A Laboratory Maintenance Regime for a Fungus-Growing Termite Macrotermes gilvus (Blattodea: Termitidae)
Lee, C.-C.; Lee, C.-Y.
Journal of Economic Entomology 108(3): 1243-1250
The optimum maintenance conditions of the fungus-growing termite, Macrotermes gilvus (Hagen) (Blattodea: Termitidae), in the laboratory were studied. Termites were kept on a matrix of moist sand and with fungus comb as food. The survival of groups of termites was measured when maintained at different population densities by changing group size and container volume. Larger groups (≥0.6 g) were more vigorous and had significant higher survival rates than smaller groups (≤0.3 g). The population density for optimal survival of M. gilvus is 0.0025 g per container volume (ml) or 0.0169 g per matrix volume (cm(3)), i.e., 1.2 g of termites kept in a 480-ml container filled with 71 cm3 of sand. In termite groups of smaller size (i.e., 0.3 g) or groups maintained in smaller container (i.e., 100 ml) the fungus comb was overgrown with Xylaria spp., and subsequently all termites died within the study period. The insufficient number of workers for regulating the growth of unwanted fungi other than Termitomyces spp. in the fungus comb is the most likely reason. Unlike some other mound-building termite species, M. gilvus showed satisfactory survival when maintained in non-nutritious matrix (i.e., sand). There was no significant difference in the survival rate between different colonies of M. gilvus (n=5), with survival in the range of 78.5-84.4% after 4 wk. Advances in the maintenance of Macrotermes will enable researchers to study with more biological relevance many aspects of the biology, behavior, and management of this species.