In March 2016, Thomas Chouvenc, a research assistant at the University of Florida Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center, noticed a major swarm of Asian subterranean termites (Coptotermes gestroi) in his neighborhood, so he busted out the video camera and shot the following:
As we recently reported, invasive termites are spreading throughout South Florida, and the best way to illustrate their activity is to be in the middle of an actual termite dispersal flight.
For research purposes, Thomas and his colleagues are monitoring the swarming activity of Coptotermes gestroi and Coptotermes formosanus every night from February 15 to June 15 in Fort Lauderdale. This allows them to measure the overall termite activity in some of the neighborhoods, and it also allows them to collect live alates (winged reproductive termites), which they can use to start new colonies in the lab for research purposes.
“I need them alive so I can start new colonies by pairing a male and a female,” Thomas wrote. “After one year, colonies are about 100 individuals, after two years they are about 2,000 individuals, and after three years, 15-20,000 termites in a single colony. We can therefore perform large experiments with actual full colonies, which is not so easy to do. I have been working on various aspect of colony growth dynamics, and I also need such colonies to compare their biology with my hybrid termites!”
The video illustrates the swarming event, and the collecting process. It also shows some intense predation by bigheaded ants (Pheidole megacephala) at 0:50. They have also seen bats, spiders, lizards, and toads feasting on the termites, which shows that many species benefits from such swarms.
If you’re in Florida and would like to learn about termite activity in your neighborhood, or if you would like to report termite activity or send samples to Dr. Chouvenc’s lab, click here for the Florida Termite Distribution Website.