Methods for collecting large numbers of exuviae from Coptotermes (Blattodea: Rhinotermitidae) termite colonies.
The nutritional properties of subterranean termite exuviae (shed exoskeletons) are not well-known because obtaining the large quantities necessary for investigation is difficult. A method for collecting large numbers of exuviae is reported here for the Asian subterranean termite, Coptotermes gestroi (Wasmann) (Blattodea: Rhinotermitidae), an invasive and economically important tropical termite species. In this study, groups of 1,000 C. gestroi workers from 4-yr-old laboratory colonies (n = 3) were allowed to feed on a media pad dyed with Nile Blue A for 2 d. Approximately 16% of the original 1,000 workers did not uptake dye. These individuals were then placed into a Petri dish with dyed filter paper and checked hourly (10:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M.) for 7 d. Newly molted workers and those individuals that started turning blue were removed to prevent feeding on exuviae. An average of 14 workers molted per d that yielded an average of 12 exuviae with an overall mean of 86 exuviae collected over the 7 d study period. We also found the number of individuals that acquired dye during the study significantly decreased by d. However, variables such as the number of exuviae, newly molted individuals, and cadavers were not correlated with d of collection because termites molt asynchronously.