This research investigated whether organic and inorganic landscape mulches, which buffer soils against temperature extremes and desiccation, create conditions conducive to subterranean foraging by Reticulitermes virginicus (Banks). In the field, termite activity was measured with cardboard monitors placed beneath and within plots of eucalyptus, hardwood, pine bark, and pea gravel mulches, and bare ground (control). Gravel mulch provided higher feeding rates in underground monitors. Groundcover type had no significant effect on the number of monitors discovered by termites or the number of termites within each monitor. All groundcovers significantly reduced the temperature of the soil surface compared with bare soils, but temperature and moisture levels 12 cm below mulch-covered surfaces were not significantly different from those beneath bare soil. In the laboratory, R. virginicus were fed one of the three organic mulches or a control diet of white birch, Betula papyrifera (Marsh), as their only food source. All diet types were consumed at equivalent rates, but the mulch-fed termites suffered significantly lower survivorship.
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