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In the United States eastern subterranean termites are the most damaging termite species. Their widespread distribution across the US is the reason for the extensive property damages that they cause each year. There is also the Formosan subterranean termite, which would cause much more damage than eastern subterranean termites in the US, but their distribution is limited to the southeastern Gulf states. Since the Formosan species is invasive in the US, American researchers know very little about how this species behaves in its native land of China. Understanding how these termites behave in their homeland may help researchers prevent further Formosan termite damage in the US. Two researchers from America have recently traveled to China in order to study Formosan termite behavior within their native habitat.


Typically termites are not invasive, but the Formosan subterranean termite species is a rare exception. Termites have little interest in migrating to unfamiliar locations in order to establish new colonies. Generally, termites do not move far, even during swarming season. Swarming termite alates are bad flyers that do not cover much ground. Also, most termite alates will die before they can establish new colonies as a royal pair. Formosan termites are unique in that they can be found all over the world from the Pacific rim to the southeastern US.


The manner in which Formosan termites behave in their native land contrasts with how they behave in non-native regions. For example, Formosan termite colonies are much more aggressive toward other Formosan colonies in China. However, here in the US, where Formosan termites are invasive, colonies seem to be more mutually cooperative. In China, Formosan termites from different colonies will often fight to the death, but this is not the case in Louisiana and other non-native regions. The cooperative colony-to-colony behavior among these termites in non-native regions could explain why they are such successful invaders.


Do you believe that any other termite species rivals Formosan subterranean termites in their ability to successfully invade non-native regions?


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