Alate swarms are one of the major visible signs of the expansion of the Formosan subterranean termite, Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae), in an area. Successful establishment of an incipient colony is thought to mainly rely on available food resources and moisture. The large-scale use of tree-based mulches in landscapes may inadvertently contribute to local establishment and growth of C. formosanus colonies. This research investigated the nutritional ecology of incipient colonies of C. formosanus feeding on seven tree-based, weathered, and nonweathered landscape mulches: pine straw, pine bark, cedar wood, water oak, eucalyptus, cypress, and melaleuca. Incipient colonies of C. formosanus feeding on pine straw, either weathered or nonweathered, produced significantly more progeny over the course of 1-yr feeding than colonies feeding on the other mulches tested. Regardless of weathered or not, the incipient colonies feeding on pine straw, eucalyptus, bald cypress, and water oak mulches had significantly greater survival rates after 360 d (53–77%) than colonies feeding on the other mulches tested (0–13%), but colonies feeding on nonweathered water oak had significantly lower survival (8%) than those kept on weathered water oak (58%). Colony fitness values were significantly different between the weathering treatment groups and among the different types of mulches. With regard to colony growth characteristics, three distinct growth patterns were identified: a high number of progeny (>100) with high colony survival rate (>50%), a medium number of progeny (12–50) with high colony survival rate (>50%), and a small number of progeny (0–10) with low colony survival rate (<5%). These findings suggest that different types of mulch substrates could significantly impact the nutritional ecology of the founding pairs and the successful establishment of incipient colonies during the swarming season.
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Vol. 100 • No. 2