Friday, March 27, 2015

Invasive Asian and Formosan termites team-up to form superswarms and are beginning to hybridize

Formosan subterranean termites (Coptotermes formosanus) and Asian subterranean termites (C. gestroi) are from two separate parts of Asia and wouldn't naturally meet.  In fact, not only are they geographically separated, their fertile swarms happen at different times.  Or, rather, this was the case.  Both species have been introduced to Florida and, as of 2013, have been found to swarm at the same time.  Swarming is when the winged reproductive termites, called alates, fly to new areas to start new colonies.  New research by Chouvenc et al. found that not only were they swarming at the same time, but were able to hybridize.  In fact, in their laboratory, it was noted that the Asian termites preferred the female Formosan termites over their own females.  The hybrids termite colonies were found to develop faster than the non-hybrid colonies, with the hybrid colonies producing twice the number of termites to the non-hybrid colonies.  As it can take several years for a colony to become mature and produce alates, it is currently unknown the impact this will have long-term on the invasive termite population and spread in Florida.

formosan subterranean termite (Coptotermes formosanus) by Scott Bauer, USDA Agricultural Research Service,

To read the featured research article: Two most destructive termite species forming superswarms in South Florida
To read the journal article: Hybridization of Two Major Termite Invaders as a Consequence of Human Activity