Comparison of field methods to detect termite activity in the northern Chihuahuan Desert (Isoptera)

TitleComparison of field methods to detect termite activity in the northern Chihuahuan Desert (Isoptera)
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1998
AuthorsTaylor H.S, MacKay WP, Herrick JE, Guerrero R.A., Whitford WG
Date Published1998
ARIS Log Number095946

The subterranean termites, Gnathamitermes tubiformans (Buckley) and Amitermes wheeleri (Desneux), play an essential role in terrestrial ecosystems of the northern Chihuahuan Desert. They regulate nutrient turnover, contribute to patterns of nutrient concentration, and determine the diversity and heterogeneity of desert plant communities. Therefore, they are considered keystone species in northern Chihuahuan Desert ecosystems. Our objectives were to compare the efficiency and cost effectiveness of six field procedures to detect termite activity. Efficiency was defined as the relative ability to attract termites during a given period of time. Cost effectiveness was based on the number of hours involved in preparing, handling and processing the samples. The methods included artificial baits, natural baits, and litter sweeps. The specific baits were: uncoated corrugated cardboard blocks, unscented generic rolls of toilet paper, cattle dung, fluff grass (Dasyochloa pulchella), and soap-tree yucca (Yucca elata) stalks. In addition, termites were collected with litter sweeps. Results show that cattle dung is the most efficient in detecting termite activity, and litter sweeps the most cost effective, although also least efficient. The results of this study will benefit future termite studies on consumption rates, and relative population densities.