The wood of 11 plant species was evaluated as a food source significantly impacting the growth and survival of incipient colonies of the Formosan subterranean termite, Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae). Colonies of C. formosanus feeding on pecan, Carya illinoensis (Wangenh.), and red gum, Liquidambar styraciflua L., produced significantly more progeny than colonies feeding on other wood species tested. Progeny of colonies feeding on pecan and American ash, Fraxinus americana L., had significantly greater survival than progeny of colonies feeding on other wood species. Colonies feeding on a nutritionally supplemented cellulose based matrix showed similar fitness characteristics as colonies feeding on the best wood treatments. These results indicate that differences observed in colony fitness can be partially explained by nutritional value of the food treatment, raising the possibility that wood from different tree species have different nutritional values to the Formosan subterranean termites. Colonies feeding on loblolly pine, Pinus taeda L., and ponderosa pine, Pinus ponderosa Laws., had significantly lower survival and produced significantly fewer workers and soldiers than colonies feeding on other wood species. Colony survival from 90 to 180 d of age and from 90 to 360 d of age was significantly correlated with the number of workers present at 90 d of colony age, indicating that colony survival depends on the presence of workers. Wood consumption in a multiple-choice study was significantly correlated with colony fitness value. This suggests that feeding preference of C. formosanus is at least partially influenced by the nutritional value of the food source.
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Vol. 96 • No. 1