Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Water transport by Coptotermes formosanus (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae).

Abstract

Subterranean termites are extremely vulnerable to desiccation, and high moisture makes their habitat and food favorable for survival and colony growth. Although there is a general perception that termites can manipulate moisture, documentation is surprisingly scanty with regard to how termites transport water and the factors that impact it. There has been no study of water transfer by Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki, a notoriously invasive termite in the southern United States. We conducted a study to determine if C. formosanus transfers water. Bioassays using arenas with a dry food source connected to a moist substrate by either a short tube (10 cm) or a long tube (100 cm) were conducted. Three moistened substrate types were tested to see how they impacted water transfer. In addition, workers and soldiers sampled from a moist sand substrate were dissected to determine water sac volumes for possible transfer of water to wood. The results indicated that some water transfer is achieved by the evacuation of water sacs. However, moist soil was also moved to increase humidity. When termites had use of moist silty clay, wood moisture gain increased significantly in both 10 and 100 cm tubes. As tube distance increased, moisture to the more distant food source decreased. Workers had the largest water sacs, though soldiers appear to contribute in water transfer via water sacs as well. Water transfer and its implications are discussed.