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Subterranean termites (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae): Exploitation of equivalent food resources with different forms of placement


Juliana Toledo Lima, Departamento de Biologia, Instituto de Biociências, UNESP – Univ Estadual Paulista, Av. 24-A, 1515, Bela Vista, CP 199, 13506–900, Rio Claro – SP, Brazil. Tel: +55 19 35264138; fax: +55 19 35264136; email:


Abstract Coptotermes gestroi and Heterotermes tenuis have been described as important urban pests in Brazil. The establishment of control technologies using baits that consider the social behavior of termites requires a better knowledge of their foraging behavior. Thus, this study analyzed the feeding behavior of these species with three different forms of food placement: food on the surface of a substrate and food either partially or completely buried in the substrate. Experimental arenas were composed of a central chamber connected to three food chambers. Each central chamber contained 550 foragers of C. gestroi or 517 foragers of H. tenuis. Blocks of Pinus elliottii were placed in the different food chambers. After 28 days, the consumption of each wood block and the percentage of foraging individuals recruited for food chambers were verified in relation to the total survival rate obtained for each one of the 20 replicates. Results showed that completely buried food was most consumed for H. tenuis and presented a higher recruitment rate of workers and soldiers for both species. Although the consumption had non-significant differences for C. gestroi, these termites exhibited a tendency to prefer completely buried food. In these conditions, it can be concluded that the forms of food placement used in the present research influenced the recruitment of individuals for both species. Data also suggests that when the foraging subterranean termites find food resources in the tunneling substrate, they tend to concentrate their efforts on it, a behavior regime that reduces exposure to external environment.