Colony breeding structure of the invasive termite Reticulitermes urbis (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae)

  • publication
  • 01-10-2013

Perdereau E, Velonà A, Dupont S, Labédan M, Luchetti A, Mantovani B, Bagnères AG.. J Econ Entomol. 2013 Oct;106(5):2216-24. doi: 10.1603/ec13157.

Invasive species cause severe environmental and economic problems. The invasive success of social insects often appears to be related to their ability to adjust their social organization to new environments. To gain a better understanding of the biology of invasive termites, this study investigated the social organization of the subterranean termite, Reticulitermes urbis, analyzing the breeding structure and the number of reproductives within colonies from three introduced populations. By using eight microsatellite loci to determine the genetic structure, it was found that all the colonies from the three populations were headed by both primary reproductives (kings and queens) and secondary reproductives (neotenics) to form extended-family colonies. R. urbis appears to be the only Reticulitermes species with a social organization based solely on extended-families in both native and introduced populations, suggesting that there is no change in their social organization on introduction. F-statistics indicated that there were few neotenics within the colonies from urban areas, which did not agree with results from previous studies and field observations. This suggests that although several neotenics may be produced, only few become active reproductives. The results also imply that the invasive success of R. urbis may be based on different reproductive strategies in urban and semiurbanized areas. The factors influencing an individual to differentiate into a neotenic in Reticulitermes species are discussed.

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