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Volume 2012, Article ID 675356, 7 pages
Research Article

Coptotermes formosanus and Coptotermes gestroi (Blattodea: Rhinotermitidae) Exhibit Quantitatively Different Tunneling Patterns

Department of Plant and Environmental Protection Sciences, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 3050 Maile Way, Gilmore 310, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA

Received 30 September 2011; Revised 21 December 2011; Accepted 3 January 2012

Academic Editor: David E. Bignell

Copyright © 2012 Nirmala K. Hapukotuwa and J. Kenneth Grace. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Tunneling behavior and the spatial dispersion of tunnels constructed by the subterranean termites Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki and Coptotermes gestroi (Wasmann) (formerly known as C. vastator Light) (Blattodea: Rhinotermitidae) were examined in foraging arenas. The results indicated that these two termite species construct quantitatively different tunnel systems, supporting visual observations made in earlier studies. Coptotermes gestroi constructed thin, highly branched tunnels, while C. formosanus tended to construct wider and less branched tunnels. Tunnels of C. gestroi showed more spatial dispersion than those of C. formosanus, and this species constructed a larger number of tunnels compared to C. formosanus. The presence or absence of food (wood) within the arena did not influence the tunneling pattern of either species. Although previous observations have suggested that these two termite species exhibit different tunneling behaviors; this is the first quantification of the differences. Comparative studies of the foraging behavior of subterranean termite species contribute to our understanding of their distribution and ecology and may help to improve pest management programs, particularly those based on placement of toxic baits. Moreover, differences in tunneling patterns may reflect different foraging strategies optimized for either tropical (C. gestroi) or subtropical/temperate (C. formosanus) environments.