Describing the spatial and social organization of formosan subterranean termite colonies in Armstrong Park, New Orleans Conference Paper uri icon


  • Colonies of the Formosan subterranean termite, Coptotermes formosanus, possess a complicated spatial and social organization comprising interconnected foraging sites and nests containing variable numbers of reproductives. This complex colony structure may affect the distribution of bait toxicants through the colony. Due to the cryptic life of subterranean termites, their colony organization cannot be directly observed, but needs to be inferred from the genetic structure. We investigated the genetic structure of C. formosanus in Armstrong Park, New Orleans, employing multilocus DNA fingerprinting and microsatellite genotyping. We applied DNA fingerprinting to differentiate colonies according to their genetic profiles. We assigned termites from different sites to colonies through diagnostic bands and genetic similarities. In general, foraging areas of colonies identified by their DNA profiles correlated with results of mark-release-recapture studies. The wide intra- and intercolonial range of genetic similarities indicates a variety of social organizations as well as different proliferation strategies of colonies (budding, swarming). For more detailed analyses of colony organization we are currently using microsatellite genotyping to reveal the numbers of reproductives and degree of inbreeding within colonies. The combined information on genetic structure and social organization of colonies will tell (1) if the majority of colonies is headed by unrelated pairs (colony foundation through swarming) or by multiple related reproductives, and (2) if the presence of multiple reproductives results in a genetic substructure within colonies, which might lead to subsequent colony proliferation through budding. We also intend to apply genetic information to examine how termites invade areas where baiting has eliminated all prior activity.

published proceedings

  • Sociobiology

author list (cited authors)

  • Husseneder, C., Grace, J. K., Messenger, M. T., Vargo, E. L., & Su, N. Y.

complete list of authors

  • Husseneder, C||Grace, JK||Messenger, MT||Vargo, EL||Su, NY

publication date

  • March 2003