had greatest sensitivity to number of alates released from nest, alate survival, maximum pheromone attraction distance between heterosexual pairs, and mean flight distance. Results showed that the areas predicted as infested in all simulation runs of a baseline model cover the spatial extent of all locations recently discovered. The model presented in this study could be applied to any invasive termite species after proper calibration of parameters. The simulation herein can be used by regulatory authorities to define most probable quarantine and survey zones.