Tropical wood resistance to the West Indian drywood termite Cryptotermes brevis: if termites can't chew...
BACKGROUND: The importance and impact of invasive species are usually considered based on their economic implications, particularly the direct damage that they cause. The West Indian drywood termite Cryptotermes brevis (Walker) is an example and is a concern in structural lumber, furniture, and other wood products. Despite its importance, its tropical wood preferences and the wood physical characteristics contributing to resistance have not been investigated to date. Here, we developed wood testing units to allow the X-ray recording of termite colonization and then subsequently tested tropical wood resistance to the termite through free-choice and no-choice bioassays using these wood testing units. The relevance of wood density and hardness as determinants of such resistance was also tested, as was termite mandible wear. RESULTS: The wood testing units used allowed the assessment of the termite infestation and wood area loss, enabling subsequent choice bioassays to be performed. While pine (Pinus sp.), jequitiba (Cariniana sp.) and angelim (Hymenolobium petraenum) exhibited the heaviest losses and highest infestations; cumaru (Dipteryx odorata), guariuba (Clarisia racemosa), and purpleheart (Peltogyne sp.) showed the lowest losses and infestations; courbaril (Hymenaea courbaril), eucalyptus (Eucalyptus sp.), and tatajuba (Bagassa guianensis) exhibited intermediary results. CONCLUSION: Wood hardness and in particular wood density were key determinants of wood resistance to the termites, which exhibited lower infestations associated with greater mandible wear when infesting harder high-density wood.